Johannes Vilhelm Jensen
(1873 - 1950)
Danish novelist, poet, essayist, and writer of many myths, whose attempt,
in his later years, to depict man's development in the light of an idealized
Darwinian theory caused his work to be much debated. He received the
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1944.
Of old peasant stock and the son of a veterinarian, Jensen went to Copenhagen
to study medicine but turned to writing. He first made an impression
as a writer of tales. These works fall into three groups: tales from
the Himmerland, tales from Jensen's travels in the Far East (for which
he was called Denmark's Kipling), and more than 100 tales published
under the recurrent title Myter ("Myths"). His early writings
also include a historical trilogy, Kongens Fald (1900-01; The Fall of
the King, 1933), a fictional biography of King Christian II of Denmark.
Shortly thereafter, as a result of his travels in the United States,
came his Madame d'Ora (1904) and Hjulet (1905; "The Wheel").
In 1906 he published a volume of poems, and late in life he returned
to poetry, his Digte, 1901-43 being the result.
Jensen then worked on the six novels that are his best known work;
they bear the common title Den lange rejse, 6 vol. (1908-22; The Long
Journey, 3 vol., 1922-24). This story of the rise of man from the most
primitive times to the discovery of America by Columbus exhibits both
his imagination and his skill as an amateur anthropologist.
Sven H. Rossel, Johannes V. Jensen (1984), provides an introduction
to Jensen's life and work.