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(04/20/2008) Niels Lyhne by J. P. Jacobsen. New York. 1919. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Translated From The Danish By Hanna Astrup Larsen. keywords: Literature Translated Denmark Scandinavia.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Originally published in 1880, the classic novel NIELS LYHNE is the story of a young man's existential struggle, told with great psychological insight. It is about romanticism, atheism, and the turmoil of an artistic temperament caught between dreams and reality. And it is about the relationships between men and women, which are doomed to failure when the woman is elevated to a goddess and not perceived as a human being. Jens Peter Jacobsen produced only a small body of work in his short lifetime - two novels, a volume of short stories, and some poetry - yet these works have had a significant impact on some of the most important writers and artists of this century. Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, August Strindberg, Jean Giraudoux, Hermann Hesse, and Henrik Ibsen: all expressed admiration for Jacobsen's work. Both James Joyce and Stefan Zweig wanted to learn Danish in order to read Niels Lyhne in the original. Adventurer T. E. Lawrence pronounced Niels Lyhne a 'magnificent' book. And Alberto Giacometti, who rarely traveled, accepted an invitation to visit Denmark for an exhibition of his work because he wanted to see the country of Jens Peter Jacobsen. But it was the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who felt most indebted to Jacobsen. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke lavishes praise on his novel, urging his readers to experience this 'book of splendors and depths. ' 'NIELS LYHNE - how ardently, how passionately we loved this book in the first years of youthful awareness: it was the Werther of our generation. Countless times we read this melancholy biography, knew whole pages of it by heart, and the thin, worn Reclam volume accompanied us to school and late at night to bed; even today, when I look up some passages in it, I am at once able to write them down word for word from memory, because we had so often, so passionately absorbed those scenes into our lives. ' - STEFAN ZWEIG. Rilke said that Jacobsen, more than any other writer, bad given him 'the greatest experience of the essence of creativity, its depths and eternity. '. 'Now NIELS LYHNE will open to you, a book of splendors and depths; the more often one reads it, the more everything seems to be contained within it, from life's most imperceptible fragrances to the full, enormous taste of its heaviest fruits. In it there is nothing that does not seem to have been understood, held, lived, and known in memory's wavering echo; no experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others. You will experience the great happiness of reading this book for the first time, and will move through its numberless surprises as if you were in a new dream. ' - RAINER MARIA RILKE. 'Jacobsen has made a more profound impression on my heart than any other reading in recent years. ' - SIGMUND FREUD. 'Jacobsen's book is a fine work of literature in every respect; yes, I dare say it is among the most exceptional that our time has produced. ' - HENRIK IBSEN. 'I am quite Nordically inclined, and perhaps it is J. P. Jacobsen who has had the greatest influence on my style so far. ' - THOMAS MANN. 'In Jacobsen we have the earliest and noblest example of an author who combines a powerful imagination and a wistfully tender nature with all the finesse of the most highly developed realism. He finds words full of pregnant vividness for every manifestation of Nature, for every blade of grass by the wayside, for every visible beauty. And then he attempts, with dark yearning, to translate this huge talent for portrayal, this most refined technique of expression, to the life of the soul. Not as a realistic psychologist, but as a dreamer and explorer on the pathless sea of the unknown.' - HERMANN HESSE.

 

 

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