Published in 2016, ‘Erindring om kærligheden’ (“Memories of Love” in English) is a novel by the Danish author Kirsten Thorup that won the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize‘ in 2017. Thorup made her debut in 1967 with the poetry collection ‘Indeni – Udenfor’ (in English, “Inside – Outside”) and although she has written in all genres, she is primarily the author of a series of deep, admirably relevant and socially engaging novels, including ‘Lille Jonna’ (in English, “Little Jonna”) (1977), ‘Himmel og helvede’ (in English, “Heaven and hell”) (1982), ‘Den yderste grænse’ (in English, “Last Frontier”) (1987), and ‘Bonsai’ (2000), all of which have left a lasting impression on modern Danish literature. These novels offered a mirror in which we have been able to see the design of our own time, and the forces that have created that design. The novels portray the complicated lives of individuals while reflecting the equally complicated social relationships of mankind, relationships with both our nearest and dearest and with society, which according to Thorup always gets what rightfully belongs to it. The novels often give a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard: the frail, the marginalised, the ‘wrong’. ‘Erindring om kærligheden’ is a very dark and wise novel: it trawls great depths reaching parts only literature ever really reaches. Tara, the protagonist, is about to make her breakthrough playing Hamlet in an experimental staging of the play, but turns it down in order to enter into an arranged marriage with an asylum seeker. Afterwards, Tara’s life goes into an uncontrolled tailspin: like Hamlet, she is caught up in a sense of reluctance with regard to her own life. To compensate, she constantly reaches out to the most vulnerable in society, despite being in some ways just as vulnerable and helpless as those she helps. Somewhat unexpectedly, Tara falls pregnant and gives birth to her daughter Siri, a turn of events with which she finds it difficult to cope. The novel then follows their relationship over a number of years. The ensuing heart-rending and relentless tale probes into questions of rights and duties, private life and politics, and not least the strength and price of love, all addressed with every greater subtlety. It takes us to the final frontier and beyond: Tara ends up on the streets of today’s Copenhagen meanwhile, she has become a politically engaged performance artist. According to the Adjudication Committee, ‘Erindring om kærligheden’ portrays a major reconciliation in the form of a mother/daughter performance, in which the feminist perspective dynamically alleviates the tense relationship. Defining ‘Erindring om kærligheden’ as a mother/daughter novel is both right and wrong: it is right in that Tara’s and Siri’s relationship is the sort of love without which there is nothing, but wrong in that from its broad and detailed contemporary perspective the novel addresses all the relationships that condition us, and in particular possibly those relationships that we shy away from entering into.
Books, Culture, Denmark, Literature