Kristensen, Tom


Kristensen, Tom
(1893-1974)
   A Danish poet, novelist, and critic, Kristensen came from a lower-middle-class background, the values of which he wanted to transcend. His literary debut was a collection of poetry, Fribytterdrømme (1920; Dreams of a Freebooter), which was marked by modernism s rebellion against traditional poetic forms. His next volume of poetry, Paafuglefjeren (1922; The Peacock Feather), was inspired by a trip to China and Japan. The poems in Mirakler (1922; Miracles), however, show that Kristensen was attracted to Christianity, and particularly Roman Catholicism. The travel book En Kavaler i Spanien (1926; A Cavalier in Spain) also contains many important poems, and Verdslige Sange (1927; Worldly Songs) discusses the contrast between woman as a sexual being and woman as Madonna. Death, seen from a Christian perspective, is the subject of the poetry collection Mod den yderste Rand (1936; Toward the Outermost Edge), while Digte i Døgnet (1940; Poems at All Hours) contains memorial poems. Kristensen s undogmatic Christian outlook is also found in his final volume of poetry, Den sidste Lygte (1954; The Last Lamp).
   To Danish literature, Kristensen is more significant as a novelist than as a poet. His first novel, Livets Arabesk (1921; The Arabesque of Life), is written in the style of expressionism and contains ideas similar to those in Fribytterdrømme. The novel En Anden (1923; Someone Else) is, like the poetry collection Paafuglefjeren, influenced by his travels in Asia and tells about a man s desperate search for a sense of identity through reflections on his childhood. Identity is also a major theme in Kristensen's most significant novel, Hærværk (1930; tr. Havoc, 1968), which is set in Copenhagen in the 1920s and details the self-destructive behavior of the literary critic Ole Jastrau, Kristensen s alter ego. Together with the character Steffensen, a poet and communist, Jastrau seeks for life s meaning in both alcohol and a flirtation with Catholicism, which Steffensen finally embraces, thus being saved from complete disintegration. Jastrau is not quite that lucky, however, as his existential quest is not exactly crowned with success, but there is a glimmer of hope in the end.
   After Hærværk, which was a tremendous success, Kristensen wrote no more novels. He maintained his interest in Catholic religion, however, as demonstrated by a travel narrative, Rejse i Italien (1951; Travel in Italy). He was very productive as a literary critic and brought many important writers to the attention of the Danes. His criticism can be found in a number of collections.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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