There are some things in life that Danes can never get enough of. But as much as they love alcohol and dark clothes, they can only come a distant second to ‘Matador’, the nation’s most beloved favourite television series.
‘Matador’ is integral to the self-understanding of modern Danish society and something that Danes never seem to get bored of – all thanks to Lise Nørgaard, the brilliant creator and co-writer of the series, who is celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow.
The legendary author, who thinks her curiosity about life is what has helped her live for so long, was born to a bourgeoisie family in Roskilde. It was the year 1917 – a time when having a female child was not considered a matter of pride for a family, and Nørgaard’s father wasn’t proud of her birth either.
However, little did he know at that time that his daughter would grow up to become a well-known journalist and feminist and one of the most celebrated Danish screenwriters of all time.
A struggle towards excellence
Nørgaard’s achievements in life serve as the epitome of strength, poise and determination for many people.
In her memoir ‘Kun en pige’ (only a girl), Nørgaard talks about the struggles she had to undergo during her early life in a male-dominated household. At the same time, she also mentions how her father’s literary interest positively influenced the choice of her profession: journalism.
Her interest in journalism led to her getting a trainee position at Roskilde Dagblad, and later on at Politiken where she wrote about household and women’s issues.
In the second volume of her memoirs, ‘De sendte en dame’ (they sent a lady), Nørgaard reveals the ordeals that she faced as a female in the industry. She recalls how hard it was for her to prove her mettle when her journalistic abilities were questioned by her male counterparts.
Nevertheless, she persevered and continued working towards her goal, and in 1968 she assumed the position of the co-editor and later the managing editor of the magazine, Hjemmet.
Her columns for the magazine soon became popular for their critical and humorous insight into Danish life. Her peculiar brand of satire also paved the way for her to become the co-author of the immensely popular radio series ‘Karlsens kvarter’ (Karlsen’s neighbourhood).
Matador – her claim to fame
Although she identifies herself as primarily a journalist, everyone in Denmark remembers Nørgaard’s name because of ‘Matador’. The series, which was first aired by DR1 between 1978 and 1982, is currently being screened on Danish television for the eighth time – to mark her centenary.
The popularity of the series can be gauged by how an astonishing 3.6 million viewers tuned into the airing of the finale of the series in 1985 – a repeat screening remember – which is the all-time record for a country that only had a population of 5 million at the time.
As well as finding a permanent place in almost every Dane’s heart, Nørgaard’s witty writing style and cultural acumen have brought many feathers to her cap throughout her career.
Among her honours, Nørgaard was awarded the literary achievement award Publicistprisen from the National Press Club of Denmark in 1982, the De Gyldne Laurbær (the golden laurel) as the Danish writer of the year in 1993, and an Order of the Dannebrog knighthood in 1994.
The celebration of a century-long life
Turning 100 years of age is, undoubtedly, a rare and very special occasion in a person’s life and calls for enormous celebrations.
However, for Nørgaard, her personal preferences are more precious than anything else. Refusing to accept any gifts on her 100th birthday, she said that she has everything in her house that one can imagine, except for space. Therefore, she does not want to clutter up her home with gifts and flowers.
However, it doesn’t mean that this important event in her life will be celebrated quietly.
On Sunday June 18, Korsbæk Bakken in Klampenborg will hold a festival and invite Nørgaard to a cake-cutting ceremony at Postgaarden. The event will have musical performances from Det Ny Dansk Tonefilmsorkester (the New Tone Danish Film Orchestra), followed by coffee or tea along with assorted afternoon delights.
Moreover, 50 lucky winners, who entered into a competition via Korsbæk’s Facebook page, will have a chance to attend the gathering.
Danish television to honour Nørgaard’s work
To celebrate Nørgaard’s 100th birthday, TV2 Charlie will air three programs on Wednesday June 14 to honour the author as well as her masterpiece work, ‘Matador’.
The evening will kick off with a reunion talk show, where her friends will speak candidly about Nørgaard’s long life. The guests will include Cecilie Frøkjær, Kathrine Lilleør, Søren Pind and Bertel Haarder.
They will talk about their friendship with Lise Nørgaard, explain her inspiring appetite and curiosity regarding life, and also talk about the indelible impression that the author has made on their lives.