Tom Kristensen (poet)
Tom Kristensen was a Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 and novelist.

Life and work

Kristensen was born in London to Danish parents, but grew up in Copenhagen and was educated at the University of Copenhagen
University of Copenhagen
The University of Copenhagen is the oldest and largest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479, it has more than 37,000 students, the majority of whom are female , and more than 7,000 employees. The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen, with the...

. Kristensen is considered one of the most colourful and artistic poets of his generation. His two collections of poems Fribytterdrømme (1920, "Freebooter Dreams") and Mirakler (1922, "Miracles") are classics of Danish expressionism, marked by revolutionary artistic enthusiasm and restlessness. Påfuglefjeren (1922, "The Peacock Feather") which is inspired by a journey to China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, is deeper and more sombre, especially the poem Henrettelsen ("The Execution") that is depicting a man’s intense powers of observation just before he is beheaded. The contemporary novel Livets Arabesk (1921 – ”The Arabesque of Life”) is a revolutionary future fantasy in expressionist form.

In 1930 he wrote perhaps his most well-known work, the novel Hærværk (Engl. transl. Havoc, 1968), the story of a Danish journalist, Ole Jastrau, doing his best to ruin his life and drink himself to death. Apart from its presumed autobiographical background, it probably reflects the intellectual, political and personal crises of many writers between the World Wars. A poem from this novel, Angst ("Fear"), with its fascination with disaster
A disaster is a natural or man-made hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment...

, has become a classic.

During the 1930’s, Kristensen concentrated more on commemorative poems, of which he was a master – many are found in Mod den yderste Rand (1936, "Against the furthest Edge") and Digte i Døgnet (1940, "Poems a Day"). A final collection of poems Den sidste Lygte (1954, "The last Lamp") parades the themes of his writings.

Besides being a fictive writer, Kristensen was a sharp and outstanding critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

, and for thirty years he worked as a reviewer, mostly at the liberal-radical Politiken. As a critic he was lauded for his ability to enter into the spirit of his subject. He also wrote many collections of essays and travel books. -- most famously En Kavaler i Spanien (1927, "A Gentleman in Spain").

A Gentleman in Spain

En kavaler i Spanien (A Gentleman in Spain) is a travel account of one of Tom Kristensen's journeys. It is written in an expressionistic style and is thus a very subjective account. The book follows Tom Kristensen on his journey through Spain in the 1920s. He writes about the various sights, and about the interesting people that he meets on the trip. He also describes his impression of bullfighting. The book also contains many poems that were written on the journey. He meets with fellow-travellers, and a thief, all the while trying desperately to learn the Spanish language. In the end he longs for his home in Denmark, and the last sentence says "I have to flee".

Kristensen is one of the most important Danish lyricists of the 20th Century. His restless spirit and fascination with bullfighting
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries , in which one or more bulls are baited in a bullring for sport and entertainment...

 has drawn comparisons with Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...


Kristensen's final years were spent on Thurø
Thurø is a small Danish island in the south-east of Funen and belongs to the Svendborg municipality. Connected to Svendborg proper by a small bridge, Thurø has around 3699 inhabitants....

, close to Svendborg
Svendborg is a town on the island of Funen in south-central Denmark. The town is in Svendborg municipality . Svendborg is the second-largest city on Funen and has a population of 27,009 ....

, where he died at the age of 80, and is buried.

Works in English

  • Tom Kristensen: Havoc. Translated into English by the University of Wisconsin Press 1968. (Out of print.)
  • Tom Kristensen: The Land called Atlantis. A Symbol. Transl. by W. Glyn Jones (in: Danish literary Magazine. – no. 5 (1993). (English translation of a famous poem from 1920).

External links

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