Other Literary Forms
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.