Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Inger Christensen's "Det"

New Directions has published Susanna Nied's translation of Danish poet Inger Christensen's amazing 1969 book "Det" ("It" in English). This book is a great book of radical Modernism and if you're at all interested in Scandinavian poetry or avant-garde writing, you should definitely read It. Only the fact that she writes in a minor language has kept Christenson (like Gunnar Björling) from being considered a "crowning achievement of 20th century poetry" (shout out to Ron).

Also, like I stated in another entry, Scandinavian poetry of the 1960s has a lot in common with contemporary American poetry that is interested in "simplicity." Juliana Spahr for example, who repeatedly alludes to Christensen's book "Alphabet" in "This Connection of Everyone With Lungs." Perhaps another entry into her work for Americans would be souped-up Creeley.

"We want the world and we want it now" has never sounded as beautiful, menacing and historically resonant.

I have only read it in Danish, but I'm sure Nied's translations are good, as she's translated a bunch of other Christensen books.

Buy the book:


An observation: New Directions keeps putting these nature images on the cover of her books, perhaps to tie them to the nature mysticism of Tranströmer. But this is radical modernism, not nature mysticism. The cover of my copy of "Det" is bright green with "Det" written in enormous typewriter font.

While you're on a shopping spree, you can stop by Douglas Messerli's web site and pick up "The Hangman's Lament" by Christensen's student Henrik Nordbrandt (translated by Thom Satterlee). Messerli has been doing an amazing job of putting out international avant-garde works in translation over the past few years.


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