Axel Jensen

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Axel Jensen

Axel Jensen ved Piano-AJ2.jpg

Axel Jensen by the piano. Photo: Robert E. Haraldsen
BornAxel Buchardt Jensen
(1932-02-12)12 February 1932
Trondheim, Norway
Died 13 February 2003(2003-02-13) (aged 71)
Ålefjær, Kristiansand, Norway
Cause of death Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Nationality Norwegian
Occupation Author
Spouse(s) Marianne Ihlen (1958 [1] –1962)
Pratibha (1974–2003)

Axel Buchardt Jensen (12 February 1932 – 13 February 2003) was a Norwegian author. From 1957 until 2002, he published both fiction and non-fiction texts which include novels, poems, essays, a biography, and manuscripts for cartoons and animated films.

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northwestern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.



Jensen was born in Trondheim. He first made his debut as a novelist in Oslo in 1955 with the novel Dyretemmerens kors (1955), but he later burned the remaining unsold books.

Trondheim City in Norway

Trondheim is a city and municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. It has a population of 193,501, and is the third-most populous municipality in Norway, although the fourth largest urban area. Trondheim lies on the south shore of Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the River Nidelva. The city is dominated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), St. Olavs University Hospital and other technology-oriented institutions.

Oslo Place in Østlandet, Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence, and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 it functioned as a co-official capital. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city's name was spelled Kristiania between 1877 and 1897 by state and municipal authorities. In 1925 the city was renamed Oslo.

In 1958 he and his then girlfriend, later wife, [1] Marianne Ihlen, lived on the Greek island of Hydra, where Jensen developed a friendship with the Canadian musician and poet Leonard Cohen. Cohen and Marianne lived together on Hydra for a couple of years after the break-up between her and Jensen, and later moved to Montreal. There is widespread belief that the character Lorenzo in the novel Joacim (1961) is modeled after Cohen, but Jensen also told Cohen that Lorenzo was modeled after the Swedish novelist Göran Tunström. [2]

Marianne Ihlen Muse of Leonard Cohen (1935–2016)

Marianne Christine Stang Ihlen was a Norwegian woman who was the first wife of author Axel Jensen and later the muse and girlfriend of Leonard Cohen for several years in the 1960s. She was the subject of Cohen's 1967 track "So Long, Marianne", in which he sang that she "held on to me like I was a crucifix as we went kneeling through the dark".

Leonard Cohen Canadian poet and singer-songwriter

Leonard Norman Cohen was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and romantic relationships. Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.

Montreal City in Quebec, Canada

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec and the second-most populous municipality in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is centred on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold, snowy winters.

After some time, Jensen returned to Norway and settled in Fredrikstad. There, Noel Cobb, an English poet and student of psychology, came to interview him. Cobb became sexually involved with Jensen's girlfriend Lena. Jensen then left Fredrikstad to live in London.

Fredrikstad Municipality in Østfold, Norway

Fredrikstad is a city and municipality in Østfold county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Fredrikstad.

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Jensen suffered from severe depression after the break-up with Lena, but in London, he met the psychiatrist R. D. Laing and received therapy from him. After recovering, Jensen worked as an assistant at the institution Kingsley Hall. Laing remained a close friend for the rest of his life.

R. D. Laing Scottish psychiatrist and author

Ronald David Laing, usually cited as R. D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing's views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy. Taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than simply as symptoms of mental illness, Laing regarded schizophrenia as a theory not a fact. Though associated in the public mind with anti-psychiatry he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left. Laing was portrayed in the 2017 film Mad to Be Normal.

Kingsley Hall community centre in the East End of London

Kingsley Hall is a community centre, at Bromley-by-Bow in the East End of London. It dates back to the work of Doris Lester and Muriel Lester, who had a nursery school in nearby Bruce Road. Their brother, Kingsley Lester, died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in the local area for "educational, social and recreational" purposes, with which the Lesters bought and converted a disused chapel. The current Hall was built on Powis Road, with a stone-laying ceremony taking place on July 14, 1927. An additional Church and community centre has also been built on Parslows Ave. Dagenham. This also holds the Kingsley Hall name and is undergoing redevelopment.

While attending an environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972, Jensen met Pratibha, whom he married in India. After returning to Sweden, the couple lived in Vaxholm, outside Stockholm, where they bought an old freighter, built in 1905, which they renamed S/Y Shanti Devi . The ship was named after Pratibha's mother and means "The Goddess of Peace".

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 960,031 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country as well as the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

After restoring the ship with the help of good friends and its former crew, they finally set course for England in 1984. Unfortunately, due to a storm at sea, they were forced to seek harbor in Oslo after a short, hazardous journey.

When Jensen arrived in Oslo, he met his old friend, the writer Olav Angell. Together, they wanted to transform Oslo into a city renowned for happenings on the scene of international literature. The plan was soon put into action, and Jensen became the front figure in a project which later developed into the Oslo International Poetry Festival (OIPF), occurring in 1985 and 1986.

