Martin Andersen Nexø’s life story in brief

Martin was born on 26th June 1869 on Sct. Annægade in Christianshavn, one of the oldest and poorest neighbourhoods in Copenhagen. His father, Hans Jørgen Andersen, was a quarryman. His mother, Mathilde Mainz, was the daughter of a blacksmith from Falster. The family came from Holstein.

At that time, there was high unemployment and poverty in Copenhagen. Many families moved to the areas they originally came from, including the Andersen family, who moved to Nexø in 1877. The father was born in Balka, south of Nexø. He worked among other things as a quarryman at a quarry near Hellesgård in Ibsker and paved a great deal of Nexø town. A paving stone bearing the letters HA can still be seen today in Nexø market square

Because the father said, “The youth are eating us out of the house,” Martin took a position as a guard during the summer months of 1882 and 1883. Those summers featured among the best times of his life – he enjoyed the freedom out on the field and working in the fresh air. On 30th September 1883, Martin was confirmed in St Bodil’s Church, and on 1st November, he started working as a fodderer on Råbygård in Poulsker. The work on the farm was very tough for the slim 14-year-old Martin.

In November 1887, he became an apprentice to master shoemaker Jeppe Kjøller in Rønne. After his apprenticeship, he was often unemployed and had a hard time. With the help of good friends from the college union at Rønne, he became a student at Bornholm Folk High School in Østermarie in 1889. He later became a student at Askov College, which was considered the best in the country. He was a student here for two years. Classes and fellowship with teachers and comrades had a decisive influence on the intellectual development of the future writer.

From 1894 to 1896, Nexø travelled to Italy, North Africa and Spain in order to cure his lung disease. He then worked as a teacher at the Gregersen private school in Frederiksberg.

After publishing a few novels and short stories, he quit teaching in 1901 and lived as a writer until his death. Nexø travelled a lot – mainly to Germany and the Soviet Union. He lived in Germany from 1923 to 1930. During the German occupation of Denmark, he had to flee to Sweden with his family.

Nexø had a large family: he married three times and had ten children. In 1951, the family moved to Dresden, where he was declared an honorary citizen in 1953.

Martin Andersen Nexø died on 1st June 1954 in Dresden. At his own request, he was buried in Denmark. His grave is still in the Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen.