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30 review for Childhood, Youth, Dependency: The Copenhagen Trilogy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I was drawn to this trilogy from the moment I first read about them - before the books were translated in English and available to read in the states. “Childhood ( written in 1967), “Youth”, (written in 1967), and Dependency ( written in 1971). I thought I was going to need to purchase each book separately... But to my surprise - with thanks - Farrar, Sraus and Giroux publishing has made these books available as a complete -one book volume. Even today, Tove Ditlevsen is considered an important vo I was drawn to this trilogy from the moment I first read about them - before the books were translated in English and available to read in the states. “Childhood ( written in 1967), “Youth”, (written in 1967), and Dependency ( written in 1971). I thought I was going to need to purchase each book separately... But to my surprise - with thanks - Farrar, Sraus and Giroux publishing has made these books available as a complete -one book volume. Even today, Tove Ditlevsen is considered an important voice in Denmark. She was a groundbreaker- for women writers. She was a ‘full-exposure’ type author. She wrote about things ( exposing herself intimately) in ways women were not writing about: airing dirty laundry within her family, sharing truthful feelings about men, sex, marriage, children, drug addiction, and abortion. Tove Ditlevsen was an interesting woman. She wrote 29 books, including short stories, novels, poetry, and memoirs. She began writing poetry as a young child, and by her early twenties, she was a published author. Born in Copenhagen, in 1917... she died in 1978 by suicide.. “The Copenhagen trilogy: Childhood; Youth; Dependency” ( memoirs), is divided ( as expected) — between each of these books....giving us an experience of her life - as a child, teen, and adult. In all three books - even as a child - we feel Tove’s tension between every and all relationships and her devotion to her craft. She was serious about being a published author as young as ten years old. This book has been appraised as her masterpiece. “Childhood”: These were not lovey-dovey cozy years in Tove’s young life. She wrote: “Childhood is long and narrow like a coffin, and you can’t get out of it on your own”. Her mother was often angry.... Beautiful, lonely, untouchable...filled with secrets that Tove would never learn. Her father was serious, melancholy, loved to read. “He was unusually moralistic while her mother, at least as the young woman, was lively and silly, irresponsible and vain” Tove wrote: “My mother hit me often and hard, but as a rule it was arbitrary and unjust, and during the punishment I felt something like a secret shame or a heavy sorrow tears to my eyes and increased the painful distance between us”. “My father never hit me. On the contrary— he was good to me”. In “Childhood”, we also meet Tove’s older brother, and her aunt and uncle. We learn about a dark time when Tove and the entire family had diphtheria. An interesting tidbit: if somebody lost their job, and went on welfare, they lost their right to vote. “Childhood” was maybe the most personal - in ‘feeling’ than the next two memoirs. In “Youth”...we enter the teen years. Hitler had come into power in Germany. Having left school prematurely, Tove takes on menial jobs: dishwashing, cleaning, and other domestic work. These are typical years of boys, kissing, billiards, movies, dancing, (the carioca: Brazilian dance resembling the samba), drinking, and breaking away from the family more. But her mother still manages to be critical. Her mother says to Tove: ”You should take more trouble with your appearance. You should buy a spring suit instead of that bicycle. When you’re not naturally pretty, she says, ‘you have to help things out a bit’. My mother doesn’t say such things to hurt me; she’s just completely ignorant of what goes on inside other people”. We meet a few of the boys that Tove hangs out with. Erling was interested in politics. He wanted to change social democracy. Tove had little interest in politics- but Erling made Tove feel less lonely. Tove was writing more and more: I liked this poem that Tove wrote as a teenager: “There burns a candle in the night, it burns for me alone, and if I blow at it, it flames up, and flames for me alone. But if you breathe softly and if you breathe quietly, the candle is certainly more than bright and burns deep in my own breast, for you alone”. In “Dependency”.... things turned much more dark.....sad.....harrowing. She was already successful in her twenties.... but she also struggled with the horrors of addiction...dependent on opioid demerol and methadone. Besides her alcohol and drug addictions, Tove had four marriages, ( almost all sporadic and addicted to damaged men), three children, wanted and unwanted children, two abortions, and a few love affairs. She was still writing... always forming sentences in her head.... which made her distant and distracted when anyone ( including her husbands), started talking with her. “In the dark, tarnished corridors of my mind there is a faint impression, like a child’s footprints in damp sand”. Searingly truthful, (but no sneering blame of anyone),, sarcastic and piercingly raw, ...this trilogy was eloquently written. For those readers ( like me) who enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and books by Jean Rhys.... then this is a book for you. Introspective....character driven....books by fearless women with one heck of a powerful voice.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Beautiful, untouchable, lonely, and full of secret thoughts I would never know. That sentence is from the first page of this book and describes, in adult language, the impression Tove Ditlevson had of her mother when she herself was a young child. When I reached the end of the book and turned to the beginning again, as I often do, that sentence sprang out at me for the way it describes Danish poet Tove Ditlevson herself as I came to envision her throughout this memoir. Although she shares many th Beautiful, untouchable, lonely, and full of secret thoughts I would never know. That sentence is from the first page of this book and describes, in adult language, the impression Tove Ditlevson had of her mother when she herself was a young child. When I reached the end of the book and turned to the beginning again, as I often do, that sentence sprang out at me for the way it describes Danish poet Tove Ditlevson herself as I came to envision her throughout this memoir. Although she shares many thoughts with us in this book, I felt there was much she chose to keep secret too. I liked that she didn't feel the need to pour everything onto the page. Instead, she focuses on certain moments from her working-class childhood, from her yearning adolescence and from her troubled adulthood, but she gives us every detail of the backdrop of those moments. I'm reading French author Annie Ernaux's memoir, Les Années, at the moment in which she uses old photos from her working-class family album as launch pads for her very analytical, third person, past tense reconstruction of the years of her life. Tove Ditlevson doesn't use photos, but because of the vividness of the details she shares, and the use of the first person in the present tense, it's as if we are there with her looking through her photo album and living in the immediacy of each snapshot. We see Tove as a child, an adolescent, an adult, beautiful, untouchable, and terribly lonely deep within herself. We get to glimpse, in brief moments, the painful places where her poetry must have come from.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lotte

