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Erik Aalbaek Jensen

Erik Aalbaek Jensen

Danish author and resistance man
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Danish author and resistance man
Countries Denmark
Occupations Writer
Gender male
Birth 19 August 1923 (Thy, Thisted Municipality, North Denmark Region, Denmark)
Death 30 September 1997
Education Aalborg Cathedral School
The details


Erik Aalbæk Jensen (19 August 1923, Thy, Denmark – 30 September 1997) was a Danish writer who was awarded both the Danish Critics Prize for Literature and the Søren Gyldendal Prize for his works, most notably Perleporten.


The son of a teacher, Jensen grew up in the town of Thy on the island of Vendsyssel near Jutland and, after a visit to the Aalborg Cathedral, began a study of Evangelic theology. During World War II, he began to be involved with the Danish resistance movement of the Nazi German occupation of Denmark and was, after his arrest, sent to a concentration camp. After the end of the war, he continued his studies and, according to his ordination, became a pastor of the Danish People's Church in Osted.

He first made literary his debut in 1948 by posting contributions to the magazine Heretica before publishing his first novel, Dommen, in 1949, which was followed by Dæmningen in 1952. Both novels were characterized by the moral problems of the debate about values. In a later period, he wrote narrative novels about the German occupation period, such as Drømmen om det glemte (1954), Gertrud (1956), and I heltespor (1960). In 1957, he became a journalist at DR, where he was a TV director from 1959 to 1964.

One of his main works was the 1964 novel Perleporten on the social and ideological opposites in the north fjord in the 1930s, which was well received by critics.

After this great success, which at the same time meant his breakthrough as a writer, he wrote Sagen (1971), a continuation of Perleporten, in which the persons from the previous novel were involved in land development trade during the boom period of the 1960s. A further sequel, Kridtstregen (1976), dealt with the story of two brothers and their volunteership on the Eastern Front during World War II and as a deserter between 1941 and 1945. For Kridtstregen, which was adapted to film in 1983 under the title Forræderne by Ole Roose, was awarded the Søren Gyldendal Prize in 1977.

Another focus of the work of Jensen was into Danish lifestyles and attitudes, especially in the remote regions of Denmark. The resulting eight-volume topographic-ethnological work entitled Livet på øerne (1981-1987) was based on a study of all the inhabited islands of Denmark.

After this extensive work, he turned back to fiction and wrote a double novel about the private and moral power struggle of a journalist in Frederikshavn from 1943 to 1957 with Herrensmark (1990) and Magtens folk (1991). His last novel, Særlige vilkår (1994), and the posthumously released Enkebal, dealt especially with the development of the new, stronger role of the women's roles in Denmark between the 1950s and 1970s.

He died before completing his literary project to portray modern Denmark in his childhood region, Vendsyssel. His books combined sociological and psychological curiosity with the precision for details, analytical insight and social overview of a fifty-year social and mental history. In addition to the milieu, he also described landscapes, companies and people of all age groups and thereby continued the traditions of authors of similar fields, such as Henrik Pontoppidan, Martin A. Hansen, Hans Kirk and Hans Scherfig. Through his sense of a comprehensive epic composition and his empathy, he reached a broad reader audience.

Jensen is the father of film producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen.

Bibliography (selection)

  • Sagen, 1974
  • Perleporten, 1977
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