Authors: Johannes V. Jensen

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Danish novelist and poet

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Danskere, 1896

Einar Elkær, 1898

Kongens fald, 1900-1901 (The Fall of the King, 1933)

Madame d’Ora, 1904

Skovene, 1904

Hjulet, 1905

Den lange rejse, 1908-1922 (collective title for the following 6 novels; The Long Journey, 1922-1924, 1933, 1945; in 3 volumes: Fire and Ice, 1923; The Cimbrians, 1923; Christopher Columbus, 1924)

Bræen, 1908

Skibet, 1912

Norne-Gæst, 1919

Det tabte land, 1919

Christofer Columbus, 1921

Cimbrernes tog, 1922

Dr. Renaults fristelser, 1935

Gudrun, 1936

Short Fiction:

Himmerlandsfolk, 1898

Intermezzo, 1899

Nye Himmerlands historier, 1904

Myter og jagter, 1907

Singaporenoveller, 1907

Myter, 1907-1944 (11 volumes)

Nye myter, 1908

Himmerlandshistorier, 1910

Ved livets bred, 1928

Kornmarken, 1932

Møllen, 1944


Digte, 1906, 1917, 1921

Den jydske blæst, 1931


Den gotiske Renaissance, 1901

Den ny verden, 1907

Introduktion til vor tidsalder, 1915

Æstetik og udvikling, 1923

Fra fristaterne, 1939


The Nobel Prize-winning Danish novelist Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (YEHNT-suhn) left behind him, when he died in 1950, more than sixty volumes of published works. These included poetry, short stories, and essays as well as his many novels and a number of his own plays and a translation into the Danish of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In spite of this large output, his international reputation rests mainly on a single work, the six-volume series The Long Journey, an epic on the beginnings and history of the Teutonic race.{$I[AN]9810000136}{$I[A]Jensen, Johannes V.}{$I[geo]DENMARK;Jensen, Johannes V.}{$I[tim]1873;Jensen, Johannes V.}

Johannes V. Jensen

(©The Nobel Foundation)

Jensen was significantly influenced by his parents. His mother had a prosaic and practical view of life, but she also possessed a vivid imagination–a double predisposition inherited by her son. His father’s extensive botanical and zoological knowledge (he was a veterinarian) became an important source of information for Jensen’s later studies of nature and encouraged his preoccupation with Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution. A third formative element was the family’s deep-rooted feeling for peasant culture. Jensen went to Copenhagen with the intention of studying medicine, but there his introduction to the world of letters led him to leave the university without a degree and to devote himself to travel and writing. In 1897 he came to the United States, where he remained for a time in Chicago. Here, fascinated, he made those observations of Midwest urban culture that eventually served as background for two of his early novels. Before writing these, however, he turned to his own native background with his first collection of short stories, Himmerlandsfolk (Himmerland stories), based on the memories of his Jutland childhood.

He continued to write and travel throughout the first quarter of the century. These journeys took him five more times to the United States; to Spain in 1898 as a reporter during the Spanish-American War; to Germany, France, and England in 1898 and 1899; and to the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. In 1902 and 1903 Jensen took a long journey around the world; in 1912 and 1913 to the Far East; and in 1925 and 1926 to Egypt and Palestine. Shortly before World War II Jensen visited the United States for the last time, a trip he described in the travelogue Fra fristaterne. During these years he developed certain theories about the purpose and meaning of literature. Attacking the traditionalist attitudes of Georg Brandes and his followers, he demanded a new Danish novel based on the naturalistic concepts of contemporary French and American literature. To further this cause, he did all he could to spread the fame of Ernest Hemingway in Denmark, as well as preaching the virtues of Charles Darwin and Walt Whitman. Before his death he became perhaps the most influential writer in Denmark and the leader of a growing school of young novelists.

As the influence of Darwin indicates, his interests were by no means confined to literature alone. Science and history were both well within the scope of his broad intellectual concerns. It was this interest in history as well as his abilities in the novel that brought him to his greatest literary triumph. The Long Journey is history as well as art, and it deals not with individual characters but with an entire people.

Vast as it is, The Long Journey is only one of Jensen’s experiments in many different literary fields. He continued to write for more than a decade afterward, a time during which his interests extended into philosophy and journalism as well. During the German occupation of Denmark from 1940 to 1945 Jensen burned his diaries and most correspondence from the previous thirty years, but he continued to write until his death, six years after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1944.

BibliographyAnderson, Frank Egholm, ed. The Nordic Mind: Current Trends in Scandinavian Literary Criticism. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986. Contains Per Aage Brandt’s essay,“‘Oedipus in Memphis’: Mythic Patterns in Jensen’s Poem,” a valuable study of his literary sensibility. Other articles provide excellent background for assessing Jensen’s work.Fris, Oluf. “Johannes V. Jensen.” Scandinavica 1 (1962): 114-123. Still a good introduction to Jensen.Houe, Poul. “Johannes V. Jensen’s Long Journey or Postmodernism Under Way.” Scandinavian Studies 64 (1992): 96-128. A very thorough, challenging article recommended for advanced students. Some grasp of literary theory is necessary to make full use of this article.Neilsen, Henry, and Keld Neilsen, eds. Neighbouring Nobel: The History of Thirteen Danish Nobel Prizes. Translated by Heidi Flegal. Oakville, Conn.: Aarhus University Press, 2001. In addition to an overview of the Nobel Prize in Scandinavia, the Neilsens included a detailed chapter devoted to Jensen.Rossel, Sven H. Johannes V. Jensen. Boston: Twayne, 1984. The most comprehensive study of Jensen in English. As in other introductory volumes in Twayne’s World Authors series, Rossel includes a chronology, notes, and an annotated bibliography. The book to use in beginning a serious study of Jensen.Veisland, Jorgen Steen. “The Absent Father and the Inauguration of Discourse in Johannes V. Jensen’s Kongens fald.” Scandinavian Studies 61 (1989): 55-67. Perhaps a little difficult for the beginning student, but a perceptive account of an important theme in Jensen.
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