    Childhood: 4.5/5 Youth: 3.5/5 Dependency: 4/5 A truly excellent trilogy about growing up in a working-class neighbourhood in Copenhagen, about the search for freedom and artistic fulfillment as a woman in the early 20th century, about love and addiction and finding solace in books and writing. I’m so glad so many people have discovered Tove Ditleven’s work recently and I’m really looking forward to reading more by her!

  4. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    This volume contains 3 memoirs: • Childhood, published in 1967….1985 English translation • Youth, published in 1967….1985 English translation • Dependency, published in 1971….2019 English translation I gave the first two 4.5 stars and the third and last one 4 stars. The first two were “enjoyable” to read. I put that in quotation marks because Tove did not have an idyllic childhood and adolescence. Her mother was not in the running for Mother of the Year, that’s for sure. However, it makes for an int This volume contains 3 memoirs: • Childhood, published in 1967….1985 English translation • Youth, published in 1967….1985 English translation • Dependency, published in 1971….2019 English translation I gave the first two 4.5 stars and the third and last one 4 stars. The first two were “enjoyable” to read. I put that in quotation marks because Tove did not have an idyllic childhood and adolescence. Her mother was not in the running for Mother of the Year, that’s for sure. However, it makes for an interesting read, and somehow when reading it, I knew she was going to get out of the mess (because after all she was a famous author in the future). The third memoir however was dark…I could chuckle every now and then at least with some of the stuff that went on in her life as she was growing up, but when she became addicted to the opiate Demerol (meperidine), at times I was horrified. Her addiction led her to openly seek and get an ear operation she did not need (her hearing was perfectly fine), but a crazy doctor was willing to operate on her, at the encouragement of Tove’s husband (her third one) who was also a doctor and was injecting her with Demerol to keep her addicted, and presumably to keep her married to him. It wasn’t clear to me from her writing but it appears she suffered permanent ear damage from the operation (which wouldn’t surprise me given there was nothing wrong with her ear going into the operation/surgery). When she wasn’t taking Demerol she was taking another opiate, methadone. In this time span she had 3 young children, and she seemed like a pretty bad mother, at times ignoring all of them. “Dependency” was definitely different from the first two memoirs….it was bleak with no apparent let-up in sight. But it was well-written and interesting and stands up well to any other memoir on being addicted to drugs or alcohol. She also was no angel…being unfaithful to at least two of her husbands…marrying the first one to make him her sugar daddy. But she didn’t try to hide this stuff in her memoir, to her credit. Two quotes that I wrote down when reading “Youth” because for some reason they resonated with me: • Death…is brutal, hideous, and foul smelling. I wrap my arms around myself and rejoice in my youth and my health. Otherwise my youth is nothing more than a deficiency and a hindrance that I can’t get rid of fast enough. • Being young is itself temporary, fragile, and ephemeral. You have to get through it – it has no other meaning. Reviews • Excellent review from Megan O’Grady: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/26/bo... • https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... • https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/... • this is very interesting…how the translation of the third book in the trilogy, Dependence (it was titled “A Gift” by Ditlvesen) came about…the translator had picked up the Danish book at an airport and was fascinated by it: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/....

