Johannes Vilhelm Jensen

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Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, in Denmark always called Johannes V. Jensen, (20 January 1873 – 25 November 1950) was a Danish author, often considered the first great Danish writer of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1944. One of his sisters, Thit Jensen, was also a well-known writer and a very vocal, and occasionally controversial, early feminist.


Early years

He was born in Farsø, a village in North Jutland, Denmark, as the son of a veterinary surgeon[1] and he grew up in a rural environment. While studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen he worked as a writer to fund his studies. After 3 years of studying he chose to change careers and devote himself fully to literature.

Literary works

The first phase of his work as an author was influenced by fin-de-siècle pessimism. His career began with the publication of Himmerland Stories (1898–1910), comprising a series of tales set in the part of Denmark where he was born. During 1900 and 1901 he wrote his first masterpiece, Kongens Fald (eng. transl. 1933 The Fall of the King), a modern historical novel centred around King Christian II and his characteristically Danish hesitancy and failure to act.

In 1906 Jensen created his greatest literary achievement: the collection of verses Digte 1906 (i.e. Poems 1906), which introduced the prose poem to Danish literature. He also wrote poetry, a few plays, and many essays, chiefly on anthropology and the philosophy of evolution.

He developed his theories of evolution in a cycle of six novels, Den lange rejse (1908–22), translated into English as The Long Journey (1923-24), which was published in a two-volume edition in 1938.[2] This is often considered his main work in prose, a daring and often impressive attempt to create a Darwinian alternative to the Biblical Genesis myth. In this work we see the development of mankind from the Ice Age to the times of Columbus, focusing on pioneering individuals.

Like his compatriot Hans Christian Andersen, he travelled extensively; a trip to the United States inspired a poem of his, "Paa Memphis Station" [At the train station, Memphis, Tennessee], which is well-known in Denmark. Walt Whitman was among the writers who influenced Jensen.

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