Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, Nobelprize in Literature, 1944

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Johannes Vilhelm Jensen

Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Farsø, Nordjylland, Danmark
Death: November 25, 1950 (77)
Østerbro, Hovedstaden, Danmark
Place of Burial: Bispebjerg Kirkegård, København, Sjælland, Danmark
Immediate Family:

Son of Hans Jensen and Marie Kirstine Jensen
Husband of Else Marie Ulrik
Father of Villum Jensen and 2 sons Jensen
Brother of Jens Mikdal Jensen; Carl Emil Jensen; Thit (Marie Kirstine Dorthea) Jensen, 1954 Ridder af Dannebrog; Axel Teodor Jensen; Andreas Georg Jensen and 4 others

Occupation: Danish writer, Cand. Phil., Forfatter
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, Nobelprize in Literature, 1944

Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, in Denmark always called Johannes V. Jensen, (20 January 1873 – 25 November 1950) was a Danish author, often considered the first great Danish writer of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1944, "for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style". One of his sisters, Thit Jensen, was also a well-known writer and a very vocal, and occasionally controversial, early feminist.

Early years

He was born in Farsø, a village in North Jutland, Denmark, as the son of a veterinary surgeon and he grew up in a rural environment. While studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen he worked as a writer to fund his studies. After 3 years of studying he chose to change careers and devote himself fully to literature.

Literary works

The first phase of his work as an author was influenced by fin-de-siècle pessimism. His career began with the publication of Himmerland Stories (1898–1910), comprising a series of tales set in the part of Denmark where he was born. During 1900 and 1901 he wrote his first masterpiece, Kongens Fald (eng. transl. 1933 The Fall of the King), a modern historical novel centred around King Christian II and his characteristically Danish hesitancy and failure to act.

In 1906 Jensen created his greatest literary achievement: the collection of verses Digte 1906 (i.e. Poems 1906), which introduced the prose poem to Danish literature. He also wrote poetry, a few plays, and many essays, chiefly on anthropology and the philosophy of evolution.

He developed his theories of evolution in a cycle of six novels, Den lange rejse (1908–22), translated into English as The Long Journey (1923–24), which was published in a two-volume edition in 1938. This is often considered his main work in prose, a daring and often impressive attempt to create a Darwinian alternative to the Biblical Genesis myth. In this work we see the development of mankind from the Ice Age to the times of Columbus, focusing on pioneering individuals.

Like his compatriot Hans Christian Andersen, he traveled extensively; a trip to the United States inspired a poem of his, "Paa Memphis Station" [At the train station, Memphis, Tennessee], which is well known in Denmark. Walt Whitman was among the writers who influenced Jensen.

Late career

Jensen's most popular literary works were all completed before 1920. After this he mostly concentrated on ambitious biological and zoological studies in an effort to create an ethical system based upon Darwinian ideas. He also hoped to renew classical poetry.

For many years he worked in journalism, writing articles and chronicles for the daily press without ever joining the staff of any newspaper.


Jensen was a controversial figure in Danish cultural life. He was a reckless polemicist and his often dubious racial theories have damaged his reputation. However, he never showed any Fascist leanings.

Today Jensen is still considered the father of Danish modernism, particularly in the area of modern poetry with his introduction of the prose poem and his use of a direct and straightforward language. His direct influence was felt as late as the 1960s. Without being a Danish answer to Kipling, Hamsun or Sandburg, he bears comparison to all three authors. He combines the outlook of the regional writer with the view of the modern academic and scientific observer. In 1999 The Fall of the King was acclaimed as the best Danish novel of the 20th century.


   * Danskere, 1896
   * Einar Elkjær, 1898
   * Himmerlandsfolk, 1898
   * Intermezzo, 1899
   * Kongens Fald, 1900-1901 - The Fall of the King
   * Den gotiske renæssance, 1901
   * Skovene, 1904
   * Nye Himmerlandshistorier, 1904
   * Madame d'Ora, 1904
   * Hjulet, 1904
   * Digte, 1906
   * Eksotiske noveller, 1907–15
   * Den nye verden, 1907
   * Singaporenoveller, 1907
   * Myter, 1907–45
   * Nye myter, 1908
   * Den lange rejse, 1908-22 - The Long Journey - I: Den tabte land, 1919; II: Bræen, 1908; Norne Gæst, 1919; IV: Cimbrernes tog, 1922; V: Skibet, 1912; VI: Christofer Columbus, 1922
   * Lille Ahasverus, 1909
   * Himmerlandshistorier, Tredje Samling, 1910
   * Myter, 1910
   * Nordisk ånd, 1911
   * Myter, 1912
   * Rudyard Kipling, 1912
   * Olivia Marianne, 1915
   * Introduktion til vor tidsalder, 1915
   * Skrifter, 1916 (8 vols.)
   * Årbog, 1916, 1917
   * Johannes Larsen og hans billeder, 1920
   * Sangerinden, 1921
   * Den lange rejse, 1922-24 - The Long Journey
   * Æstetik og udviking, 1923
   * Årstiderne, 1923
   * Hamlet, 1924
   * Myter, 1924
   * Skrifter, 1925 (5 vols.)
   * Evolution og moral, 1925
   * Årets højtider, 1925
   * Verdens lys, 1926
   * Jørgine, 1926
   * Thorvaldsens portrætbuster, 1926
   * Dyrenes forvandling, 1927
   * Åndens stadier, 1928
   * Ved livets bred, 1928
   * Retninger i tiden, 1930
   * Den jyske blæst, 1931
   * Form og sjæl, 1931
   * På danske veje, 1931
   * Pisangen, 1932
   * Kornmarken, 1932
   * Sælernes ø, 1934
   * Det blivende, 1934
   * Dr. Renaults fristelser, 1935
   * Gudrun, 1936
   * Darduse, 1937
   * Påskebadet, 1937
   * Jydske folkelivsmalere, 1937
   * Thorvaldsen, 1938
   * Nordvejen, 1939
   * Fra fristaterne, 1939
   * Gutenberg, 1939
   * Mariehønen, 1941
   * Vor oprindelse, 1941
   * Mindets tavle, 1941
   * Om sproget og undervisningen, 1942
   * Kvinden i sagatiden, 1942
   * Folkeslagene i østen, 1943
   * Digte 1901-43, 1943
   * Møllen, 1943
   * Afrika, 1949
   * Garden Colonies in Denmark, 1949
   * Swift og Oehlenschläger, 1950
   * Mytens ring, 1951
   * Tilblivelsen, 1951
   * The Waving Rye, 1959 (tr. R. Bathgate)

Works in English

   * The Long Journey, vol 1-3, (Fire and Ice; The Cimbrians; Christopher Columbus) New York, 1924.
   * The Fall of the King, 1933.
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Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, Nobelprize in Literature, 1944's Timeline

January 20, 1873
Farsø, Nordjylland, Danmark
July 23, 1906
Age 33
November 25, 1950
Age 77
Østerbro, Hovedstaden, Danmark
Bispebjerg Kirkegård, København, Sjælland, Danmark