In the NY Times in January, a book review caught my eye. It was titled: “Beyond the Cruel Facts of Her Life Are Truths That Cut Deep.”
The book is: THE COPENHAGEN TRILOGY Childhood, Youth, Dependency By Tove Ditlevsen
The review is amazingly written, but I wonder if anyone has read the book (originally three books).
The beginning of the book review quotes from the book: “I know every person has their own truth,” Tove Ditlevsen writes in “Childhood,” the first volume of her beautiful and fearless memoirs. “Fortunately, things are set up so that you can keep quiet about the truths in your heart; but the cruel, gray facts are written in the school records and in the history of the world.”
That the Danish author (1917-76) was famous in her own country by her 20s, writing a major body of work that includes 11 books of poetry, seven novels and four story collections, doesn’t mean that expressing those truths came easily. The facts of her early life in a rough corner of Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district were gray and often cruel enough: Hitler was rising to power, her father lost his job, Ditlevsen’s education ended with middle school. Her comely, mercurial mother mocked her desire to be a poet, telling her that “everything written in books is a lie.” The best she could hope for was marriage to “a stable skilled worker who comes right home with his weekly paycheck and doesn’t drink.”
But as the author-to-be went about her housework, “long, mysterious words began to crawl across my soul like a protective membrane. … When these light waves of words streamed through me, I knew that my mother couldn’t do anything else to me because she had stopped being important to me. My mother knew it, too, and her eyes would fill with cold hostility.”