Jeffrey Frank on Creativity in Copenhagen

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Part of everything I’ve published was written in Copenhagen, and being in the old city, which lies within medieval boundary walls that no longer exist, still makes me want to get to work. Perhaps that is because so much extraordinary writing was done there long ago. For instance, just stop at Nytorv (or the “new market”), on the south side of the walking street, Strøget, just across from a 7-Eleven. At first all you noticed is a courthouse with ochre-colored columns, and next to it, a bank. The bank, though, happens to be where Søren Kierkegaard spent his earliest years—or, more accurately, where his family home stood before it was demolished to make way for what is now a bank.

      Copenhagen was once home to great antiquarian bookstores. They’re mostly gone, and the most mourned is the legendary Frederiksberg Antikvariat, where a reputed million books were stacked and stacked again (I never counted). A few fine stores remain, though, such as Kaabers, the Hans Christian Andersen specialist (go through Jorcks Passage from Strøget and when you come out on Skindergade, it’s on your left). Then there are the bookstores along nearby Fiolstræde, past the old university (in particular Arnold Busck and Vansgaard Antikvariat). Then, several blocks away through the old city is Herman H,J. Lynge & Søn, on Silkegade. It’s not a place to browse, but one can almost smell the dust from its founding, in 1821, and feel a strange sort of lift.

      What feels like the sunniest open space in the city is Højbro Plads (literally, “high bridge square”), or so it feels. It’s not actually a square, but in three directions you can drink coffee—at the Norden Cafe, the Baresso chain, and Café Europa, which makes terrific cappuccino–strong enough to keep you reading the English, French, and Danish newspapers they set out and working into the night. On a bright day, it’s as if everyone in town stops by—natives, tourists, shoppers. When I want to put off what I ought to be doing, I sit there, inside or out, and feel intimately part of the present and the past.

Jeffrey Frank
Author, TRUDY HOPEDALE (Simon & Schuster)

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