Thomas E Kennedy’s Copenhagen

Last updated: 21 July 2020. 2 June 2021: Kornkammer reports that Kennedy has passed away; RIP.

Thomas E Kennedy (Wikipedia) is an American writer who has lived in Copenhagen since 1976. He’s most known for the Copenhagen Quartet (2012 website), “four independent novels about the souls and seasons, the light and jazz and serving houses (?) of the Danish capital”, each written in a different style – see the introductory essay. All four were published by an independent publisher in Ireland, but are now being revised and republished by Bloomsbury under new names. Danmania at work? Kennedy hasn’t attracted much attention in the UK yet, however.

  • Kerrigan’s Copenhagen: a love story (2002) – spring; “Joycean-style tale of an American writer attempting to come to terms with his past through the help of Copenhagen’s many bars”, republished in 2013; I read this in 2006 when I first moved to Denmark and wasn’t overkeen, but will revisit can’t face it
  • Bluett’s blue hours (2003) – winter; “a noir novel set in the dark of Copenhagen winter and imitating the structure of John Coltrane’s jazz symphony A love supreme“, to be republished in 2014 as Beneath the neon egg (excerpt: Autumn wasps; Economist review); I think not for me
  • Greene’s summer (2004) – ” a novel about a Chilean torture victim being treated in the torture rehabilitation center of the Danish capital”; republished in 2010 as In the company of angels; great quote in the Gdn review: “the city is depicted in great detail, but it’s hard to get too excited: we tend to like extremes of exoticism or deprivation in our backdrops – the challengingly remote or the throbbingly metropolitan. Watery old Copenhagen in a decidedly temperate summer doesn’t quite get the pulse racing”); reading group guide; I tried this one in 2006, we’ll see nope, sorry!; Gdn reviewer; “doesn’t quite get the pulse racing”
  • Danish fall (2007) – autumn; “a satire about a downsizing Danish firm…juggles skillfully and entertainingly with a dozen fates whose Danish dream threatens to end as a nightmare…at once a beautiful and tragic portrait of the capital and its soul”; republished in 2011 as Falling sideways; reading group guide, Gdn review; will try this one ah well…

The quartet was the subject of a documentary produced by Harper College in 2004, and here’s a link to more Kennedy vids.

Frank magazine wrote, in awarding Kennedy the Frank Expatriate Writing Award in 2002:

Kennedy has done for Copenhagen what Joyce did for Dublin.

See his poem Continuing story of my life in Østerbro (A transportation from Ferlinghetti), which highlights the nice and quiet nature of life in DK. He also has a thing about the light, including the long yellow nights of summer – now these things tend to be about context, and having grown up in Edinburgh I have only one word for the light in Copenhagen – gråt.

Kennedy’s other writing includes:

  • The literary traveller (2005) – 24 essays on less traveled paths of the world, following in the footsteps of writers
  • The secret life of writers (2002) and Writers on the job: tales of the nonwriting life (2008)
  • Life in another language – an American’s eye view of Denmark

At an event in CPH n years ago Kennedy stated that he “has no translation theory other than sticking as close to the original as possible…most Danes are excellent at English but don’t trust themselves to complete a translation”. He self-identifies with “a narrow pool of translators who love life in Denmark”. See also his 2014 interview by Colin Marshall and a 2017 article in The Murmur.

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