A quieter pace, traveling by cycle, and chilling in cool Christianshavn: Some of the things award-winning novelist Liz Jensen is partial to when she’s in Copenhagen.
Liz Jensen is known for her imaginative thrillers, witty prose and unstoppable female protagonists in books like My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time and Egg Dancing. Her last novel, The Rapture, came out in paperback last year, when it was also shortlisted for the Brit Writers Awards.
With a Danish father and Anglo-Moroccan mother, Liz grew up in England’s Oxfordshire, only rediscovering her Danish roots in adult life. Married to the Danish writer Carsten Jensen, Liz now shares her time between Copenhagen and London.
Liz took time out of her writing schedule to share her own favorite spots in the Danish capital with NileGuide readers.
-How do you find the contrast between Copenhagen and London?
I am based in London, but for the last ten years I’ve been spending about a third of my time in Denmark. I love the contrast. London’s an exciting city, but sometimes overwhelmingly so. If you’re among 10 million other inhabitants, it’s easy to feel like part of a vast swarm; I find my home city stressful and dirty compared to Copenhagen. I love the quieter atmosphere here, the gentler pace of life, and the absence of crowds. I like cycling about, too: In London it’s too dangerous. Please don’t ever do it.
-Did you visit Copenhagen much as a child?
Despite being half Danish, I never came here until I was 25. My father was a Dane, but a very reluctant one, who felt he had left his homeland far behind – though he grew very nostalgic for it in later life. It’s embarrassing having a name like Elisabeth Jensen and speaking like a Brit. It was so avoidable. If my dad weren’t already dead, I’d kill him for not raising us bilingual.
-What is your favorite neighborhood in the Danish capital?
I love being anywhere by the water, but I especially love Christianshavn. I consider it to be one of the coolest places of Earth.
-Do you have a favorite spot in Copenhagen that features heavily in your books?
A few years ago I wrote a novel called My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, in which two Danish cleaning ladies discover a time-machine in 1890s Østerbro and travel to 21st-century London. The Danish part is set very firmly in Østerbro, which is where I live when I’m in town. In fact, much of it is set in a huge house in Rosenvængets Alle, just round the corner from our apartment.
-You have children. Where do you like to take them as a special family treat?
-Is there a place that’s particularly special to you in a personal way?
I have a soft spot for Copenhagen Town Hall (Rådhuset), even though it’s architecturally hideous, because I was married there. The other place I love is the town of Marstal, on the island of Aerø, where my husband Carsten Jensen wrote his novel We, The Drowned. We both work very productively there, and have a great time. It’s not just an inspiring place to write: it’s bursting with amazing people, and has the best local museum you will ever see.
Photo of Liz Jensen courtesy of Les Kaner; Christianshavn photographed by Janus Bahs Jacquet (Flickr/Creative Commons).