  5. 4 out of 5

    nastya

    This is a fictionalised memoir, three of them, collected in this one book, of the famous Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen. And I fell in love with this fictional Tove. Part 1 - Childhood She is a frustrated young child, growing up in poverty and with sad apathetic parents. Her father is a depressed socialist and mother is a distant and unsatisfied woman. Part 2 - Youth I loved her clumsiness trying to figure out her role as a young woman. While her friends have boyfriends she struggles with how to be a d This is a fictionalised memoir, three of them, collected in this one book, of the famous Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen. And I fell in love with this fictional Tove. Part 1 - Childhood She is a frustrated young child, growing up in poverty and with sad apathetic parents. Her father is a depressed socialist and mother is a distant and unsatisfied woman. Part 2 - Youth I loved her clumsiness trying to figure out her role as a young woman. While her friends have boyfriends she struggles with how to be a desirable woman. And she has great friendships. She tries to conform and find a husband to escape her unhappiness at home. But she knows only one way out - to marry somebody, anybody. Not a great plan. Part 3 - Dependency (on demerol and methadone) - my favourite part Her first marriage is to much older man. She is frustrated with Viggo F. coldness and feels undesirable, but she respects him. Second one is for love. And this part has a very complex and mature description of seeking abortion without melodrama. She looks at me solemnly: Do you really think it would be so terrible, she asks, if you had another child? Lise doesn’t understand either. I don’t want anything to happen to me that I don’t want, I say. It’s like getting caught in a trap. **** On Christmas Eve I wake up, take out a pencil and paper from my bag and write a poem in the weak glow of the nightlight: You who sought shelter with one weak and afraid, For you I hum a lullaby between the night and day – – – I don’t regret what I did, but in the dark, tarnished corridors of my mind there is a faint impression, like a child’s footprints in damp sand. She is frustrated with how hard and illegal it is, considering that every woman she knows secretly had at least one. Tutti gets out of bed and walks over to me and shouts in my ear, They just want to see blood. So I’ll give you my used pads, and you just show it to them tomorrow morning. Then they’ll scrape you out. Talk louder, I say, and finally I’m able to understand what she said. During the night she walks over and places her used pads in my pail. [...] When I wake up, I’m lying in bed with a clean, white shirt on. Tutti smiles over at me. Well, she says, are you happy now? Yes, I say. I don’t know what I would have done without you Third marriage is for the love of demerol. Ebbe, I said, gently touching his eyelids, we’ll visit each other, and maybe you’ll get to know Carl. Maybe we can all be friends. No, he said with a sudden vehemence, I never want to lay eyes on that man. I only want to see you and Helle. I propped myself up on my elbow and observed his handsome face with its soft, weak expression. What if I told him the truth? What if I told him I was in love with a clear liquid in a syringe and not with the man who had the syringe? But I didn’t tell him; I never told that to anyone. It was like when I was a small child and a secret was ruined if you told a grownup. I rolled over on my side and went to sleep. The next day Helle and I moved to a boarding house that Carl had found for us. That’s where she becomes an addict. And her doctor-husband slowly loses his marbles while simultaneously giving her drugs whenever she wants to leave him even for a meeting with friends and family. And of course she stays to get high. She even tricks her husband and other doctor into unnecessary operation on her ear that leaves her deaf, so she could have more drugs. I lay motionless and limp in my bed and felt like I was being rocked to sleep in warm, green water. Nothing else in the world mattered to me but staying in this blissful state. Carl told me that lots of people are deaf in one ear, and that it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t care anyway, because it was worth it. No price was too high to be able to keep away intolerable real life. **** One afternoon, right after I had eaten, Dr Borberg came to see me. We need to have a serious conversation, he said as he sat down. I sat on the edge of the bed, looking at him expectantly. I’m healthy again, I said. I’m so happy. Then he explained to me that I was regaining my physical health, but that there was much more to it. There would be a stabilizing process, and that was what would take the longest time. I was going to have to learn how to live a bare, unaffected life, and every memory of Demerol would slowly disappear from my mind. It’s easy, he said, to feel healthy and happy in this protected hospital room. But when you get home and experience adversity – like we all do – the temptation will return And the fourth, the last one, was like a fairytale, love at first sight, the least believable one. I’m head over heels in love with you, I said, when we were lying back in my bed. Will you stay overnight? I will, for the rest of my life, he said, smiling with his blindingly white teeth. What about your wife? I asked. We have the law of love on our side, he said. That law, I said, kissing him, gives us the right to hurt other people. We made love and talked for most of the night. The parts about addiction were honest and riveting. I promised I would change and then I broke my promises.[...] I was rescued from my years of addiction, but ever since, the shadow of the old longing still returns faintly if I have to have a blood test, or if I pass a pharmacy window. It will never disappear completely for as long as I live. (She died by suicide in 1976 due to an overdose of sleeping pills.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ari Levine

