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Come sail away with Carsten Jensen

Danish author Carsten Jensen, who hopes to rekindle the seafaring genre with his epic new novel, “We, the Drowned.”

From classics such as “The Odyssey” and “Moby Dick” to the more recent works of C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian and Alexander Kent, seafaring novels have always been a popular aspect of our literary canon. But the reading public hasn’t been as rabid for tales about the high seas as of late. Enter Danish author Carsten Jensen, who hopes to rekindle the genre with his epic new novel, “We, the Drowned.”

“When readers are looking for action and excitement, they now look towards thrillers,” says Jensen. “But I also think big, encompassing novels that contain psychological portraits as well as action can also be attractive. Besides, I don’t think of my book as being an old-fashioned novel.”

Readers from around the world agree: “We, the Drowned,” which spans three generations of Marstal sailors and wives during a 100-year-span encompassing the changeover from sail to steam to diesel engines, went on to become a huge international bestseller after being first published in Denmark in 2006. “It was originally published in Danish, which is the language of a very, very small group of people. There’s only 5 million of us, which is half the population of New York,” he says.

Now being released in the states, Jensen hopes his sizeable tome will catch on with American audiences. “It’s such a big country and such a big market. It’s basically the place where all European writers and filmmakers want to be a success.”

Third person

“We, the Drowned” is told in first-person plural, as the collective consciousness of the people of Marstal. “I wasn’t happy with the other voices I tried,” says Jensen. “I don’t have a character who lasts 100 years so I had to try something else. Little towns have a kind of unofficial oral tradition; a collective memory. I decided to pluck into that.”


Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter at @DorothyatMetro.

 
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