Martin Andersen Nexø Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Martin Andersen Nexø (NIHK-suh) was born in the working-class slums of Copenhagen, Denmark, the fourth of eleven children. His father, Hans Jørgen Andersen, a stonemason, spent most of his money on drink, and his mother, Mathilde Andersen, was frequently indisposed, so the boy and his older brother did odd jobs to help support the family. In 1877 his father took his wife and three surviving children to live in his hometown, the fishing village of Nexø on the island of Bornholm. Here the children received some education during the winters, but most of the time they helped in the quarry and tended cattle. At the age of twelve Martin Andersen left home and started work as a farmhand. The physical exertion was too much for him, though, so in 1884 he went to Rønne, where he apprenticed himself to a shoemaker., Martin Andersen[Nexo, Martin Andersen]}{$S[A]Andersen, Martin;Nex{oslash}, Martin Andersen}, Martin Andersen[Nexo, Martin Andersen]}, Martin Andersen[Nexo, Martin Andersen]}

During this time he enrolled in the local school, where he acquired a taste for books and education. In 1890, having decided to become a teacher, he was given the opportunity to attend Denmark’s foremost school at Askov, Jutland, where the widow of the poet Christian K. F. Molbech took an interest in the boy and took him into her home. It was here that he began to write and, taking the name of his father’s hometown, became Martin Andersen Nexø.

After two years at Askov, Nexø received an appointment to teach at a preparatory school in Odense, on the island of Fünen. He cherished this experience, but soon became ill with what was eventually diagnosed as tuberculosis. Mrs. Molbech retrieved him, nursed him back to health and then arranged for him to take a walking trip through southern Europe to recover his strength. She provided some funds, but Nexø helped to pay for his travels by writing travel articles for Danish newspapers.

The trip lasted until 1896. Much of it was spent in Spain and Italy, where he lived in the countryside among the peasants or in the working-class neighborhoods of large cities. It was at this time, he said, that he learned that “poverty is...

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