Confessions of an Actor

This is the first novel to be published by New Nordic Press. It was written by Mathilde Munk, the youngest of Kaj Munk’s granddaughters. It is her first novel, and had already been published in Denmark. Mathilde translated the book into English herself.

From Hollywood to central Jutland in Denmark, this book follows an actor as his life’s path takes him from the west coast of Ireland, over London and New York, and finally to a secluded place in Jutland.

And what is the high point of these travels? To accept an Oscar in Los Angeles, or to stand at a granite cross* on the side of a isolated road in the middle of Jutland?

This is a story about playing roles, becoming captivated by them, swallowed up by them, almost forgetting your own name, and then in a strange and unexpected way to be reminded of who you are.

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Matthew 16:26

Mathilde Munk was born in 1984 and lives in Vedersø, western Jutland. This is her debut novel.

*The granite cross at Hørbylund in mid Jutland was erected on the spot where the pastor/playwright Kaj Munk was murdered by the Nazis on January 4, 1944.

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A Flame is Burning

Our sixth book, “A Flame is Burning,” (Der brænder en Ild) was first published illegally in 1944, by the underground publisher Folk og Frihed (Folk and Freedom). At that time, only one of the seventeen contributors was named. Hans Kirk, for his poem “Western Prison” (Vestre Fængsel). Hans Kirk had been arrested earlier, and sent to Horserød, but he had escaped and was out of the country when this book was first published. Naming the other authors could have led to their arrest, and possibly to their death.

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Early in the morning of April 9th, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Denmark. There was a non-aggression treaty between the two countries, which Germany simply ignored. They claimed, of course, that they were simply protecting Denmark from Great Britain.

There was little organized resistance to the invasion, and Denmark was not prepared or able to stop the German army, air force, and navy. There was some sporadic resistance from the beginning, and some Danes refused, from the start, to accept the foreign occupiers. But the Danish government essentially capitulated on the first day, and tried to establish a form of collaboration. The argument was that it was better to accept reality, than to be bombed and destroyed by a vastly superior military force. That argument is still being debated today.

But slowly a resistance movement did grow. One major turning point was the collapse of the Danish government, and the declaration of martial law by the Germans, on 29th August, 1943. It was a day that Kaj Munk called “A proud day for Denmark.”

This collection of prose and poetry provides a unique insight into the mood of occupied Denmark. It not only criticizes the lack of resistance to the Nazi occupation, but also encourages the Danes to stand in solidarity against the occupiers.

The story by Martin A. Hansen, “A dialogue on killing and responsibility,” illustrates the deep divide in Danish society during that time with respect to the killing of snitches. The Danish noun “et drab” is normally interpreted as “a kill,” though it can be interpreted as “Murder” in some contexts. But it is generally accepted that killing in self defense is not murder. If someone breaks into your house, and you kill them in self defense, then it will not be interpreted as murder. That was the dilemma for many Danes. Had the Germans broken into their home, and was any means of self-defense justified?

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The Final Hours

The Final Hours

“The Final Hours” was first published in Denmark in 1946 (De Sidste Timer.)

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It is a collection of the farewell letters of the Danish patriots executed by the Nazi occupiers. This is the only English translation of this collection of letters.

According to official records, 112 members of the resistance were arrested and executed by German court martial between August 28, 1943 and April 25, 1945. It is those resistance members, sentenced to death, who were allowed to write farewell letters on the eve of their execution.

The alphabetical register in the back of the original book contains 114 names. Eight of those are not otherwise mentioned in the book. They were active in the resistance, but their fates were not mentioned.

There are 28 names of members of the resistance who appear with photos and short bios, but did not have letters included in the collection.

That leaves 78 members of the resistance who were executed by the Nazis. Their letters, their last letters, are given here.


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Kaj Munk The Wartime Poems

Kaj Munk The Wartime Poems

About the Poems

Kaj Munk started writing poetry in grade school, and never stopped. He felt torn between the need to write, and the call of the church. He chose both. He was Denmark’s pastor/poet/playwright.

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With one exception, the poems in this collection are taken from the Memorial Edition of the works of Kaj Munk, published in 1949 by Nyt Nordisk Forlag in Copenhagen, in nine volumes. The volume titled Poetry contains 218 poems.

