Tove Ditlevsen

Tove Ditlevsen (Tove Irma Margit Ditlevsen, 14 December 1917 – 7 March 1976) was a Danish writer.

She grew up in an impoverished working-class family in Copenhagen. Her father was constantly in and out of low-paying jobs, and the family lived on welfare. After finishing middle-school, unable to afford to continue studying, Ditlevsen went to work as a domestic servant and, later, as an office clerk.

She was an avid reader and had begun writing poetry at the age of ten. Ditlevsen published her first poem, ‘Til mit døde barn’ (‘To my dead child’), in 1937, in the magazine Vild Hvede (‘Wild Wheat’), edited by Viggo F. Møller, whom she would marry in 1940. Møller was thirty years her senior, and the marriage ended in 1942.

Ditlevsen’s first poetry collection, Pigesind (‘Girl’s Mind’), was published in 1939, to great acclaim. In 1941, she published her first novel, Man gjorde er barn fortæd (‘A child was abused’).

During this time, she met and corresponded with Danish writers Sonja Hauberg and Ester Nagel, among others. Ditlevsen’s correspondence with Nagel was later published under the title Husmor og skribøse (1986).

Ditlevsen had a brief affair with Piet Hein, then married Ebbe Munk in 1942, with whom she had a daughter, Helle Munk, in 1943. The couple divorced in 1945. That same year, Ditlevsen met and married the medical doctor Carl Theodor Ryberg, who introduced her to opioids. She would struggle with drug addiction for the rest of her life. The couple had a son, Michael Ryberg, in 1946, and, that same year, Ditlevsen adopted Trine, Ryberg’s new-born daughter with another woman.

The couple became increasingly isolated, while Ryberg administered opioid injections on her, sexually assaulted her, and took advantage of his easy access to drugs as a doctor to keep her under his control. In 1949, near death, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and the couple divorced in 1950.

In 1951, Ditlevsen married Victor Johannes Andreasen, and the couple had a son, Peter, in 1954. The marriage was her most enduring love relationship, and would last until 1973, when the couple divorced. Their correspondence was published in 1993, under the title Kære Victor.

Ditlevsen continued to struggle with depression and drug addiction, and attempted suicide and was hospitalized several times. About one of her suicide attempts, she once wrote in Politiken: “The infinite happiness of never having to see any human being in the world again.

In 1976, while staying at a friend’s apartment, Ditlevsen committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. She was 58 years old.

In her lifetime, Ditlevsen published several poems, novels, short stories, essays, newspaper columns, and memoirs. She is still one of the most widely read women writers in Denmark. In the piece ‘The Suicide of Tove Ditlevsen’, published in the first issue of The Second Shelf: Rare Books and Words by Women, in September 2018, Dorthe Nors wrote about her: “She’s the Billie Holiday of poetry: accessible, complex, and simple all at the same time”.


  • Pigesind (1939, poetry)
  • Slangen i Paradiset (1939, poetry)
  • Man gjorde et barn fortræd (1941, novel)
  • De evige tre (1942)
  • Lille Verden (1942, poetry)
  • Barndommens Gade (1943, novel)
  • Digte til mor of barn (1943)
  • Den fulde frihed (1944, short stories)
    • English: Complete Freedom, and Other Stories (1982, tr. Jack Brondum)
  • København (1945)
  • For Barnets Skyld (1946)
  • Blinkende Lygter (1947, poetry)
  • Dommeren (1948, short stories)
  • Kærlighedsdigte (1949)
  • Paraplyen (1952)
  • En flink dreng (1952)
  • Nattens dronning (1952)
  • Vi har kun hinanden (1954)
  • Udvalgte Digte (1954)
  • Vi har kun hinanden (1954)
  • Klaveret (1954, short stories)
  • Jalousi (1955)
  • Der bor en pige (1955)
  • Kvindesind (1955)
  • Foraar (1956, short stories)
  • Sind (1956)
  • Annelise – tretten år (1958)
  • Flugten fra Opvasken (1959)
  • Hvad nu Annelise? (1960)
  • To som elsker hinanden (1960)
  • Den hemmelige Rude (1961)
  • Der var engang en lille hest (1961)
  • Den onde Lykke (1963, short stories)
  • Dolken (1963)
  • Der var engang en lille hest (1963)
  • Digte i udvalg (1964)
  • Min yhdlingslæsning (1964)
  • Barnets træ (1966-67)
  • Læser højt (1966)
  • Barndom (1967, memoir)
  • Ungdom (1967, memoir)
    • English: Early Spring (1986, tr. Tiina Nunnally). Reissued as: Youth – The Copenhagen Trilogy 2 (2019, tr. Tiina Nunnally)
  • Ansigterne (1968, novel)
    • English: The Faces (1991, tr. Tiina Nunnally. Reissued with the same title in 2020)
  • Frygt (1968, short stories)
  • De voksne (1969, poetry)
  • Det tidlige forår (1969)
    • English: Early Spring (1976, tr. Tiina Nunnally)
  • Med venlig Hilsen (1969)
  • Gift (1971, memoir)
    • English: Depencency – The Copenhagen Trilogy 3 (2019, tr. Michael Favala Goldman)
  • Det runde Værelse (1973)
  • Min Nekrolog og andre skumle tanker (1973)
  • Parenteser (1973)
  • Min første kærlighed (1973)
  • Tove Ditlevsen om sig selv (1975)
  • Vilhelms Værelse (1975)
  • En sibylles bekendelser (1976)
  • Noveller (1977)
  • Til en lille Pige (1978, poetry)
  • Digte, Knud Mogensen (1979, poetry)
  • Noveller, ed. Inger Christensen (1979, short stories)
  • Udvalgte Værker 1-8 (1979, selected works)
  • Pigesind og Kvindesind (1986, poetry)
  • Husmor og skribøse, en brevveksling med Tove Ditlevsen, Ester Nagel (1986, letters)
  • Kaere Victor: breve fra Tove Ditlevsen til Victor Andreasen 1972-76 (1993, letters to Andreassen)
  • Samlede digte (1996, collected poems)
  • En æggesnaps – og andre noveller (1997, short stories)
  • Pigesind, kvindesind og andre dikti utvalg (2001)
  • Al min lykke, Jørgen Jensen (2004)
  • Jeg ville være enke, og jeg ville være digter: glemte tekster, ed. Olga Ravn (2015)
  • Der bor en ung pige i mig, som ikke vil dø, ed. Olga Ravn (2017)
  • Små hverdagsproblemer: Tove Ditlevsens brevkasse i Familie Journal 1956-1976 (2018, newspaper advice columns)
  • Kærlig hilsen, Tove: breve til en forlægger, ed. Johannes Riis (2019, letters)

About her: 

  • A History of Danish Literature, ed. Sven H. Rossel (1992)
  • Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater, by Jan Sjåvik (2006)
  • Tove Ditlevsen. Myte og liv, by Karen Syberg (2008)
  • Nordisk kvinnoliteraturhistoria 3: Vida Världen 1900-1960, ed. Elisabeth Møller-Jensen (1996)
  • Tove Ditlevsen, by Lise Loesch (1985)
  • Til døden os skiller. Et portræt af Tove Ditlevsen, by Jens Andersen (1997)
  • Af Morsingbo slægt: Aksel Sandemose og Tove Ditlevsen,by Svend Borg (1999)
  • Tove Ditlevsen som,by Frank Egholm Andersen (2004)
  • Tove Ditlevsen: et portræt,by Anne-Sofie Storm Wesch (2018)
  • Om Tove Ditlevsen, ed. Harald Mogensen (1976)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.