Denmark Literature in the 1940's

Denmark Literature in the 1940’s


Leaving aside some writings of little artistic value, such as the anthology published clandestinely in the autumn of 1944: Det braender en Ild (A fire breaks out), or L. Sørensen, Rodles, (Senza patria) 1946, closely connected to the second World War and particularly the German occupation of Denmark (1940-45), contemporary Danish literature does not present any new features compared to that of the interwar period. The two fundamental currents that characterized the literary framework of that period are still discernible today: one of country poetry (Hjemstavnsdigtning) which refers to the romantic conception of the peasant and the land and is singularly intertwined with a vitalistic faith and also sometimes with the modern social democratic creed; another of “proletarian” inspiration. The first linked to the so-called “juto movement” (Jyske Bevaegelse) is represented by a group of poets who belong precisely to that province (JV Jensen, Skjoldborg, Aakjaer, Søiberg, Knudsen, Bregendahl) and arose in antithesis to bourgeois and citizen decadence ; the second takes place parallel to the first and is sometimes identified with it (as in Skjoldborg and Aakjaer) and does not really count big names.

According to Localcollegeexplorer, among the best known is M. Andersen Nexø (born in 1869) who wanted to narrate “the passage of the worker on the earth in his endless and semi-conscious journey towards the light”, describing in a semiautobiographical novel, inspired by the Zolian Germinal, the labor movement Danish around the turn of the century (Pelle Erobreren, Pelle the conqueror, 1906-10). But the best production of this novelist, who after the First World War wrote the panegyric of Soviet Russia (Mod Dagningen, Towards the dawn, 1923), is not in the voluminous and cumbersome social novels (Ditte Menneskebarn, La ragazza Ditte, 5 vols., 1917-22; Muldskud, Germs of the earth, 1900-25, three series; Midt i en Jaerntid, Tempi hard), but in some minor writing in which his streak of idyllic optimism finds more coherent expression (Et lille Krae, Un animaletto, 1932; Under aaben Himmel, A cielo Aperto, 1934). Alongside Andersen-Nexø we find the other “proletarian” writers who almost all came to art from practical life and often without academic studies (N. Nilsson, descriptor of working life on a construction site in the capital: Dokken, Il yard, 1933; H. Herdahl, descriptor of the slums of Copenhagen in Man skal jo leve, We must live, 1934; Leck Fischer, K. Becker, MA Hansen) or even through radical journalism that already has a long tradition behind it, through Nansen and H Bang, to E. Brandes.

Outside of these two main currents there is a whole crowd of writers of very unequal value, belonging to pleasant literature (travels, adventures, geographical explorations, stories of animals and hunts: S. Fleuron, b.1874; J. Jürgensen, b. 1872; A. Madelung, b. 1872; L. Mylius-Erichsen, 1872-1907; E. Mikkelsen, b. 1880; P. Freuchen, b. 1886; K. Andersen, b. 1890; A. Sandemose, n. 1897; P. Tutein. n. 1902); to predominantly expressionistic lyrics (T. Kristensen, b.1894; F. Nygaard, b.1897; O. Gelsted, b.1888; P. Lange, b.1900; HH Seedorff Pedersen, b.1882; E. Bsnnelyeke, b. 1893); at the theater (S. Lange, H. Nathansen, K. Abell, K. Munk); to the psychological novel (J. Paludan, n.1896; M. Lauesen, n.1907 and N. Petersen, n.1891, authors, the last two, of novels that have been successful: the first of Og nu venter vi paa Skib, And now we await the ship, 1931; the second by Sandelmagernes Gade, Vicolo dei Sandalai, 1932).

But even here it is difficult to establish historical perspectives and prevent a complete picture of contemporary literary production from turning into a bare list of names and dates. It is evident, however, that a new sensitivity characterizes the younger generation, a realism very similar to the German “Neue Sachlichkeit”, born from the overcoming of the expressionist experience. In this sense, the novel by H. Kirk, Fiskerne, The Fishermen, 1930) is representative.

A separate place deserves JF Jacobsen, who revealed himself to be a true artist with his novel published posthumously (Barbara, 1939), in which an ancient legendary motif from the Faroe Islands gives rise to a profound human drama; and G. Gunnarsson, Danish-speaking Icelandic narrator who established himself with the brutal realism of a novel of Icelandic life (Af Borgslaegtens Historie, The family of Borg, 1912) and then rose to great fame with his other novels, including autobiographical ones (Kirken paa Bjaerget, The church on the mountain, 1924; Skibe paa Himlen, Navi sul cielo, 1925), often of conventional and summary psychology, but all inspired by a heroic ideal of life on this side of all religious transcendence (Livets Strand, The shore of life, 1915; Varg i Veum, The profaner of the temple, 1916; Hugleik den Haardsejlende, Hugleik the Viking, 1927; Jón Árason, 1930, his masterpiece, on the last Catholic bishop of Iceland, defender of national freedom and democratic rights in the face of the oppression of the Danish Lutheran Church).

In the troubled years immediately preceding the outbreak of the Second World War (symptomatic the novel by Leck Fisher: Hvordan i morgen ?, What will happen tomorrow ?, 1938) the theater of the pastor K. Munk had great success in Denmark (see, in this App.), Which in terms of Kierkegaardian paradoxical religiosity reflects the anguished travail of the Christian soul in a world without God., has found great if ephemeral resonance in the pietistic sensitivity of large sections of the Danish people.

Among the very young the prose writers HC Branner emerge (Om lidt är vi borte, Soon we won’t be there anymore, 1939; Drömmen om en Kvinde, The dream around a woman, 1941; Berge, 1942); M. Klitgaard (De röde Fjer, The red pens, 1940; Den guddomlige Hverdag, The divine daily, 1942, on the German occupation); K. Blixen, Aage Dons and others, in which all the problematic nature of the European literary experiences of recent years is reflected.

Denmark Literature in the 1940's