This collection of poems is taken from those written during the occupation, with one exception. I include Kaj Munk’s first poem, written at the age of eight. The first line in that poem later became the title of his autobiography. The last line became the title of a collection of his writings and articles.

The poem given on the title page, Despair, was written after the evening church service, April 9th, 1940. That was the day that Germany invaded Denmark, and the long night of the occupation had begun. That poem is given again in the body of the text. The last poem, Demotion, is taken from “ That Fate Will Not Be Ours (Den Skæbne Ej Til Os),” printed in 1943.

The memorial poem by Martin A. Hansen was first printed in the fall of 1944, in the illegal collection A Flame Is Burning, published by Folk and Freedom. It was printed without the author’s name, as all such publications were strictly censored and illegal.

There are 30 poems in this collection. The first was written when Kaj Munk was eight, the next two in 1940, the following five in 1941, Hymn to the Faith in 1942, and the remaining in 1943.

About the Endnotes

Mathilde Munk, Kaj Munk’s youngest granddaughter (daughter of Arne & Hanne Munk) has written a short interpretation for all of the poems included here. There are also some historical references, and I urge the reader to consult these notes as they are reading the poems. They begin on page 57.

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By the Rivers of Babylon

The Wartime Sermons of Kaj Monk

By the Rivers of Babylon

The Danish pastor and poet Kaj Munk was murdered by the Gestapo on January 4, 1944. The news of his death was a shock to a nation that had already suffered through four years of German occupation. The Nazis thought that they could silence him. They were wrong. Kaj Munk’s voice had been a rallying cry in the long dark Danish night, and it continued to be an inspiration for the Danish people. Although there was then, and continues to be to this day, controversy surrounding the life and works of Kaj Munk, the fact that he grew increasingly critical of the Nazi occupiers, that he refused to be silenced, and that he paid for that with his life, cannot be denied.

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A foreword

My grandfather, Kaj Munk, was murdered fourteen years before I was born. But he came alive for me through reading his works, and through the many memories that my mother and grandmother had of him.
I became fascinated with him through reading his theatrical works, but I came to love him through reading his sermons. Although most of the sermons in this book were written during the war, and do speak of the need to resist the occupation, his love of mankind runs like a red thread through all of them.

In his sermon on New Year’s Day, 1944, which is not really a sermon, but a speech, he says:

“I do not stand here to preach hatred against anyone. That is quite impossible for me. I don’t even hate Adolf Hitler.”

He could say that, even knowing that German assassins could come for him at any time. And they did a few days later. My mother, who was twelve when her father was murdered, talked about him as a family man. He played often with his children, and would tell them stories. And with my mother, Yrsa, who was the oldest of the children, he also shared his art.

He had a daily routine, where he would work on his dramatical works in the morning. Then, over a cup of coffee and honey bread, he would read aloud the morning’s work for her. She was a very precocious child who could take it into her head to say; ”Dad, Dad, you can’t write the same thing on page twelve that you wrote on page eight.”

He wrote a poem for her, in which he says:

You were a little girl child,
So bright, and yet some mischief.
With a heart so true,
Of all the people it was you,
Who was the poet’s best friend.
And from whom he learned the most.

She missed him throughout her life, but she understood completely why he had to do what he did. She never blamed him for not having fled to Sweden to save his life.

He loved God, life, his family, and nature. Yes, he loved the whole world. He has always been a role model for me. He wrote; ”Never, never, never ask if it’s worth it—ask only if it’s true!”

Arense Lund
Copenhagen 2013

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Gustaf Munch-Petersen

Gustaf Munch-Peterson Selected Poems

Gustaf Munch-Petersen -Selected Poems

This is a bilingual edition of the selected poems of Gustaf Munch-Petersen, translated from the Danish by Brian Young. Gustaf Munch-Petersen joined the International Brigade in the fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War. He died in battle in 1938. He was just 26 years old. He published four major collections of poetry during his short life. These poems are taken from those collections. The book also contains a tribute to her father by Ursula Munch-Petersen, his youngest daughter, not yet born when Gustaf left Denmark to fight in Spain.

