TO one who proposes to write at some length on the modern Scandinavian novel it is something of a relief to know that he need not preface his introductory observations with an apology for his subject or a detailed explanation of its significance in present-day literary activity. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Scandinavians, like the Russians, have come to occupy a place of very real importance in the literary history of Europe during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries -- a place, indeed, out of all proportion to the relative political and economic importance of the Scandinavian countries in the modern world. Such names as Ibsen and Strindberg, Selma Lagerlöf, Sigrid Undset, and Knut Hamsun are as familiar to the average person of culture in Europe and America today as are the names of Hardy and Galsworthy, or Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust. Whatever one may think of the desirability of the Scandinavian contribution to modern literature (the question has been raised by people of some authority), the fact of this contribution is undeniable. It may be said without exaggeration, I think, that the Scandinavian drama and novel, together with. Russian fiction, is probably the single most important general influence in certain of the most characteristic developments in modern literature, particularly in the modern drama and the modern novel. German, French, and English writers of fiction -- each in their turn -- have found much to admire and to follow in Russian and Scandinavian fiction in the years since Tolstoy and Dostoievski, Knut Hamsun and Selma Lagerlöf and Sigrid Undset forced their way into the literary consciousness of Europe.
To analyze the precise nature of the influence which Scandinavian fiction has exercised upon European literature in general is no part of the purpose of the present book. I would here merely point to the existence of such an influence, and offer, in passing, a bit of incidental verification of it. Evidences of such an influence are to be found on every hand. I can choose but