Denmark Literature Part VIII

By | December 18, 2021

Naturalism was their starting point, indeed, for a moment it was even their faith. Only their nature – romantically rich and singing in the first, romantically delicate in the second – led them spontaneously to a new art: impressionism. And impressionism was in fact the 90’s “the password”. First of all, the literature of romantic tendencies was so deeply rooted in the mentality and in the very nature of the Danish sensibility that it is understandable that it could not be extinguished, with three quarters of a century of tradition now, from Oehlenschläger to Kierkegaard. E. vd Recke, playwright, R. Schmidt (1836-99), playwright and novelist, Thor Lange 11851-1915), Sophus Bauditz (1850-1915), as short story writers, continued to keep this tradition alive, even if overwhelmed by voices new. Gjellerup himself, after ultra-realistic beginnings, returned to a Schillerian pathos, or to a coloristic eroticism, intermediate between romanticism and realism. And a conciliation between realism and romanticism attempted on the E. Christiansen theater by looking at Ibsenian symbolism. But romance couldn’t win anymore. To revive he had to transform himself in the way he had transformed into Jacobsen and Drachmann; and with the decadence of H. Bang, with the erotic novel by Peter Nansen, impressionism won. Also for the influences that were added to it: French symbolism on the one hand and Nietzsche on the other. And if realism did not die out, but continued, among others, with Topsae, and indeed Pontoppidan composed much Det forj œ takes Land as much as Lykke Peer with their lucid analyzes of reality, the typical interpreters of the time were instead others: Viggo Stuckenberg, who died just forty, after having risen from the Strindbergian realism of the first stories to the refined symbolistic poetry of the last lyrics; Jørgensen, former translator of Baudelaire and later destined to become the poet at once delicate and sensual of mystical Umbria; Sophus Claussen, who, moved by a fresh naturalism, sings the joy of living, then overturned into a decadent poet’s Satanism, and finally re-established in a “heroic aestheticism” (Heroica 1925); Ludwig Holstein, matured in the bosom of symbolism as a delightful creator of small illuminated visions, of a precious taste; Helge Rode, poet, playwright, pensive interpreter of an interiority which, under the experiences through which she has passed, has found the way to her own contemplative religiosity, both rich and delicate, profound and exquisite; and finally Sophus Michaëlis, who over time passed from opera to novel and became more and more colorful, full of sensations (see the stories on the Italian Renaissance) and Gustav Wied (1854-1910), author of dramatic grotesques and bizarre tales in whose narration has lyrical-musical ballad trends, albeit on a realistic background; which is still there, but remains in the background, just as it remains in the background also in Karl Larsen, the creator of the symbolic figure of Hans Peter Egskov, both bourgeois and grotesque. For Denmark 2014, please check

The most and the greatest among these: Jørgensen, Helge Rode, Michaëlis, Karl Larsen, are also today leading figures in contemporary Danish literature: and together and alongside them, others who belong to their group: Nicls Møller, poet of Greece and of the sea; LC Nielsen (1871-1930), nostalgic and melodious singer from Rome and the East; Sven Lange (1868-1930), Hjertets Gerninger’s novelist and playwright; Laurids Bruun, wandering with the imagination in the Middle Ages (Absalon) and in the East (van Zante), realistic in color, nostalgic and romantic in spirit; Knud Hjortø, ironic and moralist, whose works offer a mixture of decadence and primitiveness, of naive provinces and intellectual complication; Olaf Hansen, simple and musical poet and delicate landscape painter; H. Bergstrøm, P. Levin (1869-1929), H. Nathansen, anatomizer of the Semitic problem, P. Rosencrantz and K. Hoffmann; among the writers J. Blicher-Clausen; A. Ehrencrone-Kidde; Agnes Henningsen; Karin Michaelis-Stangeland, the author of Den farlige Alder (The critical age), freed herself in her last works from her first, overwhelming ethical and social concerns. Despite certain realistic tones, everyone’s effort is towards an intellectually complex or refined modernity: towards a new interiority.

At the beginning of the new century the new generation was thus able to form itself outside both the realistic and the impressionistic polemics, both of which are now closed, and achieve its own independence, taking advantage of past experiences. exquisite novelist Harald Kidde (1878-1918), the motifs dear to the previous generation developed further and with new intimacy, numerous solitary personalities affirmed themselves: J. Knudsen, meditative spirit, concerned with moral and religious problems, subtle psychologist, who sometimes reaches a contemplative poem of unusual depth and nobility; W. Rørdam, inspired translator of Kipling, a poet of turbid, but impetuous and broad vein; Andersen Nexø, interpreter of the proletarian class in the social struggles that marked that time of combative socialism. To the constitution of a homogeneous group came only the regional poetry, which rose in great flower and drew inspiration above all from the life, from the landscapes, from the traditions of Jütland. Jeppe Aakjaer is its purest and most typical representative; but alongside him are many others: Johan Skjøldborg, H. Søiberg, Theger Larsen, C. Andersøn, Maria Bregendahl, the Selandan Gravlund. Originally moved by the Jütland group, but rapidly developed towards wider horizons, with a partly European, partly American experience of poetry and life; realist and romantic at the same time, gifted with a visionary imagination and a great verbal power, the greatest poet of Denmark is today Johannes V. Jensen;

After the war E. Bønnelycke, HH Seedorff, H. Bergstedt, T. Kristensen imported expressionistic currents to Denmark, drawing lyrical accents of unequal but sometimes undeniable power from them. On the other hand, the problematic nature of intellectual experiences that marks so much of modern literature in Europe was also reflected; and it is easy to perceive it in the baroqueism of the same descriptions of provincial life by J. Bucholtz and H. Poulsen, as in the analysis of the Copenhagen environment by J. Paludan, as in the arabesques of Tom Kristensen and in the subtle psychological investigations of Otto Rung ; also, and no less, in Anker Larsen’s De Vises Sten (The Stone of the Wise, 1923), now well known even outside Denmark.

Denmark Literature Part VIII