While Piet Hein is known internationally for his aphoristic “grooks” (Danish gruk, his own coinage) and in Denmark is highly regarded for his more traditional strophic poetry as well, he also published collections of epigrams and prose aphorisms, expressing the same outlook which informs his poetry: Man skal gaa paa Jorden– (1944; one has to walk on the Earth); its sequel, —Selv om den er gloende (1950; even if it is glowing); and the volume Ord (1949; words). Vis Electrica (1962), a Festschrift treating the nature and manifold uses of electricity, includes grooks and conventional poems as well; the harmony between scientific and humanistic perspectives was characteristic of Hein’s entire career.
Between 1940 and 1963, Piet Hein published twenty collections of grooks. Altogether, he wrote about ten thousand grooks, and by 1971 his publishing house would announce that the grooks had been printed in 1,250,000 copies. They are also available on two long-playing records, read by Hein himself. They have been set to music, have formed the basis for twenty short features on television (by Ivo Caprino), and have been made available in numerous translations, including Indonesian, Iranian, Japanese, and Chinese. One entire volume was published in Esperanto, and Hein himself personally re-created his grooks in German, French, Spanish, and, in particular, English. Several grooks have been written directly in these languages and are not available in Danish.
Writing, however, was only one of Hein’s means of expression. Quotations from the grooks in newspapers, books, and lectures have spread to ashtrays, salt and pepper shakers, and ceramic plaques. Most of these objects have the distinctive shape of a rectangular oval or “superellipse”: Hein, a mathematician, inventor, and designer as well as a poet, created this unique geometrical form. The superellipse merges the circle and the rectangle into a newly perfected form: It has solved the traffic problem in central Stockholm, joining two freeways in a roundabout system only 210 yards long in an aesthetically appealing design. Hein’s innovative design has gained world recognition; he applied his...
Claudi, J. Contemporary Danish Authors. Copenhagen: Danske Selskab, 1952. Contains a brief profile of Hein and his work up to 1950. Includes a historical outline of Danish literature.
Rossel, Sven H. A History of Scandinavian Literature, 1870-1980. Translated by Anne C. Ulmer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982. History and criticism of Scandinavian literature of the ninteenth and twentieth centuries. Includes bibliographic references and an index.
Rossel, Sven H., ed. A History of Danish Literature. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. A historical and critical study of Danish Literature. Includes bibliographic references and index.