    This was the most thrilling reading experience of my summer and all of 2021, and I read each of the memoirs in this newly-collected trilogy a few short chapters at a time, never wanting it to end. Ditlevsen's prose is unadorned and unsentimental, even when describing a litany of traumatizing experiences: poverty, abuse, cold parents, alcoholism, violence, multiple failed marriages, abortions, and addiction. This is a book about the pain of loneliness and self-isolation, but it is also strangely This was the most thrilling reading experience of my summer and all of 2021, and I read each of the memoirs in this newly-collected trilogy a few short chapters at a time, never wanting it to end. Ditlevsen's prose is unadorned and unsentimental, even when describing a litany of traumatizing experiences: poverty, abuse, cold parents, alcoholism, violence, multiple failed marriages, abortions, and addiction. This is a book about the pain of loneliness and self-isolation, but it is also strangely comforting, even hypnotic. The subject matter, especially in Childhood, which recounts her early years in a working-class neighborhood, is unflinchingly bleak, but Ditlevsen approaches the greyness of these circumstances with an absolute lack of nostalgia. Her recollections focus around her unbreakable desire to escape the grinding oppressiveness of her surroundings, and the incomprehension of her dull family, by creating a rich inner life through literature, both by reading books (which are precious and rare objects) and by writing poetry (for which she has an irresistible compulsion). By the end of Youth, Tove has failed at a long list of horrible jobs with horrible bosses, but has achieved a measure of fame and success as an entirely self-taught writer. She falls in with a litany of wrong men-- a middle-aged publisher, an alcoholic rich boy student, and a mentally ill doctor-- and becomes a mother of four, and perhaps an even more remote mother than her own. In looking back on her twenties, she doesn't explain the reasons why she made these impulsive yet fateful life choices, and her passivity and lack of introspection is remarkable. These things just happen to happen to her, and she uses a few short melodrama-free sentences to describe momentous events (love at first sight, broken engagements, weddings, childbirths, divorces) that would usually occupy entire chapters of a standard-issue memoir. Dependency, which was the strongest of the three, is Ditlevsen's account of her five-year experience of addiction to Demerol and methadone, and her terrifyingly codependent relationship with her third husband Carl, a doctor who was her enabler and supplier, and preyed upon her sexually while she was high. Their marriage is built on a foundation of reality-avoidance and deception, as Tove invents an entirely fake ear infection, and endures an entirely unnecessary surgery, while relentlessly seeking her next hit. Her mental world disintegrates, as she becomes incapable of writing, or assembling a coherent thought. Ditlevsen describes these experiences of abnormal psychology with such emotional restraint and matter-of-factness. This is the memoir of a suffering writer, but she avoids all of the romantic cliches of suffering for one's art.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    An unusual read because the writing is, on the one hand, so matter of fact, and on the other, so spellbinding. That leaves me saying, "How'd she do that, anyway?" Autobiographical in nature, Tove Ditlevsen takes you back to pre-WWII Copenhagen and follows her life into her 20s during the war itself. The first part, Childhood, niftily uses a child's POV and dramatic irony to give the knowing reader a few chuckles. This little girl is "different," all right, but what distinguishes her is her abilit An unusual read because the writing is, on the one hand, so matter of fact, and on the other, so spellbinding. That leaves me saying, "How'd she do that, anyway?" Autobiographical in nature, Tove Ditlevsen takes you back to pre-WWII Copenhagen and follows her life into her 20s during the war itself. The first part, Childhood, niftily uses a child's POV and dramatic irony to give the knowing reader a few chuckles. This little girl is "different," all right, but what distinguishes her is her ability to make most everyone else seem eccentric. Little Tove is not big on childhood and, unlike most, doesn't look back on it through rose-colored glasses. Her parents fight more often than not. Her older brother Alvid doesn't get along with his mother and moves out as soon as he hits 18. Tove makes that her goal, too. Every happy family is alike, and all that. Part Two, Youth, take us to the teen years where Copenhagen's more free-wheeling lifestyle (at least vs. Protestant America) is featured. At 17, Tove is made to feel positively freakish by her girlfriends just because she hasn't lost her virginity yet. Alas, she is as lucky at love as she is at childhood. Not much seems to make her happy. But she does have some success in poetry, mostly short pieces, and she does hope to move on to bigger, better things, like a novel some day. The last section, Dependency, takes us to the war and a series of affairs and marriages. And a rather hair-raising dependency, which I won't spoil in a review. If you're looking for a spellbinding plot, take a pass on this. This book is the Beatles' "Day in the Life" every day she chooses to describe. It wins you over softly with the quotidian ups and downs each of us experiences every day, but none of us suspects could be the material for a book. Shows what we know.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Beginning at the age of 50, Tove Ditlevsen wrote three memoirs, translated and presented here for the first time in a single volume. Not well known outside of Denmark during her years as a prominent poet and author, she wrote with a clarity and bravery that belied the material. Part I, Childhood, delivers a portrait of the life of a young girl growing up in a household devoid of warmth and affection. Her brother, being groomed as a skilled worker in order to escape the struggle of life as a stok Beginning at the age of 50, Tove Ditlevsen wrote three memoirs, translated and presented here for the first time in a single volume. Not well known outside of Denmark during her years as a prominent poet and author, she wrote with a clarity and bravery that belied the material. Part I, Childhood, delivers a portrait of the life of a young girl growing up in a household devoid of warmth and affection. Her brother, being groomed as a skilled worker in order to escape the struggle of life as a stoker like their father and anxious to flee as soon as he reaches 18 years, says that "...this is a not a family to stay with." There was nothing abusive, not even neglectful in this childhood, merely lacking in any human connection. In the second section, Youth, she is put out to work as soon as possible at the age of 14. But it is in the third volume, originally titled Life but changed to Dependency for the translation, that the real effects of Tove's search for love and her life as an increasingly well known poet reaches fruition. This volume, begun when she was 54, reads like a novel in which the doomed heroine is used and misused by, and uses in turn, the various men who come into her life. Most notably, by her third husband, a doctor who gets her hooked on opiods in order to maintain control. This could have been written in the present day, her increasing dependency, realizing she was marrying him because he could supply the means for attaining bliss, and her being hospitalized and weaned off it. However she struggled all her life with addictions. Since it is well known, it is not a spoiler to reveal that shortly after completing this memoir, she succumbed to her addictions and committed suicide.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    If you haven’t heard of Tove Ditlevsen before this book that’s understandable. And if you are wondering why you should a read a one volume trilogy by Danish poet/novelist who was born in 1917 and died in 1976, who lived in a largely homogenous society, and whose experiences in wartime Denmark take a backseat to the interior and familial drama, the answer is pretty simple. The complete and brutal honesty. The fact that we are still dealing with addiction today. The trilogy is comprised of “Childh If you haven’t heard of Tove Ditlevsen before this book that’s understandable. And if you are wondering why you should a read a one volume trilogy by Danish poet/novelist who was born in 1917 and died in 1976, who lived in a largely homogenous society, and whose experiences in wartime Denmark take a backseat to the interior and familial drama, the answer is pretty simple. The complete and brutal honesty. The fact that we are still dealing with addiction today. The trilogy is comprised of “Childhood”, “Youth,” and “Dependency”. In “Childhood, Ditlevsen writes, “Childhood is a long and narrow, like a coffin, and you can’t get out of it on your own” (27). Her family live in Vesterbro in Copenhagen. At the time it was a poor area, and in fact, one of the neighbors is a prostitute. Her family is poor, work is unsure, and if her father goes on welfare, he loses the right to vote. Education is luxury, and well, girls do not get to be poets. She is an outsider in both school and family, though it does offer glimpses of hope, like her brother. The reader does wonder what the story of Ditlvsen’s parents, what brought them together. Her mother is both a terror and a joy, and perhaps mother and daughter are more alike than Ditlevsen wants to admit. Stressful situation it is. Childhood and Youth are about a poet struggling to overcome the hideous stacked deck arranged against her. Both Childhood and Youth are harsh in their own way. There is the causal violence, the family fighting, the sexism, the stress of finding a place to live, to afford a place to live. The struggle for a lower class girl with a bare minimum of education trying to get published. Even when there is hope, there is always, at least in the reader’s mind, the coming of the Nazis. There is also an increase in tempo and drive as she gets older. The most wrenching read is “Dependency” which refers to her addiction. While many reviews have pointed out how harrowing she writes of addiction, it should also be noted that struggle to find an abortionist is equally so. Not only for the search itself but also because of the time were the success of the marriage rests in large part on the women and her ability to please her husband, who in part blames her for his affair. And the specter of addiction also raises the question of abuse. It is not a happy read. Yet, it is a brutally honest read. The strangest thing, perhaps, is almost the complete lack of mention the Occupation. Ditlevsen herself notes this, wondering if it was perhaps the influence of her father. But she is not untouched by the war – a friend dies, she loses an apartment because she is not a Nazi, she worries about her husband when he joins the Resistance. One wonders if the intense focus on personal issues was also a way of shielding oneself. And that loss is made all the more terrible when her addiction starts. Ditlevsen herself is blunt about it, she speaks of never recovering, and how it becomes more than just her battle. It is an harrowing read, but important because her struggles are still struggles that we face today - overcoming poverty, trying to be something in the face of our parents disapproval, the presence of addiction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    reading is my hustle

    thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about the celebrated danish poet, Tove Ditlevsen. she narrates most of it with a child's understanding of the world. it really works. her writing style is difficult to convey. it is clean, crisp, & unadorned. her dispassionate observations gave me all the feels. longer review to follow. thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about the celebrated danish poet, Tove Ditlevsen. she narrates most of it with a child's understanding of the world. it really works. her writing style is difficult to convey. it is clean, crisp, & unadorned. her dispassionate observations gave me all the feels. longer review to follow.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Liina Bachmann

    The Copenhagen Trilogy is a book that you have probably seen around or heard about If you are into reading at all. It was originally published in the 1970s and now a few years ago translated and published in English. Tove Ditlevsen was one of Danish most prominent female authors and this is her biography consisting of three parts: Childhood, Youth and Dependency. I found it hard to get into first as her style is very matter-of-fact, cynical and almost hostile. The text didn't have a good organic The Copenhagen Trilogy is a book that you have probably seen around or heard about If you are into reading at all. It was originally published in the 1970s and now a few years ago translated and published in English. Tove Ditlevsen was one of Danish most prominent female authors and this is her biography consisting of three parts: Childhood, Youth and Dependency. I found it hard to get into first as her style is very matter-of-fact, cynical and almost hostile. The text didn't have a good organic flow. Her childhood was grim, growing up in the poor neighbourhood of Copenhagen and despite it being interesting to read about that time (she was born in 1917) and place I found my mind would constantly wonder. Youth was significantly better and Dependency was utterly gripping. Which is a lot considering that throughout the book her style is very cold, distant and she doesn't give any emotional weight to what she went through. She merely states it. And she went through a lot - backstreet abortions, addiction, divorces, ill-fated love affairs. But throughout this, she never lost sight of her goal - to be a writer, an artist, to live life above the ordinary. It is heavy reading and I think the clever way it is written - stating the facts but not giving any opinion on them in hindsight makes it almost horrifying. It feels like a car going at full speed and no one is behind the wheel. You can feel the looming disaster in your bones but there is nothing to be done. The part about her own addiction was one of the best descriptions on that subject matter I've read. It perfectly captured the way addiction kind of cuts you in two. You don't want it but you do at the same time and you almost become two separate persons - one afraid of the other, of how far her self destruction will go. A heartbreaking memoir.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Tove Ditlevsen, acclaimed Danish writer and poet, bares her soul in this searing 3 volume memoir, 3 compelling volumes of bleakly honest autofiction, published between 1967 and 1971 and now available as a trilogy in an English translation. Hers was a troubled life indeed. The books chart her progress from working class child to literary fame before her decline into drug dependency and finally her suicide. Right from the beginning she wanted to be a poet but her life turned out to be a struggle i Tove Ditlevsen, acclaimed Danish writer and poet, bares her soul in this searing 3 volume memoir, 3 compelling volumes of bleakly honest autofiction, published between 1967 and 1971 and now available as a trilogy in an English translation. Hers was a troubled life indeed. The books chart her progress from working class child to literary fame before her decline into drug dependency and finally her suicide. Right from the beginning she wanted to be a poet but her life turned out to be a struggle in so many ways. Frank and honest, her revealing account is painful to read, and I found it heart-breaking and haunting. Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cassie (book__gal)

