Grøndahl, Jens Christian 1959-
GRØNDAHL, Jens Christian 1959-
PERSONAL: Born November 9, 1959, in Lyngby, Denmark; married Charlotte Louise Truelsen, July 19, 1989; children: two sons. Education: Danish Cinema School.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Forlaget Vindrose, Valbygardsvij 33, DK 2500 Valby, Denmark.
CAREER: Writer. Coeditor of Fredag, a literary quarterly, 1990—.
MEMBER: Danish PEN, Danish Writers' Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Herman Bang Prize; Otto Monsted award, 1988.
Kvinden i midten (title means "The woman in the middle"), Vindrose (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1985.
Syd for floden (title means "South of the river"), Vindrose (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1986.
Rejsens bevaegelser (title means "Movements of the journey"), Vindrose (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1988.
Overflodighedshorn: Den selvmodsigende kulturkritik hos Kundera og Flogstad, Vinduet (Oslo, Norway), 1991.
Mens den ene hvisker og den annen lytter, Vinduet (Oslo, Norway), 1992.
Tavshed i oktober, Munksgaard/Rosinante (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1996, translation by Anne Born published as Silence in October, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.
Lucca, Munksgaard/Rosinante (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1998, translation by Anne Born published as Lucca, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.
Night Mail: Essays, Munksgaard/Rosinante (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1998.
Hjertelyd, Rosinante (Copenhagen, Denmark), 1999.
Indian Summer, DTV, 2001.
Virginia, Canongate (London, England), 2003.
Also author of Det indre blik (title means "The inward eye"), 1990.
SIDELIGHTS: Jens Christian Grøndahl is a Danish writer whose novels are among the most popular in his native country. With the 2001 translation of Tavshed i oktober, Silence in October, his work has also become available to English readers. Born in Lyngby, Denmark, in 1959, Grøndahl was educated at the Danish Cinema School. After graduating, he worked at a newspaper. He has written more than ten novels since 1985, and has received the Herman Bang Prize, the Otto Monsted award, and a grant from the Danish Artistic Fund.
Grøndahl's Rejsens bevaegelser explores themes already touched upon in his earlier works, Kvinden i midten and Syd for floden, most notably the image of a man who is searching for his true love. The "journey" of the title is the male protagonist's seeking, and movement toward, a woman he can love. The story is told with an experimental narrative style that interweaves different times and angles of vision with an almost cinematic quality. As Svend Birke Espegård wrote in World Literature Today, "His education as a director at the Danish School of Film has certainly not been wasted!"
In another review in World Literature Today, Svend Birke Espegård wrote that Det indre blik is not a traditionally plotted novel, but a "mosaic of detailed descriptions and accounts." The book presents the "mind's eye" of a man and a woman, known only as "She" and "He" as they conceive a child, in a stream-of-consciousness style. The setting is a large, domed room, similar to the Roman Pantheon, and the dome itself is depicted as a large eye taking in the events and "recording the transformations of the world, the decomposition toward death, the regeneration of new life," according to Espegård. Espegård also noted that because of its experimental style, the book is "certainly not for a large circle of readers, but it does blaze a trail," similar to that taken by other postmodern Scandinavian writers.
Silence in October is Grøndahl's first book translated into English. The story is told from the point of view of a man whose wife has just left him after eighteen years of marriage. The man, an art historian, reflects upon his years of marriage and the possible causes of its demise. Emily Melton, in a review for Booklist, wrote that "The journey he takes is both painful and illuminating." She found Silence in October "A lucid and lyrical book from a gifted writer." Philip Hensher of the Spectator wrote, "Silence in October is a most beautifully poised novel of Danish domestic life," while a reviewer in Publishers Weekly felt that the book has "a poetic depth that never ceases to surprise."
Grøndahl's training as a film director comes into play with his novel Lucca, the story of an actress who is rushed into hospital in a provincial Danish town after a motor accident. She is severely injured, and it is left to Robert, the doctor treating her, to inform her that she may never see again. Both Robert and Lucca are recovering from love affairs—in Robert's case a divorce has turned his life upside down—and the two relate their stories to each other as they begin to build a trusting friendship. Library Journal's Beth E. Anderson commended Grøndahl as the "master of the poetry of small moments that can lead to shattering discoveries." Similarly, Booklist's Melton described the novel as "lyrical, profound, and beautifully written." Melton went on to note that Grøndahl is "one of Denmark's most celebrated authors" and that his "thoughtful, compelling, emotionally gripping" tale is an "absolute must for every thinking reader." And for a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Lucca was "as melancholy, autumnal and finely calibrated as a Bergman film."
Grøndahl turns to history for his 2003 novel, Virginia. The year is 1942 and Denmark is occupied by German troops. A sixteen-year-old woman is evacuated from Copenhagen to spend the summer with people she barely knows in a seaside cottage on the North Sea. There she meets two people who will affect her entire life. One is the fourteen-year-old boy who is the nephew of her hosts and who is also, as a much older man, the narrator of the tale. The other is an English airman who has been shot down nearby and with whom the girl begins an affair. Obsessed by this beautiful blonde evacuee, the narrator sneaks looks at her naked, tries to follow her on bicycle, and when he discovers the affair, he "does something—or rather, doesn't do something—that he will agonise about for the rest of his life," as the Spectator's William Leith commented. Many years later this narrator looks back on that summer, asking himself whether his youthful desire and obsession created a tragedy for all concerned. Leith felt that Grøndahl proves himself a "classy writer" with this novel. "He doesn't tell you much, so you find yourself straining to understand what motivates his characters," Leith further observed. A reviewer for the New Statesman also had praise for the novel, calling it a "moving and delicate examination of how the consequences of past actions live on."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2001, Emily Melton, review of Silence in October, p. 1979; May 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of Lucca, p. 1578.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Lucca, p. 715.
Library Journal, April 15, 2003, Beth E. Anderson, review of Lucca, p. 121.
New Statesman, June 16, 2003, review of Virginia, p. 55.
Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2001, review of Silence in October, p. 47; June 23, 2003, review of Lucca, pp. 45-46.
Spectator, August 4, 2001, Philip Hensher, review of Silence in October, p. 29; July 5, 2003, William Leith, review of Virginia, pp. 34-35.
World Literature Today, winter, 1990, Svend Birke Espegård, review of Rejsens bevaegelser, p. 124; winter, 1992, Svend Birke Espegård, review of Det indre blik, p. 141.*