Six Scandinavian Novelists: Lie, Jacobsen, Heidenstam, Selma Lagerlof, Hamsun, Sigrid Undset

By Alrik Gustafson | Go to book overview

TOWARD DECADENCE JENS PETER JACOBSEN

ONE evening in the spring of 1872 a group of liberal spirits, all deeply interested in the future of Danish literature, and having certain rather revolutionary opinions as to just what direction Denmark's literary future should take, met informally, as was their custom, at D'Angleterre, a quiet little restaurant in Copenhagen, in order to consider together some of the problems which lay nearest their hearts. The group -- including among others Georg Brandes and Holger Drachmann, Vilhelm Møller and Jens Peter Jacobsen -- had been only recently organized under the name "Litteraturselskabet." Its members, with the exception of Brandes, were little known at the time outside this literary circle, though at least two of them, Jacobsen and Drachmann, were soon to become famous as the chief Danish creative exponents of those new conceptions of the nature and purpose of literature which the brilliant critical gift of Brandes was introducing into his quietly conservative little land after an extended visit to Continental centres of culture.

On the particular evening in question it was Jens Peter Jacobsen's turn to deliver an informal address, which in the course of the evening was to be discussed by the others. Jacobsen -- young, just turned twenty-five -- had already shown some promise in two widely disparate fields: as a student of botany he had attracted the attention of the scientific staff at the University, and as the author of a strikingly original short story, entitled "Mogens," he had been recognized by his colleagues in "Litteraturselskabet" as one of the first genuine creative gifts to the new movement in literature which they were trying to get under way. Besides, he had combined science and belles-lettres in a series of articles on Darwin in a liberal Danish periodical; and this series of articles had aroused sufficient general public interest to provoke an eminent Danish bishop to a spirited reply in the pages of the same journal. It was therefore with a reasonably pardonable pride in their youthful speaker that "Littera

-73-

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Six Scandinavian Novelists: Lie, Jacobsen, Heidenstam, Selma Lagerlof, Hamsun, Sigrid Undset
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • By Way of Introduction 3
  • Impressionistic Realism Jonas Lie 25
  • Toward Decadence Jens Peter Jacobsen 73
  • Nationalism Reinterpreted Verner Von Heidenstam 123
  • Saga and Legend of a Province Selma LagerlÖf 177
  • Man and the Soil Knut Hamsun 226
  • Christian Ethics in a Pagan World 286
  • Index 363
  • Index 365
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