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Childhood Reviews

Childhood by Tove Ditlevsen

Childhood

Tove Ditlevsen

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1 review

Imprint: Penguin Classics
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 5 Sep 2019
ISBN: 9780241391938
5 stars out of 5
Alex Preston
24 Nov 2019

"these are books that journey deep into the darkest reaches of human experience and return, fatally wounded, but still eloquent"

One of the many semi-miraculous elements of Ditlevsen’s prose, which appears at first glance breezily artless, is the way she’ll settle on an object and rub her characters up against it, grounding them in the physicality of her world. So she writes that “my mother’s dark anger always ended in her slapping my face or pushing me against the stove”. But then her father is “big and black and old like the stove, but there is nothing about him that I’m afraid of”. And, finally, a page later, the stove becomes a point of solidity as her childhood rushes by: “The living room sails through time and space, and the fire roars in the stove.”... Writing about drug addiction and mental illness are difficult, because both offer a direct challenge to our ability to shape experience into language. 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. The Copenhagen trilogy is as raw and poignant as Janet Frame’s An Angel at My Table. Like that book, it radiates the clear light of truth and stands as the ultimate victory of a life that must have felt, in the living of it, like a defeat.

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