Most of us have grown up with Scrooge’s Christmas Eve escapades. We know the plot, the catch phrases, the every “bah, humbugs!” like the back of our hands. The names Ebenezer, Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit are now as deeply familiar to us as Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty. We know it all. Or do we? What is it about those Victorian names that haunt our yuletide imagination? What are they hiding about the characters we re-invite into our homes every year? And what, moreover, do they say about Dickens’ supposedly simple tale that may not be so simple after all?
The nineteenth century was one of progress in science, but also literature underwent considerable changes. Innovative writers around the world propagated realism and naturalism in their work. An important Danish figure of the movement, who is almost forgotten today although his works were widely read in his time as well as after his early death, was Jens Peter Jacobsen. However, he was much more than just a naturalist writer. His influence is notable in the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, D. H. Lawrence and many others. And yet, who still remembers him outside Scandinavia?
J. P. Jacobsen was a very intelligent young man with a great interest both in natural science as well as in literature. The work of Charles Darwin impressed him and inspired him to disseminate it in Scandinavia through his translations and scientific articles. Also his poems, short stories and novels show the deep impact that the Theory of Evolution left on his mind. His œuvre may be very small because he died already at the age of thirty-eight years, but with its markedly impressionistic language and an extremely precise as well as introspective style it left lasting traces in literature.
Click here to read my portrait of this important and impressive Danish writer.
There are authors who are tremendously famous in their own countries and yet virtually unknown abroad. One of them is the incredibly prolific Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco, first Visconde de Correia Botelho whom I portrayed on my literature blog Edith's Miscellany this week.
His time was the nineteenth century and Romance novels made his fame. Up to this day his work is held in esteem by the Portuguese and some of his novels are even read in school. Two of his principal works - Amor de Perdição (1862; Doomed Love) and Mistérios de Lisboa (1854; Mysteries of Lisbon) - have been adapted for the screen in 2009 and 2010. And yet, only very few of his over 260 books have been translated into English.
Click here to read my portrait of this remarkable Portuguese writer!
There are many female writers who during their lifetime didn't get the deserved attention and are forgotten as soon as they have breathed their last. On the international level this is certainly true for the Polish novelist Eliza Orzeszkowa although she was not just twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but actually very close to winning it both times. In 1905 her fellow-countryman Henryk Sienkiewicz carried off the prestigious award and in 1909 the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf took it home to Sweden.
But who was this Polish woman who competed with the great literary men and women of her time including Leo Tolstoy? However well-remembered she and her work may still be in Poland, outside her country hardly anyone has ever heard of Eliza Orzeszkowa although her writings have long entered into the public domain. Only very few of her books are available in translation, even on Project Gutenberg. This remarkable nineteenth-century novelist definitely deserves better and so I gave her room on my blog Edith's Miscellany.
Click here to read my portrait of this Polish writer!