First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Following one woman’s journey from a troubled girlhood in working-class Copenhagen through her struggle to live on her own terms, Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen Trilogy is a searingly honest, utterly immersive portrayal of love, friendship, art, ambition, and the terrible lure of addiction, from one of Denmark’s most celebrated twentieth-century writers.
And, cut! Another work week is in the books. I hope the workweek has been kind to you and that you are ending it on a high note. Hey, the weekends are waving! If you struggled during the week, I hope you find time to heal and relax this weekend. Today is also the first Friday of the third month of the year. Wow. We are nearly done with the first quarter of the year! Time is in such a rush that I can barely keep up. Nevertheless, I hope you are all doing well despite the uncertain times. The COVID19 situation in the Philippines has become much better in the past week compared to the start of the year but the news from other parts of the world is certainly worrisome. I hope that Russia will end its attack on Ukraine. I also hope that the pandemic will end soon. I also pray for your well-being, in body, spirit, and mind.
Before I can turn it over to the weekend, let me close the work week with a new First Impression Friday update. In the first two months of the year, I have been focusing on reading books published in 2021. I originally intended to read them towards the end of 2021 but because of time constraints, and the number of reading catch-ups I had to do, I was unable to read them. With 19 books already done, this reading catch-up has been successful. The eclectic mix of books made sure that I am fully entertained and occupied. I have read the works of unfamiliar names like Sara Nisha Adams and Rachel Cusk while reading the works of familiar names such as Colson Whitehead and Ruth Ozeki. This combination gave my reading journey a distinct texture. One of the unfamiliar names that have become part of this reading journey is Danish writer Tove Ditlevesen, whose memoir, The Copenhagen Trilogy, is the book that I am taking with me into the weekend.
It was in late 2021 that I first came across Tove Ditlevsen. A quick Google search yielded that she is a renowned Danish poet. She has an extensive resume which includes short stories, memoirs, novels, and children’s books. Among the memoirs she wrote were Childhood (Barndom in Danish), Youth (Ungdom), and finally, Dependency (Gift). These books were published in Danish between 1967 and 1971. While the first two books were translated into English in 1985, it wasn’t until 2019 that the third book was translated into English. In 2021, the three books were collectively published as a trilogy for the first time. What originally piqued my interest in the trilogy was that it reminded me of Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. Except that The Copenhagen Trilogy was a memoir.
I have started reading the first book just today. Tove was already five or six years old at the start of her memoir. The earlier pages of the book laid out the landscape of Ditlevsen’s childhood. We get to meet her parents: “My father was melancholy, serious, and unusually moralistic, while my mother, at least as a young girl was lively and silly, irresponsible and vain.” We also get to meet her brother, Edvin. Ditlevsen was a mama’s girl while her brother was daddy’s boy. At the onset, Tove immediately underlined the reality of how women are treated. While Edvin will grow up a prince, girls like her “just get married and have children.” There was an incisive honesty on how Ditlevsen laid it all out for her readers. She was slowly reeling me in.
There were also hints of angst behind her words. At a young age, she was slapped with the realities of her existence. First, she was a woman born into a working-class household. Second, she had lofty dreams of becoming a poet. Third, her father was not supportive of her ambition even though her father read and loved poets like Gorky. “Don’t be a fool! A girl can’t be a poet,” he remarked once when Tove mentioned her dream. Everything, it seems, was going against her. At this point, one of the things that I want to learn as I read the book is how these will shape her and her personality. Obviously, it did not stop her from achieving her dreams but what are the other roadblocks she had to overcome to get to the pedestal she reached.
This is my first memoir since Nadia Owusu’s Aftershock. There are so many things I look forward to in Ditlevsen’s memoir. It might be the gateway to reading more of her works, particularly her novels. How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into the weekend? I hope you are enjoying it. For now, happy reading, and have a happy weekend!