Forms of falling

Danish. An essay on the literary history of falling, touching on Dante, Lewis Carroll, Lucretius, Milton, and Inger Christensen. Falling is the moment in which we discover ourselves as bodies, masses of meat whose movement through the world we cannot fully control. Falling implies a loss of agency or a surrender to emotions (think of the phrase “falling in love”), but it can also, less intuitively, figure as the foundation from which our self-control springs, or even as the ultimate form of freedom.

“Dybt at falde” (“The harder they fall”), Weekendavisen (8 January 2021). Link.

Juvenal the troll

Danish. A review of Harald Voetmann’s brilliant new translation of Juvenal’s first two books of satires, Vreden skriver digtet (Ire writes the poem). Focusing on Juvenal’s belated position with respect to the Roman Golden Age, the review brings out the ambiguous, internet-troll-like nature of his poetry, which keep the reader guessing as to who is the real target of the satires: the marginalized groups against whom they are directed, or the dyspeptic fogey who speaks them?

“Sildig rasen” (“Late rage”), Weekendavisen (9 December 2020). Link.

Postcards from Sumer

Danish. A free rendition of Enheduana’s Exaltation of Inana, commissioned by Shëkufe Tadayoni Heiberg for the indie press Forlaget Uro and illustrated by Johanne Helga Heiberg Johansen. One reviewer called it “an impressively accesible, deeply fascinating publication”; another asked: “What have we done to deserve such a pearl of delight?

Dronning over verdens magter, illustrated by Johanne Helga Heiberg Johansen, 2020, Hvidovre: Forlaget Uro. Link.

Prismatic Sappho

Danish. A review of two new Danish translations of Sappho, which appeared simultaneously: using Matthew Reynolds’s metaphor of prismatic translation, the review shows how the translations bring out different wavelengths of the ancient fragments. Sappho’s poems appear as, respectively, relics of a lost aristocracy and icons of a living LGBTQ community. 

“Længselsstemmen fra Lesbos” (“The longing-voice from Lesbos”), Weekendavisen (20 November 2020). Link.

A forgotten philosopher

Danish. If you’ve ever heard of a Danish philosopher, it’s probably Søren Kierkegaard. But 500 years before him, Boethius of Dacia reached a remarkably similar conclusion: that faith is both illogical and true. But to Boethius, the pagan philosophy of Aristotle and Ibn Rushd was more important to study than Christian dogma, making him and his disciples a target for one of the most sweeping persecutions of intellectuals in the European Middle Ages.

“Kender du heller ikke Boethius? Her er den store danske filosof, du aldrig har hørt om” (“You don’t know Boethius either? Here is the greatest Danish philosopher you’ve never heard of”), Politiken Historie (October 2020). Link.

Around the canon

Danish. Written for the outreach project “Kvinder rundt om kanon” (“Women around the canon”), which sought to map key female authors from the non-Western world, this short blog posts presents Enheduana’s life and works to a Danish audience.

“Den første kendte forfatter var en kvinde” (“The first known author was a woman”), Kvinder rundt om kanon, hosted by Aaby Library (June 2020). Link.

On the edge of the canon

Danish. Written for a special issue on literary revivals, the essay discusses why the new Danish translation of Gilgamesh has garnered so much attention. A key example of a literary revival, the translation combined the appeal of a new and unknown poem with that of a foundational and time-tested classic.

“‘Gilgamesh’: På kanten af kanon” (“‘Gilgamesh’: At the edge of the canon”), Standart, vol. 33, no. 2 (July 2019), pp. 42–43.

Translation in the singular

Danish. Translating ancient texts is a process of simplification: many manuscripts, variants, and versions are compressed into one book. But in turn, that book leads to many different encounters with the text, and can even occasion new and varied adaptations of it. In short, translation is an hourglass-like movement of condensation and expansion.

“‘Gilgamesh i ental” (“‘Gilgamesh’ in the singular”), Babelfisken (April 2019). Link.

Gilgamesh in Danish

A new Danish translation of Gilgamesh that I published with my father, the Danish poet Morten Søndergaard. The book was nominated for the Weekendavisen Literary Prize and was lauded by one reviewer as “one of those miracles that makes life worth living” (Politiken); another wrote that “this new translation is set to become a classic in this country” (Information). Below, you will find tablet I of the translation.

With Morten Søndergaard, Gilgamesh, 2019, Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

Climate change and history

Danish. The essay situates the current climate crisis in a broader historical context, examining our cultural experience of living through a “historical moment,” as well as the clashing time of climate change activism, which call for both fast-paced and long-sighted action at the same time.

“Klimaforandringerne har en fordel: Det historiske øjeblik tvinger os til at drømme” (“There is an upside to climate change: The historical moment forces us to dream”), Zetland (January 2019). Link.