Henrik Pontoppidan (1857-1943) was a Danish novelist who received the 1917 Nobel Prize in Literature, which he shared with his fellow Danish writer Karl Gjellerup.

He was born on the 24th of July 1857 as the son of theologist and minister Dines Pontoppidan. Henrik was one of the middle children in a flock of sixteen, and spent his early childhood in the Jutland, Denmark town of Fredericia. When he was six years old, his father was transferred to Randers (another Jutland town), just one year before Denmark suffered an invasion of Prussian and Austrian armies. Randers was briefly occupied and sacked by Prussian troops, and his brief exposure to the horrors of war as a young boy left a deep impression on him. Indeed, he would sometimes return to write about the invasion in his literary works.

As a young man he caught an interest in engineering, and when he was seventeen years old, he moved to Copenhagen to study his chosen field at the Institute of Polytechnics. During a summer trip to Switzerland, he started taking up recreational writing, soon realizing he had a talent for the written word. Originally, he mainly wrote descriptions of nature and folk life, until eventually finding that the study of man held more creative inspiration for him. He started out writing short stories, but eventually drifted into writing novels, a form which had seen a rise in popularity during his young life (formerly being a largely neglected form of expression, the novel had plunged from being a form scoffed at to being a form standing alongside the ancient epic and drama in prestige at this point of time). His career as a published writer was kicked off in 1881, when a publisher released his collection of short stories Stækkede Vinger ("Clipped Wings"). That same year, he married Mette Marie Hansen, and the couple spent a lot of time travelling Denmark, Germany, Italy and Switzerland together. Their marriage was brief, however, and they broke up just seven years after they were married.

Pontoppidan's main body of work is a trilogy consisting of Det Forjættede Land ("The Promised Land"), Lykke-Per ("Lucky Per/Peter") and De Dødes Rige ("The Kingdom of the Dead"), at least some of which any Danish high school student has read. This trilogy was a social, religious and political commentary of Denmark at the time the books were written (1892-1916), primarily written through descriptions of human minds and human fates in the books' realistic universes. In his other works, which he himself described as more "personal", he allowed his imagination to run a little more free. He also wrote five volumes of memoirs, published 1933-1943, and occasionally dabbled in poetry.

He died in his home in Charlottenlund, a Copenhagen suburb, in 1943. At this point in time, he was again living in a city occupied by foreign forces, this time Nazi Germany. Two years after his death, the Third Reich crumbled to dust and the occupation forces left Denmark. Today, there are streets named after him in several towns in Denmark.

Bibliography

  • Stækkede Vinger (1881)
  • Sandinge Menighed (1883)
  • Landsbybilleder (1883)
  • Ung Elskov (1885)
  • Mimoser. Et Familieliv (1886)
  • Fra Hytterne. Nye Landsbybilleder (1887)
  • Isbjørnen. Et Portræt (1887)
  • Spøgelser. En Historie (1888)
  • Skyer. Skildringer fra Provisoriernes Dage (1890)
  • Reisebilder aus Dänemark (1890)
  • Natur. To smaa Romaner (1890)
  • Krøniker (1890)
  • Muld. Et Tidsbillede (Copenhagen: P.G. Philipsen, 1891)
  • Det forjættede Land. Et Tidsbillede (1892)
  • Minder (1893)
  • Nattevagt (1894)
  • Den gamle Adam. Skildring fra Alfarvej (1894)
  • Dommens Dag. Et Tidsbillede (1895)
  • Højsang. Skildring fra Alfarvej (1896)
  • Kirkeskuden. Fortælling. (1897)
  • Lykke-Per hans Ungdom (1898)
  • Lykke-Per finder Skatten (1898)
  • Lykke-Per hans Kærlighed (1899)
  • Fortællinger I. Bind (1899)
  • Lykke-Per i det fremmede (1899)
  • Lille Rødhætte. Et Portræt (1900)
  • Det ideale Hjem (1900)
  • Lykke-Per hans store Værk (1901)
  • Lykke-Per og hans Kæreste (1902)
  • De vilde Fugle. Et Skuespil (1899)
  • Lykke-Per hans Rejse til Amerika (1903)
  • Lykke-Per hans sidste Kamp (1904)
  • Borgmester Hoeck og Hustru. Et Dobbeltportræt (1905)
  • Asgaardsrejen. Et Skuespil (1906)
  • Det store Spøgelse (1906)
  • Hans Kvast og Melusine (1907)
  • Den kongelige Gæst (1908)
  • Torben og Jytte. En Fortælling-Kres I (1912)
  • Storeholt. En Fortælling-Kres II (1913)
  • Kirken og dens Mænd. Et foredrag (1914)
  • Toldere og Syndere. En Fortælling-Kres III (1914)
  • Enslevs død. En Fortælling-Kres IV (1915)
  • Favsingholm : En Fortælling-Kres V (1916)
  • De Dødes Rige I-II. 2. edition (1917)
  • Et Kærlighedseventyr (1918)
  • En Vinterrejse. Nogle Dagbogsblade (1920)
  • Mands Himmerig. (1927)
  • Drengeaar (1933)
  • Hamskifte (1936)
  • Arv og Gæld (1938)
  • Familjeliv (1940)
  • Undervejs til mig selv. Et Tilbageblik (1943)

References:

  • http://www.henrikpontoppidan.dk
  • http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1917/pontoppidan-autobio.html

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