Called "a masterpiece" by The Guardian, this courageous and honest trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing, explores themes of family, sex, motherhood, abortion, addiction, and being an artist. This single-volume hardcover contains all three volumes of her memoirs
Tove Ditlevsen is today celebrated as one of the most important and unique voices in twentieth-century Danish literature, and The Copenhagen Trilogy (1969–71) is her acknowledged masterpiece. Childhood tells the story of a misfit child’s single-minded determination to become a poet; Youth describes her early experiences of sex, work, and independence. Dependency picks up the story as the narrator embarks on the first of her four marriages and goes on to describe her horrible descent into drug addiction, enabled by her sinister, gaslighting doctor-husband.
Throughout, the narrator grapples with the tension between her vocation as a writer and her competing roles as daughter, wife, mother, and drug addict, and she writes about female experience and identity in a way that feels very fresh and pertinent to today’s discussions around feminism. Ditlevsen’s trilogy is remarkable for its intensity and its immersive depiction of a world of complex female friendships, family and growing up—in this sense, it’s Copenhagen's answer to Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. She can also be seen as a spiritual forerunner of confessional writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy. Her trilogy is drawn from her own experiences but reads like the most compelling kind of fiction.
Born in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen in 1917, Ditlevsen became famous for her poetry while still a teenager, and went on to write novels, stories and memoirs before committing suicide in 1976. Having been dismissed by the critical establishment in her lifetime as a working-class, female writer, she is now being rediscovered and championed as one of Denmark's most important modern authors, with "Tove fever" gripping readers.
**One of the most anticipated books of the year in O Magazine, The New York Times, The Millions, and Lit Hub**
“Tove Ditlevsen’s writing is both engulfing and totally controlled. She knows things about life. But just as important, she has a rare capacity to build from the tragic blocks of her life a perfect and eviscerating story. The greatness of her writing feels like an unsolvable mystery: far away, and up above.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Mars Room
“No one has written about childhood quite as memorably as the Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen, or described the compulsion to write with so much hope and foreboding. Her memoirs of growing up in working-class Copenhagen before the Second World War read like Ferrante meets Fierce Attachments . . . But Ditlevsen’s brooding lyricism is all her own.” —Julie Phillips, 4Columns
“Ditlevsen is self-deprecating and effective at conveying the fish-eye view of a child in a claustrophobic environment; she understands that part of the memoirist’s job is to remember how life felt and synthesize it in a way she couldn’t have at the time. . . . Ditlevsen is a master of slow realization, quick characterization, and concise ironies.” —Lauren Oyler, Harper’s
“[The Copenhagen Trilogy] is an absolute tour de force, the final volume in particular. They’re as brilliant as I’d been led to expect, but also surprisingly intense and elegant . . . [Ditlevsen’s writing] is crystal clear and vividly, painfully raw.” —Lucy Scholes, The Paris Review
"Memoir as confession—a powerful, psychologically astute work of self-examination and remembrance." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Readers will find [Ditlevsen's] ruthless self-scrutiny both admirable and shocking." —Margaret Quamme, Booklist
“Mordant, vibrantly confessional . . . A masterpiece.” —Liz Jensen, The Guardian
“The best books I have read this year. These volumes slip in like a stiletto and do their work once inside. Thrilling.” —John Self, New Statesman
“Both [The Copenhagen Trilogy and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels] depict, with first-hand grittiness and luminous subjectivity, bookish girls growing up in working-class districts, whether in 1950s Naples or 1930s Copenhagen. From an artistic viewpoint, Ditlevsen’s work is the more interesting . . . She looks the slimy and intolerable in the eye and burnishes it into cut glass. She’s a writer who, like Jean Rhys, explores the seamy ambiguities of female abjection – with a voice whose power blasts through.” —Lucasta Miller, The Times Literary Supplement
“Astonishing, honest, entirely revealing and, in the end, devastating. Ditlevsen's trilogy is remarkable not only for its honesty and lyricism; these are books that journey deep into the darkest reaches of human experience and return, fatally wounded, but still eloquent.” —Alex Preston, Observer