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Niels Lyhne

by Jens Peter Jacobsen, Trans. By Hanna Astrup Larsen

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From Publishers Weekly
This highly influential late-19th century Danish novel portrays the melancholy life of an idealistic young poet.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Independent Publisher
The second reprint of Scandinavian masterworks is the second and last novel by the Danish writer of prose and poetry, Jens Peter Jacobsen (18471885). This edition of the book, first published in 1880, comes wrapped in a dust jacket festooned with enthusiastic praise from Freud, Ibsen, Mann, Hesse, Stefan Zweig, and most particularly, Rilke, who in Letters to a Young Poet, describes Jacobsen as one of the two writers from whom he has learned "something about the nature of creative work" (the other being Rodin). Niels Lybne recounts the life of its eponymous hero, a poet, emphasizing the influence of experience on psychological development and examining philosophical issues: the nature of reality, atheism, creativity and love. It is a dense narrative, striking at times in its richness of physical detail, although the prose, which occasionally sparkles, is baroque and at times rococo. The book's appeal to early modernists and champions of realistic fiction is understandable, but this modern reader found that the characters never developed into living creatures and with few exceptions were too obviously created and manipulated to address the author's aesthetic and philosophical concerns.

Sigmund Freud
Jacobsen has made a more profound impression on my heart than any other reading in recent years.

Book Description
According to JOHAN DE MYLIUS of the Danish Royal Library, Jens Peter Jacobsen was a "poet associated with the so-called 'modern breakthrough' in Danish literature in the 1870s. . . . Jacobsen's immediate importance was his status as the 'writer of his generation.' With the novel Niels Lyhne (1880) he voiced the disoriented and confused rejection of the old values, Romanticism's dream and religion. . . . Like the single volume of short stories Jacobsen published in 1882, three years before he died of tuberculosis, both novels are unique in an age of realism on account of their highly charged, atmospheric prose and almost lyrical style."

Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Danish

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THERE was in Niels Lyhne's nature a lame reflec-tiveness, child of an instinctive shrinking from decisive action, grandchild of a subconscious sense that he lacked personality. He was always struggling against this reflectiveness, sometimes goading himself by calling it vile names, then again decking it out as a virtue that was a part of his inmost self and was bound up with all his possibilities and powers. But whatever he made of it, and however he looked upon it, he hated it as a secret infirmity, which he might perhaps hide from the world, but never from himself; it was always there to humiliate him whenever he was alone with himself.

About the Author
Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847–1885) made his literary debut with the novella Mogens in 1872. Diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis two years later, he completed several more short stories and two novels.

Tiina Nunnally is the award-winning translator of numerous works of Scandinavian literature, including Kristin Lavransdatter (winner of the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize).



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