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Mogens And Other Stories
by J. P. Jacobsen
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From Publishers Weekly
Fjord first introduced English-speaking readers to the 19th-century Danish botanist-turned-poet in 1990 with a new translation of his classic novel Niels Lyhne. This sparkling new translation of six short stories is driven by lyrical descriptions of nature and strong third-person narratives. The sensibilities of Jacobsen's characters mirror the late 19th-century soul and the somewhat anachronistic stories are linked by a common thread of guilt, revenge and its consequences. Tragic circumstances surround love lost and found in the novella-length title tale; unrequited love turns a melancholic young man to revenge in "A Shot in the Fog"; and a murky river restores a stricken woman to health at a cost in "Two Worlds." The least successful narrative, "There Should Have Been Roses," nonetheless surprises because of its gender-bending conceit: a Roman villa sets the stage for two actresses playing male courtiers discussing women. Italy is also the setting for Jacobsen's tale of social order and its break down in "A Plague in Bergamo"; while Provence hosts the poignant "Fru Fonss," about a widow who meets her forbidden first love while traveling with her self-absorbed children. Readers should look forward to reading more of this splendid writer.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Trained in science (he was Darwin's Danish translator), Denmark's great literary realist Jacobsen (1847-85) wrote two novels and the shorter works here newly translated before succumbing to tuberculosis. These stories have the translucence and perfection of Flaubert. Jacobsen manages to perfectly conjure the Danish countryside's beauty and the tenor of nineteenth-century Danish life while retaining his hold on older, darker strata of the imagination that contain the supernatural and the more violent passions. In the novella, "Mogens," the protagonist finds the love of his life in the forest during a rainstorm, loses her in a fire, nearly goes mad from grief, then, finally recovered, finds and marries someone else. This apparently mundane story is presented in prose so luminous and beautifully detailed as to resemble poetry. "A Shot in the Fog" examines the aftermath of jealousy in the person of the mediocre Henning, who, after his beloved marries another, passes off his murder of her husband as a hunting accident only to have his doom eventually catch up with him: he dies convinced he is pursued by demons. The entire collection consists of work of the highest order, wonderfully translated. John Shreffler
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Danish
In the decade from 1870 to 1880 a new spirit was stirring in the intellectual and literary world of Denmark. George Brandes was delivering his lectures on the Main Currents of Nineteenth Century Literature; from Norway came the deeply probing questionings of the granitic Ibsen; from across the North Sea from England echoes of the evolutionary theory and Darwinism. It was a time of controversy and bitterness, of a conflict joined between the old and the new, both going to extremes, in which nearly every one had a share. How many of the works of that period are already out-worn, and how old-fashioned the theories that were then so violently defended and attacked! Too much logic, too much contention for its own sake, one might say, and too little art. This was the period when Jens Peter Jacobsen began to write, but he stood aside from the conflict, content to be merely artist, a creator of beauty and a seeker after truth, eager to bring into the realm of literature "the eternal laws of nature, its glories, its riddles, its miracles," as he once put it. That is why his work has retained its living colors until to-day, without the least trace of fading.
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