Gress, Elsa

(1919-1988)
   A Danish essayist, novelist, and dramatist, Elsa Gress was also an inveterate traveler, translator, and sharp-tongued participant in public debate. Her greatest artistic achievement is likely her memoirs, published as Mine mange hjem (1965; My Many Homes), Fuglefri og fremmed (1971; Free as a Bird and a Stranger), and Compania 1-2 (1976), in which she writes with exemplary openness about her life. Gress wrote three novels in the early part of her career, including her debut Mellemspil (1947; Interlude), which draws on her experiences as a resistance fighter in Denmark during World War II. Toward the end of her working life she published two more novels, Salamander (1977) and Simurghen (1986), in which art is portrayed as a painful vocation.
   The essay was arguably Gress's best genre, and she published 15 volumes designated as such throughout her career, starting with Strejftog (1945; Raids) and Nye strejftog (1957; New Raids), in which she expresses her thorough knowledge and love of American culture. Other titles are Fugle og frøer (1969; Birds and Seeds), Fanden til forskel (1978; One Hell of a Difference), and Blykuglen (1984; The Lead Bullet). Some of these titles may give an idea of how strident Gress could be in her public discourse. Closely related to her essays is her book Det uopdagede køn (1964; The Undiscovered Sex), in which she argues in favor of androgyny.
   Gress had a great love of drama, but she was not a successful playwright. Den sarede Filoktet (1970), which she had self-published in an English-language version the previous year as Philoctetes Wounded (1969), may be considered her breakthrough as a dramatist.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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