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Famous Like Me > Writer > P > Henrik Pontoppidan

Profile of Henrik Pontoppidan on Famous Like Me

Name: Henrik Pontoppidan  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 24th July 1857
Place of Birth: Fredericia, Denmark
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Henrik Pontoppidan (July 24, 1857 – August 21, 1943) was a realist writer who shared with Karl Gjellerup the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1917 for "his authentic descriptions of present-day life in Denmark." Pontoppidan's novels and short stories - informed with a desire for social progress but despairing, later in his life, of its realization - present an unusually comprehensive picture of his country and his epoch. He was the youngest and perhaps most influential member of the Modern Break-Through.

The son of a Jutlandic vicar and belonging to an old family of vicars and writers Pontoppidan grew up in close contact to peasants and land-labourers. He gave up an education as an engineer, worked as a folk school teacher and finally became a free-lance journalist and full-time writer, making his debut 1880.

The first phase of his work is social critical and rebellious. In matter-of-fact short stories he mercilessly describes the life of the country proletarians, haunted by poverty and exploited by the farmers; perhaps he is the first Danish progressive writer breaking with the idealising of the farmers. Those tales are collected in Fra Hytterne (i. e. From the Huts) and Landsbybilleder (i. e. Village Pictures). An important part is his political collection of short stories Skyer (1890, i.e. Clouds), a biting description of Denmark under the authoritarian semi-dictatorship of the Conservatives both condemning the oppressors and scorning the Danes’ lack of disaffection. After this period he more and more concentrated around psychological and naturalist problems without giving up his social engagement.

The three great novels which are normally considered to be Pontoppidan’s main works were written from about 1890-1920. With these he created the broad description of society novel of Danish literature in the tradition of Balzac and Zola but on his own conditions. Centred around a hero he paints the Denmark of the Constitutional Struggle between Conservative and Liberals, of the rising industrialisation, of cultural conflicts and the awakening revolutionary movements.

Det forjættede Land (1891-95, Engl. transl. The Promised Land 1890), describes a phantasist and his dream of being a preacher in the country which leads to self-deception and insanity. - The partly autobiographical Lykke-Per (1898-1904), perhaps his most famous novel, deals with the self-confident, richly gifted man who breaks with his religious family in order to be an engineer and a conqueror, free of heritage and milieu but is however at last caught up by them at the high of his success and gives up his career to find himself in loneliness. - The bitter De dødes Rige (1912-16, i.e. The Land of the Dead) shows Denmark after the apparantly victory of democracy 1901, a society in which political ideals are mouldering, capitalism is marching on and press and art are prostituted, all centred about the hopeless love and reform plans of a young sickly but progressive squire. To these works might be added his last of his larger novels Mands Himmerig (1927 i.e. Man’s Heaven) an almost desperate description of the crisis of a Danish intellectual at the time of the outbreak of World War I. In these later works he is sometimes seeming to assume a mixture of a castigator of society and a prophet of doom.

Besides these works Pontoppidan wrote many short novels and long tales in which he discusses political, psychological and sexual themes. Isbjørnen (1887, i. e. The Ice Bear) describes the confrontation between an outspoken Greenland vicar and the narrow-minded Danish provincial clergymen. Mimoser (1886, Engl. transl. The Apothecary’s Daughters, 1890) is an ironic-tragic tale about the exaggerated intolerance of unfaithfulness. Nattevagt (1894, i. e. The Night Watch) deals with a courageous and revolutionary artist who is however a frustrated failure as a husband. Den gamle Adam (1894, i. e. The Old Adam) treats both men’s fear of women and of sexuality as a whole. Borgmester Hoeck og Hustru (1904, i. e. Mayor Hoeck and his Wife) is recapitulating a tragic marriage dominated by the husband's jealousy and dislike of his wifes joie de vivre. A central theme in most of these tales is the difficulties of handling the new tolerance, open-mindedness and democratisation which are introduced by both the transition of society and by literature. Another theme is the conflict between the introverted and closed male nature and the vitality of the woman. Behind all this lies the classic naturalist theme of heritage and milieu against which man has to rebel without quite denying their existence.

1936-40 Pontoppidan wrote interesting and rational Memoirs in which he tried to define his own view of his personal development. He was handicapped by blindness and deafness, however he took interest in politics and cultural life until his last years.

As a stylist Pontoppidan is the born naturalist. His language looks plain, simple and easy but it is often loaded with symbols and secret hints, hidden irony and “objective” descriptions. Several times he revised his old books making them still more simple but also changing their plot or sharpening their attitude.

In spite of being well-known as a man of positions and attitudes Pontoppidan is still one of the most discussed of modern Danish writers. One of the reasons of that is his personal character. He was a man of many paradoxes: a clearly liberal-radical but a stern patriot, an anti-clerical puritan, a disillusioned fighting nature, collaborating with socialist and communists but always from an independent and individualist position. But this is also partly due to his style which has often been regarded as being ambiguous and impenetrable; his mixture of partiality and objectivity has often confused both readers and critics and in fact both liberals, radicals, conservatives, right wing people and socialists have tried to reflect their own ideals in his works. He has been regarded both as the absolute antagonist of Georg Brandes and as his most congenial pupil.

Among all the authors of the Modern Break-Through Pontoppidan is probably the most influential and longest living. His social critical writings makes him the pioneer of the socialist literature after 1900. Cultural conservatives have been inspired by his critic of modernism after World War I. Finally he set a standard of "novels about society" which has still not become quite out of date.

His brother's daughter-in-law was the outstanding Danish actress Clara Pontoppidan.

External link

  • About Henrik Pontoppidan
  • Books and Writers' article about the author
  • Danish author, son of a pastor
  • Henrik Pontoppidan nacque a Fredericia nel 1857
  • Dinamarca, 1857-1943)
  • Henrik Pontoppidan (1857 - 1943)
  • Henrik Pontoppidan

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Henrik Pontoppidan