Christensen, Inger


Christensen, Inger
(1935-)
   A Danish poet, novelist, and essayist, Christensen first published two volumes of poetry, Lys (1962; Light) and Græs (1963; Grass), that received relatively little attention. Her two early experimental novels, Evighedsmaskinen (1964; The Perpetual Motion Machine) and Azorno (1967), blur the distinction between the subject of the narrative and the process of narration itself and indicate that she developed an interest in the relationship between language and the world early in her career.
   Christensen's breakthrough as a poet came with Det (1969; It), a long and highly structured poem divided into numerous subsections that establish complex patterns of organization. Itself an example of how language not only structures but actually creates human reality, it constitutes a creative act but also consciously presents language as the primary medium of creation. Det was very well received by the critics and the public at large and made Christensen one of Denmark's most popular writers.
   In her next poetry collection, Brev i april (1979; Letter in April), Christensen retreats somewhat from the radical nominalism advocated in Det. Her attitude toward the reality that surrounds her is marked by a greater sense of humility as she asks if objects in the world could perhaps know that they are really named something else than what they are called by human beings. In the volume alfabet (1981; tr. alphabet, 2000), Christensen departs from her concern with language as constitutive of the world and recognizes that there is, out there in the world, an extralinguistic reality that language can be used to discover and name. She does not necessarily believe reality to be amorphous or chaotic, for her poem, which may be regarded as an attempt to reflect this extralinguistic reality, is a highly structured work.
   Christensen's attraction to order is even more clearly visible in the following volume of poetry, Sommerfugledalen: Et requiem (1991; tr. The Valley of the Butterflies, 1999), a collection of 15 interconnected sonnets. The structure of this work is far more restrictive than what is dictated by the sonnet form, however, for each succeeding sonnet begins with the concluding line of the previous one, and sonnet number 15 consists ofthe beginning lines ofsonnets one through 14. Such a highly structured and restrictive form suggests that the poet may have gone from satisfying her need for order by linguistic creation (in Det) to a standpoint where a sense of orderliness is achieved through a type of linguistic representation that is deeply committed to both the idea of representation and a belief in the indwelling orderliness of existence.
   Although primarily known as a poet, Christensen has also written radio and television scripts as well as the play Intriganterne: Et teaterstykke (1972; The Schemers), which presents the world as marked by distortion and confusion. Her postmodernist novel Det malede værelse: En fortælling fra Mantua (1976; tr. The Painted Room, 2000) is set in the Italian Renaissance and gives an example of how the world and its representation may become one. Christensen's Del af labyrinthen: Essays (1982; A Part of the Labyrinth: Essays) offers commentary on her artistic assumptions and practice. A later volume, Hemmelighedstilstanden (1999; The State ofSecretiveness), is a collection of previously written essays that offer reflections of Christensen's multifaceted world.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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