    Out today are Tove Ditlevsen’s stunning memoirs, compiled for the first time in one translated volume, The Copenhagen Trilogy. Born in 1917, Ditlevsen was a Danish poet and writer, with a childhood marred by poverty and appraisal with her own perceived oddness. As an adult, Ditlevsen found herself in the throes of addiction and tumultuous relationships, ending her own life in 1976. Though renowned in her home of Denmark for her literature and poetry, for the first time, she will be truly gleaned Out today are Tove Ditlevsen’s stunning memoirs, compiled for the first time in one translated volume, The Copenhagen Trilogy. Born in 1917, Ditlevsen was a Danish poet and writer, with a childhood marred by poverty and appraisal with her own perceived oddness. As an adult, Ditlevsen found herself in the throes of addiction and tumultuous relationships, ending her own life in 1976. Though renowned in her home of Denmark for her literature and poetry, for the first time, she will be truly gleaned in the mainstream English-speaking literary world. I can’t imagine these books do not become beloved classics. ⁣ ⁣ As a child, Ditlevsen is sensitive and observant. Her perceptions of childhood and the confinement of it are her strongest writing. It is perhaps the austere yet intimate way in which she writes that results in piercing a reader’s psyche. You will find yourself under her spell astoundingly fast, eager to discover which aspect of herself, her family, society, womanhood, that she elucidates with her sparse words next. Particularly affecting are her illuminations of the nature of childhood and the distillation of her mother’s moods and personality. ⁣ ⁣ A theme that runs through all three parts of the trilogy is the way writing acts as a life jacket for Ditlevsen. From the early days of juvenile poetry to the novels of later adulthood, it is evident writing is the only way she is able to keep her head above water. Despite the chaos of life, Ditlevsen exerts incredible control over the narrative, not just on the page but in her life too. Undeniably fascinating to watch a woman in seemingly such constant frenzy, also achieve so much: a celebrated writing career, motherhood, upward social mobility, independence. Ditlevsen understood the inherent claustrophobia of life and in many ways, the paths her own story took, the choices she did or did not make, reckoned with this awareness. Thankfully, she committed her life to paper, leaving a masterpiece for us in her wake. ⁣ ⁣ Thanks to FSG for sending me a copy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    **I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.** It should go without say that this is an incredible work of memoir, and a fascinating look into the life and mind of a writer. Ditlevsen does an incredible job in particular of conveying her inner world - the veil that separates her from reality, for example - but though I found myself recognizing a lot of my own thoughts in hers, I couldn't help but feel a bit deprived of detail. Maybe not so much with her writing life, but certainly the people **I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.** It should go without say that this is an incredible work of memoir, and a fascinating look into the life and mind of a writer. Ditlevsen does an incredible job in particular of conveying her inner world - the veil that separates her from reality, for example - but though I found myself recognizing a lot of my own thoughts in hers, I couldn't help but feel a bit deprived of detail. Maybe not so much with her writing life, but certainly the people she was closest to could have done with a bit more focus. I get that Ditlevsen may have opted for a more naturalistic approach here (i.e., people naturally grow apart, someone important in the beginning of your life isn't necessarily always going to be there even if that would make more narrative sense) but I can't help but think that she must have had some thoughts or lingering resentments (or even forgiveness) for her mother in her adult life and it would've been nice (and interesting!) to get a sense of their relationship when she was an adult. Also, I did want more about her writing - more than just that the words flowed or didn't - and what moments in her life may have provoked certain book ideas. These memoirs definitely cover a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of space, and that's great. But I think some deeper context and details were definitely sacrificed to keep things moving along, and I wish that hadn't been so. This is definitely a worthwhile read, and I would definitely recommend it, but it fell a little short of the mark for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A deathly masterpiece of memoir...ecstatic and agonizing

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This will probably be one of my top ten of the year, but my caveat is that I am reviewing the whole trilogy read back to back without interruption. Had I read these separately as originally released by Ditlevsen, I would not have been as positive. The flow from book to book of the memoir when read at once though has the impact of a good novel.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marieke

    Heavy, honest, beautiful. An autobiography in which the author doesn't romanticize or skip over the bad chapters in her life, but describes them almost in an objective manner. It's about moving up the social ladder, starting quite literally at the bottom with poor parents -e.g., not being able to go to high school since it's too expensive and thus having to work from a very young age- to being a famous writer in Denmark. And then to have that independency taken away from her by an addiction that Heavy, honest, beautiful. An autobiography in which the author doesn't romanticize or skip over the bad chapters in her life, but describes them almost in an objective manner. It's about moving up the social ladder, starting quite literally at the bottom with poor parents -e.g., not being able to go to high school since it's too expensive and thus having to work from a very young age- to being a famous writer in Denmark. And then to have that independency taken away from her by an addiction that was in a way forced onto her. Again, it's a heavy read. If drug dependency is triggering for you, I'd still recommend you to read the first 2 parts: childhood and youth. Tove has lead a very interesting life and especially in the first two parts, she describes it beautifully.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    For what she’s been through, it’s a miracle Ditlevsen was able to write as lucidly and coherently as she did (my understanding is that this is almost entirely autobiographical?) Juxtaposed against operatic levels of tumult and the unforgiving conditions that was her life, it made for a generally uneasy and discomforting reading experience that I couldn’t get enough of (especially part three!!) Truthfully, Childhood and Youth weren’t as engaging for me, but that also might be because I have an unn For what she’s been through, it’s a miracle Ditlevsen was able to write as lucidly and coherently as she did (my understanding is that this is almost entirely autobiographical?) Juxtaposed against operatic levels of tumult and the unforgiving conditions that was her life, it made for a generally uneasy and discomforting reading experience that I couldn’t get enough of (especially part three!!) Truthfully, Childhood and Youth weren’t as engaging for me, but that also might be because I have an unnecessary aversion to children in general lol, but part one & two were ultimately necessary precursors for the ~tour de force~ that was Dependency, which I felt was the trilogy’s most compelling and what gradually—and then suddenly—gripped me entirely. Ditlevsen’s unflinching and piercing accounts of her descent into addiction as a friend, mother, daughter, and wife never once felt like she was seeking sympathy, yet was somehow recounted in a way that managed to feel like she was a character in her own life, while never relinquishing complete honesty in discussing the fundamental struggles and lengths that humans are willing to go to in order to survive emotionally. All in all bleak and harrowing, but I get the hype; well deserved and earned.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This was a ride! I'm always on the lookout for good autofiction by writers who aren't cis-het men, and Ditlevsen's trilogy lives up to all the hype. Covering different eras in the author's life, the three books illustrate a range of the roles women play throughout their lives - girlhood, daughter, youth coming of age, aspiring artist, adult, mother, wife, poet, addict. The turn the story takes in Dependency is honestly one I didn't see coming, a devastating showcase of addiction and abuse, and a This was a ride! I'm always on the lookout for good autofiction by writers who aren't cis-het men, and Ditlevsen's trilogy lives up to all the hype. Covering different eras in the author's life, the three books illustrate a range of the roles women play throughout their lives - girlhood, daughter, youth coming of age, aspiring artist, adult, mother, wife, poet, addict. The turn the story takes in Dependency is honestly one I didn't see coming, a devastating showcase of addiction and abuse, and a culmination of a lifetime spent being taken advantage of by various men (as a writer, I was grinding my teeth reading about the narrator's encounters with male editors when trying to publish her work - if you know, you know). A fantastic trilogy that will stick with me for a while, and it's nicely collected in this single volume.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yossi

