Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Childhood, Youth, Dependency

Finished October 6
Childhood, Youth, Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman

The first two parts of this memoir, Childhood and Youth were first published in 1967, and the third Dependency in 1971, with the translations in 1985 and 2019 respectively. Here, they have been brought together in one volume. 
Ditlevsen was born to a working class family in Copenhagen with a father involved in unions and socialism and a mother who valued reputation and looks. She was close to her brother, who was a few years older. Despite her teachers' encouragement, she was not able to go on to high school, leaving at the age of fourteen to work, first as household help and eventually in officework. 
From a young age, she wrote poetry, inspired by the world and people around her and her own imagination, writing beyond her own experiences, "lies" as her brother put it, and hoping to become a published writer someday, despite her father telling her that women weren't poets. 
She found a couple of men that encouraged her, but it was only with the third, the editor and publisher of a small literary newsletter that she gained success, as well as her first husband. 
She was very focused on her own life and needs, and the men that cared for her, living an insular life of sorts, surrounded by literary people and academics, and not largely affected by greater world events. 
I found it interesting that despite being a young woman during World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, she seemed hardly affected by their presence or their actions. The men in her life continued to go about their normal lives, with some entering the world of the resistance in small ways. 
She is very frank about her relationships and her personal life in general including her addiction to drugs that arose through her fourth husband, and her choices around him. 
This is not a happy book, despite her success as a writer, but it is a compelling read and one written with skill. 

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