- Sørensen, Villy
- (1929-2001)A Danish short story writer and essayist, Sørensen held a philosophical position between the two strong influences on him: the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and the German Karl Marx (1818-1883), who theorized about the problems of individuality and of society, respectively. His literary debut was the short story collection Sære historier (1953; tr. Strange Stories, 1956), in which he offers an absurd and humorous vision of modern life. Ufarlige historier (1955; tr. Harmless Tales, 1991) gives evidence of increased political awareness, but he still appeals mostly to psychology, not politics, in his search for an explanation of the phenomena on which he comments. This approach to cultural critique is discussed, in essay form, in Digtere og dæmoner (1959; Poets and Demons).Hverken-eller (1961; Neither-Nor) is also a book of essays, the title of which is a play on Kierkegaard's famous Enten-Eller (1843; tr. Either/Or, 1944). Sørensen wants to avoid the extremes of both Soviet-style communism and Western capitalism, and he argues for a third way, which may be understood as the kind of welfare state preferred by the Scandinavian countries. Some of these ideas can also be found in Formynderfortællinger (1964; tr. Tutelary Tales, 1988).The 1970s were a period of left-wing political radicalism among many Scandinavian artists and intellectuals. Sørensen, however, hewed closely to the middle, for example, in the essays in Uden malog med: Moralske tanker (1973; With and Without Goals: Moral Thoughts). As the Marxist enthusiasm was receding, he advocated his middle way in Seneca: Humanisten ved Neros hof(1976; tr. Seneca: The Humanist at the Court of Nero, 1984) and in Oprør fra midten (1978; tr. Revolt from the Center, 1981), written with K. Helveg Petersen and Niels I. Meyer, in which he tried to establish general principles for social organization. The essays in Den gyldne middel-vej(1979; The Golden Mean) and Demokratiet og kunsten (1988; Democracy and Art) again argue that human life can best flourish at some distance from both socialism and capitalism.During the 1980s Sørensen also published Vejrdage (1980; Weather Days), which contained verse and prose drawn from his journals, as well as De enkelte og andre smahistorier (1986; tr. Another Metamorphosis and Other Fictions, 1990), a collection of fictional prose. Ragnarok: En gudefortælling (1982; tr. The Downfall of the Gods, 1989) is a retelling of Old Norse myths in the context of the work of the Danish writer Adam Oehlenschlager.In Den berømte Odysseus (1988; The Famous Odysseus) Homer's story is retold from the perspective of Odysseus's son, Telemachus. Sørensen has also published three volumes of his journals, as well as retellings of the myths ofOdysseus and Apollo. He received the Nordic Literary Prize in 1974.
Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. Jan Sjavik. 2006.