‘Being is still waiting for the time when It itself will become thought-provoking to the human being.’

— Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’ (tr. Capuzzi)


Our everyday experience of things, in the wider sense of the word, is neither objectifying nor a placing over against. When, for example, we sit in the garden and take delight in a blossoming rose, we don’t make an object of the rose, nor do we even make it something standing over against us in the sense of something represented thematically. When in tacit saying we’re enthralled with the lucid red of the rose and muse on the redness of the rose, then this redness is neither an object nor a thing nor something standing over against us like the blossoming rose. The rose stands in the garden, perhaps sways to and fro in the wind. But the redness of the rose neither stands in the garden nor can it sway to and fro in the wind. All the same we think it and tell of it by naming it. There is accordingly a thinking and saying that in no manner objectifies or places things over against us.

Heidegger, ‘Phenomenology and Theology, Some Pointers with Regard to the Second Theme’, tr. Hart and Moraldo


For skandinaviske læsere: min bog Øjeblikket er udkommet på dansk ved Det Poetiske Bureau.


Peter Holm Jensen er noget så sjældent som en dansk forfatter der har fået sit gennembrud på engelsk og derfor nu er blevet oversat til dansk af Alexander Carnera, med støtte fra Statens Kunstfond. Løsningen på gåden er at Holm Jensen er et ægte verdensbarn vokset op i Tanzania, Canada, Indonesien og Danmark – og som senest har boet mange år i Norfolk, England, hvor han har ernæret sig som oversætter, fra hvilken periode hans debut, dagbogsromanen Øjeblikket (en. The Moment) om en freelanceoversætter der flytter på landet, stammer.

Øjeblikket er en dagbog over et dybsindigt og bevægende foretagende; forsøget på at genskabe troen på livet gennem det at skrive. Idet han reflekterer over hverdagslivet på bøhlandet i Norfolk såvel som over nogle af de seneste århundreders righoldigste litterære, filosofiske og teologiske idéer, søger fortælleren at arbejde sig ud over sin fortid ved at åbne sig for det ukendte, og måske for det evige… Dette er en visdomsbog, tyst og intim, som det vil betale sig at kontemplere koncentreret over.”

— Lars Iyer, forfatter til Spurious-trilogien, Wittgenstein Jr og Nietzsche and the Burbs  

Peter Holm Jensen, Øjeblikket, paperback, 138 sider, udgivet 2022, støttet af Statens Kunstfond

A text from a friend

‘Well, I don’t have that temperament either. Nevertheless I can see what’s needed, and the thinking we have to get away from. I think poetry, literature and thought can show a kind of ‘world birth’ in the midst of this apocalypse. They can reveal our connectedness – and that’s also a kind of ‘community’, isn’t it? I see our time as the age of the apocalypse, not in a Christian sense, but apocalypse understood as revelation: everything is being revealed in these times, stripped naked so the ugly sides are really allowed to shine. I see this as an absolute necessity – The Great Undressing – for us to progress at all in our development as humanity. That’s why I’m not depressed about the ‘current situation’. Actually, it’s a positive thing, since all births are hard, I suppose not least ‘world births’. This age of the apocalypse is the time when things are revealed anew. The earth trembles, we tremble, especially the sensitive, seismographically oriented thinking person, but unfortunately not most people. They behave as usual, as if nothing’s happened. As if they’ve come to terms with their comforts and technological devices, as if things can’t be different, as if they live in the last times. But unlike the early Christians, for whom time itself was about to end, and who felt doubt and worry and sadness about their time – but also hope for something other, some new coming – the neo-liberalist approach is to put plasters on everything: it’s all patchwork, not an actual world birth or world event or transformation, just more of the same. Artists and thinkers nowadays work under the sign of Crisis. The awareness of crisis calls for new images, other narratives, other forms; other signposts and torchbearers in the dark. The overhanging prospect of collapse is a crisis that exposes the hegemony and limitations of the whole matrix of Western, Christian, capitalist-industrial civilization. We’re facing a spiritual crisis that requires a different description of reality. And in an apocalyptic time, it’s art that can help give birth to new worlds.’

Det Vanskabte Land

Highly recommended:

My little room used to be my father’s study, where he kept all his documents and bills, most of which are now meaningless. There was a generic royal acknowledgement for something or other. We spent an hour sorting it all and putting it in the recycling bin. The next day we saw one of his old colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, who lives downstairs, cutting up his own documents with scissors in the courtyard.