    Ooops! I’m in the minority here but other than the background in which the story aka biography takes place and some sparks of outstanding insightfulness I couldn’t care any less about the main character.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Mumford

    All the reviews and hype here have it correct: an absolute must read. Subtle here and there but yet deeply compelling throughout.

  22. 5 out of 5

    andreea. (paperrcuts)

    read in 2021, each volume added separately. - Childhood: 4 stars - Youth: 2.5 stars - Dependency: 2/1.5 stars Ultimately, the book was at its strongest for me in the very beginning, when child Tove spinned a painful commentary on the inadequacies of childhood. As she was growing older, she seemed disconnected from that child and very often embodied a radically different character. However, the writing troubled me most: it was dry, dry, like the metallic clinket of riding a sleigh on a snowless pat read in 2021, each volume added separately. - Childhood: 4 stars - Youth: 2.5 stars - Dependency: 2/1.5 stars Ultimately, the book was at its strongest for me in the very beginning, when child Tove spinned a painful commentary on the inadequacies of childhood. As she was growing older, she seemed disconnected from that child and very often embodied a radically different character. However, the writing troubled me most: it was dry, dry, like the metallic clinket of riding a sleigh on a snowless path on a disgusting winter day when the sun covers your frozen stiff, bundled up tense body. Quite disappointing overall, but it will stay with me, and I do see myself giving it a second chance in a few years' time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Inês Gueifão

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars The writing felt too raw and impersonal for what is actually an autobiography of a poetess. Too much telling and not enough showing. A shame, because I was really excited about this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    Where do artists come from? How do they have this fierce urge to do what they do, whether it's write poetry or stories, play an instrument, dance, paint, make movies? I'm inclined to believe that everyone has something artistic and creative within them, but in some cases it's nurtured by the circumstances people grow up in, while in others life crushes it out of them. Or more happily they can find fulfillment through some less torturous method than in trying to create something where there was n Where do artists come from? How do they have this fierce urge to do what they do, whether it's write poetry or stories, play an instrument, dance, paint, make movies? I'm inclined to believe that everyone has something artistic and creative within them, but in some cases it's nurtured by the circumstances people grow up in, while in others life crushes it out of them. Or more happily they can find fulfillment through some less torturous method than in trying to create something where there was nothing, or in striving for an unreachable perfection. It is hard to imagine a childhood less likely to produce a poet and novelist than the one Tove Ditlevsen describes here, of a grim working-class existence in Copenhagen between the two world wars. Yet from her earliest memories she tells of this longing, of the feeling of words rushing through her. With no chance even to attend high school, she has a series of terrible jobs starting at age 14 and no idea even of how one gets a poem published; only a chance meeting with someone in a dance hall leads her to an editor and the start of a new life. But literary success does not lead to happiness. Except for the writing, she keeps insisting to the reader, she is just an ordinary person, who wants what every other girl wants: nice clothes, a boyfriend, a husband, children. She might even believe it. It soon becomes clear, though, that is a pretty big "except." So partly this is the story of the conflict between art and life that every artist faces, except Ditlevsen's dilemmas are so large and dramatic. In part this is because she is, honestly, bonkers, and makes a series of terrible life choices. But the forthright way she tells her terrible story makes it fascinating. There are also many interesting historic touches along the way about life in Copenhagen at that time. I was surprised to learn, for instance, that even when she was making a tiny salary part of it was socked away for savings. Apparently this was just what people did, a cultural expectation she did not resist, since she doesn't strike one as likely to plan ahead in general. The part shortly before the start of World War II when she is renting in a room in a house whose landlady is an enthusiastic fan of Hitler is both horrifying and somehow comic. I wrote this review, unusually, before I had quite finished the book. So what you are left with, in the last little portion of the book, is an absolutely horrifying account of her descent into drug addiction, courtesy of her crazy third husband, whom she marries for no other reason than to ensure a continuing supply of Demerol. It absolutely colors the impression of everything that came before, and while I like the book no less, it is definitely darker, realizing that this is where her life has been heading all along.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chythan

