Atlantic Monthly (review date November 1874)
SOURCE: “Recent Literature.” Atlantic Monthly 34 (November 1874): 624-25.
[In the following review, the anonymous author favorably appraises Gunnar, focusing especially on Boyesen's seemingly natural command of the English language and his portrayal of Norwegian landscapes and themes.]
Amongst the works of fiction printed in the English language this year, there can hardly be any so remarkable in some aspects as the idyllic story which Mr. Boyesen tells us.1 It is not only remarkable for being a good story, which is distinction enough, but it ought to be known to every one who takes it up as an achievement almost singular in letters. It is not a translation from the Norwegian, as one might guess, but is the English of a Norwegian, thinking and expressing himself in our tongue with a grace, simplicity, and force, and a sense of its colors and harmonies, which we should heartily praise in one native to it. Mr. Boyesen has proved his genius both for literature and for language. The example of the Italian Ruffini, who writes charming novels in English, and the case of the Italian Gallenga, whose work is a model of journalistic writing in our language, are the only instances worthy to be compared with the present; and we believe that these authors have lived a long time in England; whereas Mr. Boyesen's citizenship is as new as the last election.
But it is not on his phenomenal side that we care mostly to regard him, and if his English were not joined with poetic instinct and a rare artistic power, it might remain for the gratification solely of persons of “culture.” We like his Gunnar because it is the work of a poet, and announces its origin in all characteristics. It is of that good school of which Björnstjerne Björnson is the head, and to which we have nothing answering, of English root. It is an idyllic sort of story which regards simple things naturally, but at the same time poetically. As our readers know, the scene is almost entirely among the Norwegian peasants; the plot is the love of a houseman's (or tenant's) son for the daughter of a rich peasant landowner, and relates to Gunnar's growth from a dreamy boyhood to...
(The entire section is 913 words.)