The Nobel Prize-winning Danish novelist Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (YEHNT-suhn) left behind him, when he died in 1950, more than sixty volumes of published works. These included poetry, short stories, and essays as well as his many novels and a number of his own plays and a translation into the Danish of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In spite of this large output, his international reputation rests mainly on a single work, the six-volume series The Long Journey, an epic on the beginnings and history of the Teutonic race.
Jensen was significantly influenced by his parents. His mother had a prosaic and practical view of life, but she also possessed a vivid imagination—a double predisposition inherited by her son. His father’s extensive botanical and zoological knowledge (he was a veterinarian) became an important source of information for Jensen’s later studies of nature and encouraged his preoccupation with Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution. A third formative element was the family’s deep-rooted feeling for peasant culture. Jensen went to Copenhagen with the intention of studying medicine, but there his introduction to the world of letters led him to leave the university without a degree and to devote himself to travel and writing. In 1897 he came to the United States, where he remained for a time in Chicago. Here, fascinated, he made those observations of Midwest urban culture that eventually served as background for two of his early novels. Before...
(The entire section is 611 words.)