Janet Garton Paul Larkin Culture Podcast Literature

The Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough

Listen to a podcast on the social, political and literary movement from around 1870 to 1900 in Scandinavia called the Modern Breakthrough.

Black and white portrait of an older well-dressed man, white hair and beard
Portrait of the influential Danish writer and critic Georg Brandes, taken in 1903. Photo: Det Kgl. Biblioteks billedsamling (The Danish National Library's collection of Prints and Photographs).

The social, political and literary movement from around 1870 to 1900 in Scandinavia was called the Modern Breakthrough. It was a backlash against conservatism, both culturally and politically, and led to countless challenging and fascinating pieces of fictional and non-fictional literature and art. Authors were like celebrities, propounding social justice for the poor, emancipation and rights for women, taking up naturalist ideas post-Darwin, and kicking against the overriding religion. But was it really that revolutionary? And did it make a difference to Scandinavian society in the end?

Listen to this podcast with two guests ideally placed to talk about the subject: Janet Garton, Emeritus Professor in Scandinavian Studies and translator and editor of mainly 19th and 20th century Norwegian and Danish literature; and, Paul Larkin, a writer of fiction and essays, he is also a translator whose recent works include the 1917 Nobel prize-winner Henrik Pontopiddan's A Fortunate Man (Lykke Per). Janet and Paul know one another through their work, e.g. Janet was the editor for Paul's translation of Terminal Innocence (Den Kroniske Uskyld). They are discussing the Modern Breakthrough with editor of nordics.info Nicola Witcombe.

Spoiler alert!: If you listen to this podcast, several endings of famous Scandinavian novels will be disclosed!

Podcast

The authors and works that are mentioned in this podcast

Denmark's flag, red with a whites stripes formed like a sideways cross
  • Erik Skram
  • Georg Brandes: Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature (Hovedstrømninger i det 19de Aarhundredes Litteratur)
  • Hans Kirk: The Fishermen (Fiskerne)
  • Henrik Pontopiddan: A Fortunate Man (Lykke Per, recently translated by Paul Larkin); Sandinge Congregation (Sandinge Menighed); and Den 4de Februar (Digt til Georg Brandes’ 70 Års Fødselsdag – “Han raabte ”Bliv Lys!” – og der voksede Mørke”)
  • Jeppe Aakjær
  • Johannes V. Jensen
  • Karen Blixen: Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud)
  • Karl Adolph Gjellerup
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  • Amalie Skram: Betrayed (Forraadt, recently translated by Katherine Hanson and Judith Messick) and The People of Hellemyr (Hellemyrsfolket)
  • Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: Tales of Peasants (Bondefortællinger) and The Gauntlet (En handske)
  • Camilla Collett: The District Governor’s Daughters (Amtmandens Døttre)
  • Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House (Et dukkehjem)
  • ‘The Four Norwegian Greats’: Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Alexander Kielland, Jonas Lie
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  • Victoria Benedictsson: Money (Pengar)
  • August Strindberg: Miss Julie (Frøken Julie), The Father (Fadren), Getting Married (Giftas)
Other
  • Émile Zola, John Stuart Mill, W.B. Yeats.
  • Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Hamlet, Icelandic sagas.

Further reading:

  • Elias Bredsdorff: Den store nordiske krig om seksualmoralen [The great Nordic war about sexual morality] (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1973).
  • Georg Brandes, Det moderne Gjennembruds Mænd [The Men of the Modern Breakthrough] (Copenhagen: Gyldendalske boghandels forlag (F. Hegel & søn), 1883).
  • Georg Brandes, Russisk og tysk litteratur (Udvalgte Skrifter, 1986).
  • Flemming Behrendt, Livsrusen – En bog om Henrik Pontoppidan [Seized by life – Henrik Pontoppidan] (Copenhagen: Gads Forlag, 2019).
  • Janet Garton, Amalie. Et forfatterliv [Amalie: The life of an author] (Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 2011).
  • Niels Kofoed, Henrik Pontoppidan (1986).
  • Paul Larkin, Henrik Pontoppidan, Kierkegaard and ‘Danish Gothic’ (Henrik Pontoppidan as Educator) (academia.edu, 2021).
  • Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Mo, The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjornsen and Moe (University of Minnesota Press, 2019).

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