Henrik Pontoppidan Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Henrik Pontoppidan’s reputation rests almost exclusively on his novels and short stories. His three voluminous novel cycles, published between 1891 and 1916, are considered masterpieces of Scandinavian prose. They not only sketch broad and satirical pictures of the political and intellectual developments of contemporary Denmark but also portray and analyze characters in conflict with society as well as with their own passions. In all three works, the focus is on a protagonist who becomes increasingly disillusioned, leading to isolation and death. In his later years, Pontoppidan wrote four autobiographical volumes, Drengeaar (1933), Hamskifte (1936), Arv og Gæld (1938), and Familjeliv (1940), which rank among the most accomplished biographical writing in Danish literature. In these volumes as well as in his other works, which are characterized by irony and harsh judgments of contemporary societal trends, Pontoppidan emerges as a stern moralist, constantly emphasizing the individual’s own responsibility in shaping his or her life.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Henrik Pontoppidan, independent of any literary school or clique, was one of the most respected writers of his time. He ranks among the most prominent writers in any presentation of Danish or Scandinavian literature. In 1917, he shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with another Danish writer, Karl Gjellerup; it was awarded to him primarily for his three novel cycles. In 1929, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lund, Sweden, and in 1933, he was made an honorary citizen of Randers, the town in which he grew up.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ingwersen, Niels. “The Modern Breakthrough.” In A History of Danish Literature, edited by Sven H. Rossel. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. This excellent chapter on Danish realism and naturalism offers a brief but precise introduction to Pontoppidan, stressing his pessimistic worldview, but his plays are not mentioned.

Marker, Frederick J., and Lise-Lone Marker. A History of Scandinavian Theatre. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996. This richly illustrated overview of Scandinavian drama from the Middle Ages to 1990 gives special emphasis to Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg but does not discuss Pontoppidan.

Mitchell, Phillip Marshall. Henrik Pontoppidan. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A full-length monograph and an excellent introduction to the writings of Pontoppidan; not much detail, however, is given to the plays. The volume contains a selected bibliography of primary and secondary sources.