“Divorce 1” by Tove Ditlevsen

Tove Ditlevsen


He would
in case of divorce
demand half
of everything 
he said.
Half a sofa,
half a television
half a summer house
half a pound of butter
half a child.
The apartment was his
he said
because it was in his name.
The trouble was
that he loved her.
She loved another
whose wife would
demand half
of everything,
It was in the marriage law.
It was as clear as
two and two are four.
The lawyer said
that was correct.
She smashed half
of everything
and ripped up the tax bill.
Then she took off
for the women’s shelter on Jagtvej
with half a child.
The child was teased in school
because he only had
one ear.
But life could still be
since it couldn’t be
any other way.
Translated from the Danish by Michael Favala Goldman and Cynthia Graae

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation


Tove Ditlevsen (1917–1976), one of the most notable Danish literary personalities of the twentieth century, and still widely read in the twenty-first, wrote more than 30 books, including the recently heralded The Copenhagen Trilogy, The Faces, and The Trouble with Happiness. | Michael Favala Goldman & Cynthia Graae: “We each came to translate Tove Ditlevsen from very different points of reference. Michael had recently translated book three of The Copenhagen Trilogy and The Trouble with Happiness. Cynthia had translated The Adults, a book of Ditlevsen’s poetry for a college class three decades ago. Michael loved Ditlevsen’s writing for its blunt honesty, its confidential voice, and its relevance today, especially concerning dependent behavior. Cynthia was attracted to Ditlevsen because of the timelessness of Ditlevsen’s distillation of issues like marriage, motherhood, divorce, aging, and death. We worked together on refining her drafts, using our differing life experience to our advantage, debating and considering every term and phrase. Most of our translations of The Adults have now been published individually in journals. We both hope the entire poetry collection will be the first by Ditlevsen to make it into English.”

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