Portrait of an Unusual Marriage

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David Ebershoff’s first novel, “The Danish Girl,” is based on a true story.

Einar and Gerda Wegener were married painters living in Denmark in the 1920’s. One day, when a female model failed to keep her appointment, Gerda asked her husband, Einar, to dress as a woman so she could finish the portrait.

Einar did his wife the favor/obliged his wife – and nothing was ever the same again. Einar soon adopted another identity as Lili, frequently posing for Gerda. Gerda’s career blossomed and her muse, Lili, became famous.

With the support of his wife, Einar had the first ever sex change operation in 1931 and emerged as Lili Elbe. The story of Einar’s transformation and the mysterious dual life he lived with his wife as both man and woman exploded in newspapers around the world.

David Ebershoff’s fictionalized account of this remarkable marriage, “The Danish Girl” – in this hour of The Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Writer David Ebershoff