Bjørnvig, Thorkild

(1918-2004)
   A Danish poet and essayist, Bjørnvig studied comparative literature and became a prize-winning literary scholar. Bjørnvig is thus aware that there is a close relationship between literary criticism and the literature on which it is based, and he sees a similar relationship between poetry and reality. The poet, for Bjørnvig, does not create reality linguistically, but the poem reflects and embodies reality. Bjørnvig's poetic epistemology is thus essentially of the premodern kind; knowledge is reality reflected in the glassy essence of the mind, and truth is so because it corresponds to reality.
   Bjørnvig had his literary debut with the poetry collection Stjærnen bag Gavlen (1947; The Star behind the Gable), in which he expresses the view that poetry mediates our experience of the universe. Art's ability to help humans understand life is further stressed in the poetry collections Anubis (1955) and Figur og Ild (1959; Figure and Fire). Nature becomes comprehensible through poetry. The collection Ravnen (1968; The Raven) is the epitome of structure and order, thus indicating that humans and nature have a necessary rather than a contingent relation to one another. In his future volumes of poetry,
   Bjørnvig takes the consequences of this realization: since the relation of human beings to nature is necessary, the condition of nature deeply affects what becomes of humanity. Environmentalism thus becomes a supreme ethical obligation, for the mental and spiritual purity of human beings is a consequence of the purity of nature.
   These kinds of ideas were expressed in the poetry collections Delfinen (1975; The Dolphin), Abeguden (1981; The Monkey God), and Epimeteus (1990). Bjørnvig has also presented his views in volumes of essays, beginning with Begyndelsen (1960; The Beginning) and Virkeligheden er til (1973; Reality Exists), and continuing, with even greater explicitness, in Ogsa for naturens skyld (1978; Also for the Sake of Nature) and Barnet og dyret i industrisamfundet (1979; The Child and the Animal in Industrial Society). Bjørnvig has used the term "ecological socialism" to designate his environmental program.
   Like many other Danish writers, Bjørnvig has also written memoirs. His first book in this vein was Pagten (1974; tr. The Pact, 1983), in which he discusses his relationship with Karen Blixen. Later volumes include Solens have og skolegarden (1983; The Garden of the Sun and the Schoolyard), Hjørnestuen og manehavet (1984; The Corner Room and the Moon Ocean), Jordens hjerte (1986; The Heart of the Earth), and Ønsket (1987; The Wish); together these four volumes cover the years 1918-1948.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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