It’s easy to allow one’s world to get smaller, when one is overwhelmed by some of the sadness and struggle in this world; the opposite is also true, that it’s easy to expand your world under the same set of circumstances.
A random spark, like this desk calendar by a Toronto artist (each month with a quotation from the work of an author associated with this city and printed on 100% recycled paper with VOC-free inks), coupled with access to a public library, can open my world just a little wider.
This month I turned to Tove Ditlevsen’s Childhood (1967; Trans. Tiina Nunnally, 2019), the first volume in the Copenhagen trilogy. And to Mark Raso’s film Copenhagen (2014) starring Gethin Anthony and Frederikke Dahl Hansen. So I travel to Denmark through the window of a printed page.
Ditlevsen’s book sounds like something that should be the size of a Proust volume, but she has squeezed her childhood into fewer than one hundred pages. And she never leaves Copenhagen. Indeed, much of the story (too much, she might argue, as she feels increasingly confined) unfolds in her family’s two-room apartment in Vesterbro in Copenhagen at Hedebygade 30A.
Her parents met when her mother was sixteen, a salesgirl in a bakery on Tordenskjoldsgade, and her father was twenty-six and visited the bakery. Her father had been in the city for ten years prior, but nothing was said about these years. This sense of unknowing suits the story: “I know every person has their own truth just as every child has their own childhood.”
Tove doesn’t fit. “I know it’s terrible not to be normal, and I have my own troubles trying to pretend that I am.” She is a poet, driven to write without encouragement at this stage in her life.