   My room has a pull-out sofa, where I sleep, and a TV, which I hate. I turn it on the minute I get out of bed, so I don’t have to read. For whatever reason it’s a chore to read and think here, let alone write. I don’t like to sink into myself, to concentrate, at least not sober. I know what’s waiting for me there. I do my translations with the TV on, so I don’t have to think too much.

   This flat was transferred to my mother’s name after I moved in and my father fell in the kitchen and broke his hip. He was walking gingerly with his walking frame, to smoke on the balcony, when he went to grab the sink and fell. I was opening the fridge. I brought a chair over to him, tried to lift him up on it, and heard a sickening crack. It’s surprisingly difficult to lift the body of a big man who’s dead weight.

   The ambulance people came, he was operated on and was eventually moved from the hospital to the care home, where he lies in bed belittling the staff, as he used to belittle the rest of us.

   My mother, who is by turns tyrannical and in tears – they’re turning into children, my parents – has me help her with the insurance claim for his fall. She thinks they’re cheating her. And that’s the worst thing in the world, she says, being cheated. She seems pleased, as if she’s said something profound.

   After visiting my father I remember some of his stories from his time in the diplomatic service, before I was born, especially the one about the Russians. Soon after he was hired, while he was still in Copenhagen, he was invited to dinner at the Russian embassy, and was green enough to go. Caviar and all that, he said, and a young woman sat beside him who didn’t seem to have anything to do with the embassy. The day after he bethought himself and reported it to the security service. We know, they said.

   Who knows what they’re up to, S. and V. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about them.

   This is my life now. My pitiful, wondrous life. The clearing means: we live with the most wondrous possibility of life in every moment. A pitiful life can be as wondrous as the most apparently successful one. The clearing is indifferent.

I wake up with a bad conscience, with bad faith, as usual. There’s something far too obscure about me, which I don’t like. It’s not supposed to be the Danish way, that’s for sure, for most of yourself to be hidden like this.

  But the clearing remains, somehow, and doesn’t feel guilty. It doesn’t feel anything, isn’t really anything. It says, You are the clearing, the fact of your being here, in this little room.  

   And beyond the clearing that you are, if you dare to face it? It doesn’t bear thinking about, the beyond. And I can’t be bothered to think about it.

  I was a clearing in my childhood, I was a clearing in my adolescence, I’m a clearing now. That was always what I was afraid of, the clearing that leaves you too open.

  You have one life, they say: use it. Obscure the clearing as much as you can. I see people doing it all the time, especially here, where people pretend not to do it. I do it myself, walking around the posh part of town, completely focused on my own needs.


   Eventually we transferred the flat into my name and I sold it. I can’t go to that part of the city anymore, even seeing the name in the Metro depresses me. My father, who was bedridden and seriously ill after a lifetime of carefree drinking, was moved to a care home, where I visit him once in a while.

   Since then, what have I done? What have I read? Not much. Would it matter if I had? Would it have made me any wiser? Not much to show for my time, as our family accountant said. I live with my mother, beside the biggest park in the city. My parents were shrewd boomers, they knew how to invest their money. Here the streets are wider, it’s quieter.

   Get over it, they say. Move on. To what, exactly? It’s a question of finding one’s way back. Not so you can work yourself into fulfilment and move on to bigger and better things, but so you can see who you were all along. Who were you? Not exactly yourself. But more than who you thought you were, and what others thought. You were a clearing.

   You were a clearing, in your immense stupidity, your cowardice and your work. You were the shape that being took in you. All you are is something that being took hold in.

   She broke up with me on the street outside the government office, after I’d got my residence permit. Even at that moment there was something indifferent in me. That was also being taking shape in me, which I couldn’t hide from. I called my mother, as one does when one is in trouble, and got lucky, in a sense. My parents had a flat in Copenhagen they were renting out, and they were about to renew the tenant’s contract. I had all my things shipped over from storage in England, went to the government office to register as a Dane again, sat in my new flat and drank.

   Drinking dulls the call of the clearing, its urgency. You can sink into your own private world.

   That year is hazy to me. It was almost funny: I ended up in a building full of students next to the North Harbour, a mini-Dubai that represents everything I hate. There was constant construction noise. My mother told me I should be grateful: those flats were sought after, people would kill to have one of those.