On 10 August 1990, Shanti Devi set course for what would be its final destination in Ålefjær, outside Kristiansand. There, Jensen and Pratibha settled in a hundred-year-old schoolhouse and, some years later, they sold their old ship.

In the last ten years of his life, Jensen was severely disabled from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He gradually became paralyzed, losing all his motor-coordination abilities. Later, relying on a breathing-aid to breathe, he could neither write nor speak. During this period, he also led a tough campaign against what he termed "the health machinery" for the right to be nursed in his own home. Jensen wrote several essays and articles on this subject. Before the public health service provided the help he needed, private funding to pay for nursing was arranged by his close friends, including Leonard Cohen. His wife also used all of her available energy to nurse her husband until he drew his last breath in his home in Ålefjær.

In 1996, he received the Fritt Ord Honorary Award. [3]

Writing style

Apart from his first symbolistic novel, Dyretemmerens Kors, Jensen's early novels mostly depict young men that attempt to break away from their social and cultural backgrounds. These novels include Icarus: A Young Man in Sahara (1957) (a new 1999 edition is illustrated by Frans Widerberg), A Girl I Knew (1959), and Joacim (1961). Some critics have argued that these early novels are influenced by Beat authors like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. The reason for this is that the novel's male main characters often try to escape from their obligations in a Western capitalistic society. Instead, they try to replace their former life with some sort of undefined spiritualism and fail miserably in their attempt.

Later, Jensen departed from the realism in his early novels and began to move in a new direction by writing science fiction, poems, essays, and manuscripts for cartoons. In this experimental phase, he produced manuscripts for the psychedelic comic-strip Doctor Fantastic (published in the newspaper Dagbladet between March and July 1972), the science fiction comic strip collage Tago (1979), the animated movie Superfreak (1988), and a manuscript for a comic novel which is a caricature-rendering of the life of the French playwright and founder of pataphysics, Alfred Jarry. In the same period, Jensen also published a poem-collection with a hindu theme called Onalila – A Little East West poetry (1974), an essayistic novel called Mother India (1974), and three autobiographical novels named Junior (1978), Senior (1979), and Jumbo (1998).

Jensen is perhaps most famous for having written the science fiction novels Epp (1965), Lul (1992), and And the Rest is Written in the Stars (1995), illustrated by Pushwagner. With these novels, Jensen created a dystopian vision of the future, much in the tradition of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury. Nevertheless, Jensen's novels also differ from these authors since the tragic vision in his novels is supplemented with comedy, setting an ambiguous and absurd tone. In this way, Jensen's novels are similar to the satirical and parodic novels of Jonathan Swift and Kurt Vonnegut.

Besides his fiction, Jensen also published a series of articles and essays which focused on three main political and social issues. His collection of essays, God Does Not Read Novels. A Voyage in the World of Salman Rushdie (1994), is a critique of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and a defense of freedom of speech. Another political text is the article A Children's Disease, published in the anthology The Collective Fairytale. A Book about Norway, Europe and the EU (1994). This article discusses Norway's role as a future member in the European Union. The third main issue that was of great concern to him was how sick and disabled people are treated in a modern bureaucratic society. Two books containing articles on this subject was therefore published The Deafening Silence (1997) and The Patient in the Centre (1998). All the articles are an account of how it is to suffer from ALS and at the same time not receive adequate help from the Norwegian welfare state.

Among his political writings, Jensen also found the time to write a biography on G. I. Gurdjieff, titled Guru – Glimpses from the World of Gurdijieff (2002). In addition to this, Jensen co-wrote his autobiography, Life Seen From Nimbus (2002), with Peter Mæjlender.

Jensen received a literary prize from the Austrian Abraham Woursell Foundation in 1965 for his novel Epp. In 1992, Jensen was given the annual literary award from the Norwegian publishing house Cappelen for his novel Lul. For his essays on Salman Rushdie, he received the Carl von Ossietzky award from the International PEN club in 1994 and an award from The Freedom of Expression Foundation in Norway.



Other works

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  1. 1 2 Kari Hesthamar (2005). "Leonard Cohen Site – Interview with Marianne". Archived from the original on 11 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
  2. Kari Hesthamar (1 June 2014). So Long, Marianne: A Love Story. ECW Press. pp. 95–. ISBN   978-1-77090-501-6. The assumption later became widespread that Axel had based the figure of Lorenzo on Leonard Cohen, but the author himself countered that Lorenzo was modelled on Göran Tunström.
  3. "Priser – Fritt Ords Honnør" (in Norwegian). Fritt Ord. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
Preceded by
Paal-Helge Haugen
Recipient of the Cappelen Prize
Succeeded by
Erik Bye,
Tor Bomann-Larsen