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Ursula Munch-Petersen—A Daughter’s Tribute

Gustaf Munch-Petersen is my father. He was only 26 years old when he died, and it seems strange that he is still being published and read, not just in Danish schools, but now also in America.
Besides his poetry, he left behind two daughters– my sister who was two at the time, and me, not yet born. My sister Mette got married in Norway and had five children, and eight grandchildren. And I have two sons and three grandchildren.

It says in the Bible that the sins of the father are passed down through seven generations. All of Gustaf’s grandchildren have been marked by their grandfather’s absence, while at the same time he is proclaimed a hero. My sister felt betrayed, and has spoken very little about her Danish childhood. And now her children are asking me about it.

I have often thought, when I felt sad, that there was something waiting in Heaven–some kind of inheritance. When, as an adult, I read for the first time the book Primitive Religion by the Danish religious historian and linguist Vilhelm Grønbech, I experienced clearly my relationship to my father. My grandma had told me that Gustaf was tired of school, and that he would only take lessons from Vilhelm Grønbech, who wrote extensively about so-called “Primitive Religions.” My father’s insistence on taking lessons from Vilhelm Grønbech, and my joy and surprise when reading about the world’s religions as an artistic aspect of my life, helped me to feel a connection to him.

Every time a soldier is killed in Afghanistan I think about the far-reaching consequences for the families. But that my father’s poetry is still being printed and read, and because he felt it was an extension of the concept of art, and that he took his feelings and thoughts so seriously that he went to Spain when war was on the rise— that gives his fate meaning.

In 1937 you could still believe in the promise of the international participation for the defense of the Spanish people. Last year I was in Spain where now– and first now– one can talk openly about the civil war. A museum there had a collection of photos of all of the international brigades. There were volunteers from India and China, and it surprised me that people from so many places in the world came to fight for freedom.

I don’t know what young soldiers today are thinking when they say that they are going to war to “Make a difference”, but death in modern warfare must be even sadder and more meaningless today than it was then.

Ursula Munch-Petersen, October 2011

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Kaj Munk and Germany

Kan Munk and Germany Theater and Politics

Kaj Munk and Germany Theater and Politics

This book is about the Danish “Pastor-Poet” Kaj Munk, who in the 1930’s was Scandinavia’s most talked about playwright. It describes his early fascination with Europe’s “Strong Men”, and with German theater. The book contains an in-depth analysis of his early disillusionment with democracy, and then his growing awareness of the true nature of Nazism and Fascism. It was in particular the Nazi treatment of Europe’s Jews that brought Kaj Munk to the front of Danish resistance. He denounced Hitler and the German occupiers from the pulpit and, despite numerous warnings, refused to keep quiet. He was assassinated by the Nazis on January 4, 1944. Kaj Munk was a beacon of light in Denmark’s darkest hour, one of that nation’s most noted and discussed men of letters, and he remains so to this day.

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Mogens Munk: An introduction to Kaj Munk and Germany

My father was first and foremost an artist, a poet, and a dramatist. Then he became a martyr – but that was because he couldn’t keep quiet when things needed to be said. Nor could he remain passive when action was required.
During his life his breakthrough as a dramatist was the greatest thing that could have happened to him. For Kaj Munk, the stage was no less holy than the altar.
Just as his life spanned over the most unbelievable contradictions, his reputation as well bridges the gulf between the aesthetic and the religious.

This is a fascinating book about a fascinating man — my father, Kaj Munk. He was born in the remote Danish countryside at the dawn of the 20th Century. He became the great Danish focal point during the 1930’s. No other single Dane had in that way stood in the middle of that last decade of peace before the outbreak of WWII.

It is also the story of the working relationship between my father and the well-known translator Erwin Magnus, who was a great admirer, and who was determined to win for him the recognition in Germany that he had already won in Scandinavia.

Congratulations to Søren Daugbjerg on his book. With simplicity and a steady style, he describes for us those two decisive decades in the last century. He makes no attempt to paint an unrealistic portrait of my father, but we feel that we are on firm ground with Søren Daugbjerg as a guide. The book illustrates with clarity that it was the war that prevented his dramas from being recognized in Germany, and therefore his broader recognition internationally. If that had not been the case then his reputation would not have been subject to the partisan-political debate that surrounded it during the 1950’s.
Thanks also to Brian Young who with his translation has allowed the English reader to become acquainted with this important book.
Mogen Munk
Copenhagen, 2011


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