    "Wherever you turn, you run up against your childhood and hurt yourself because it's sharp-edged and hard, and stops only when it has torn you completely apart". Childhood is that trailing shadow we forever try to leave behind. The coldness and melancholy which we inherit as children shall never leave us as they become attached to our bones. Tove Ditlevsen writes a haunting memoir, taking us through different phases of life, from her childhood through her adult years till she turns an addict. Wit "Wherever you turn, you run up against your childhood and hurt yourself because it's sharp-edged and hard, and stops only when it has torn you completely apart". Childhood is that trailing shadow we forever try to leave behind. The coldness and melancholy which we inherit as children shall never leave us as they become attached to our bones. Tove Ditlevsen writes a haunting memoir, taking us through different phases of life, from her childhood through her adult years till she turns an addict. Without any grand narratives, adornments or sophistication in language, Tove leaves an unsettling reverberation through her hauntingly honest words. How often is that the story of another person affects us so much that the words brings in pricking memories of little things we saw and heard in our childhood? Tove, as a child found an exit in words. Left me wondering about the childhood of people who keeps inside them a towering pile of words only to lose them to the void. Between the themes of memory, childhood and identity of a female writer, Tove leaves a very relatable longing for 'belonging'. A definable space to belong to. The book left me drained and unsettled. Tove's writing took me back to Robert Bolano's quote. " The truth is we never stop being children, terrible children covered in sores and knotty veins and tumors and age spots, but ultimately children, in other words we never stop clinging to life because we are life".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    A beautiful, heartbreaking piece of work. Ditlevsen's memoirs are equal parts gripping, hopeful, and depressing--with a nice dash of humor sprinkled throughout. The easy comparison is to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, and there definitely are some similarities in reading about a young woman growing up in a working class family during the 20th century, discovering poetry and yearning to be a published writer, but Ditlevsen's memoirs stand on their own merits. The prose is clean, unsentimenta A beautiful, heartbreaking piece of work. Ditlevsen's memoirs are equal parts gripping, hopeful, and depressing--with a nice dash of humor sprinkled throughout. The easy comparison is to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, and there definitely are some similarities in reading about a young woman growing up in a working class family during the 20th century, discovering poetry and yearning to be a published writer, but Ditlevsen's memoirs stand on their own merits. The prose is clean, unsentimental and direct. Every time I picked this up, I found it difficult to put down. She was a natural storyteller. Easily one of the best things I've read this year, I'll be thinking about The Copenhagen Trilogy for some time. I'm happy to hear that the publisher is planning on putting out more of her work into English for new fans. 5/5

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joel Buck

    Builds to a fairly harrowing and abrupt conclusion. I was halfway through it before I found out it's not (apparently?) meant to be nonfiction? I suppose I'll do a deep dive to find out what I can about autofiction here sooner rather than later. And then another one to find out just how much this strays from her own experience. Don't all memoirists embellish to a certain extent? I've certainly never met someone who'd write a memoir that I'd trust to give me the straight story. I got off track. Th Builds to a fairly harrowing and abrupt conclusion. I was halfway through it before I found out it's not (apparently?) meant to be nonfiction? I suppose I'll do a deep dive to find out what I can about autofiction here sooner rather than later. And then another one to find out just how much this strays from her own experience. Don't all memoirists embellish to a certain extent? I've certainly never met someone who'd write a memoir that I'd trust to give me the straight story. I got off track. This was good, I love her frank and mostly unaffected style. "The Copenhagen Trilogy" is a mouthful, so I'll henceforth only be referring to it as A Room Of One's Øwn. God help me if I ever get addicted to any serious substance. This really was so alarming.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Wow, ok, lived up to the hype. Come for the "how the hell does she manage to make it not annoying" present tense memoir style, stay for the 4th quarter spike in stakes. Wow, ok, lived up to the hype. Come for the "how the hell does she manage to make it not annoying" present tense memoir style, stay for the 4th quarter spike in stakes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katerina Kokki

    Wow what a life! I absolutely loved the beautiful, melancholic writing…

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana Le Feuvre

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Childhood. Working class, i.e.poor and getting rough treatment by her mother. I was thinking the whole book (or I’d say a chapter of the trilogy) that every nation has their Gorky’s like childhood. Tovy is as insecure and self-doubting as one can be and tat the same time her passion for writing is as strong as it can be. Such a mix! Youth. Starting to work, getting her first publication as the world is about to crack for the 2nd world war. Quite an interesting reality of the period in Denmark: th Childhood. Working class, i.e.poor and getting rough treatment by her mother. I was thinking the whole book (or I’d say a chapter of the trilogy) that every nation has their Gorky’s like childhood. Tovy is as insecure and self-doubting as one can be and tat the same time her passion for writing is as strong as it can be. Such a mix! Youth. Starting to work, getting her first publication as the world is about to crack for the 2nd world war. Quite an interesting reality of the period in Denmark: the tension is here, but much less drama as most of other European countries went through. Dependency. À mind-blowing chapter and the reason it is a 5* book for me. Changing 4 husbands, craving for love, 2 abortions, writing success while having children and then deep drug addiction and a rehub. All this in the 50s! Such a vivid description of an addiction as only a talented writer who really went through it could put in writing. Several missteps and before one can imagine, demeriol is the reason to willfully ruine one’s life in a click of fingers. I can’t imagine whiting all this as bluntly as Tovy Ditlevsen has done. A crazy way of staying completely naked in front of everybody. « my childhood falls silently to the bottom of my memory, that library of the soul from which I will draw knowledge and experience for the rest of my life. » « I look at the dogs, the dogs and their masters. Some of the dogs have a short leash that’s jerked impatiently every time they stop. Others have a long leash and their masters wait patiently whenever an exciting smell detains the dog. That’s the kind of master I want. That’s the kind of life I could thrive in. There are also the masterless dogs that run around confused between people’s legs, apparently without enjoying their freedom. I’m like that kind of masterless dog – scruffy, confused, and alone. » “We dance, celebrate and enjoy ourselves, but this historic event doesn’t really penetrate my consciousness, because I always experience things after they’ve happened; I’m rarely in the present.”

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