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Niels Lyhne [Paperback]

Jens Peter Jacobsen , Eric Johannesson , Tiina Nunnally
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 25 2006 Penguin Classics

Niels Lyhne is an aspiring poet, torn between romanticism and realism, faith and reason. Through his relationships with six women—including his young widowed aunt, a seductive free spirit, and his passionate cousin who marries his friend—his search for purpose becomes a yielding to disillusionment. One of Danish literature's greatest novels, with nods to Kierkegaard and a protagonist some critics have compared to Hamlet, Jacobsen's masterpiece has at its center a young man who faces the anguish of the human condition but cannot find comfort in the Christian faith. Tiina Nunnally's award-winning translation offers readers a chance to experience anew a writer deeply revered by Rilke, Ibsen, Mann, and Hesse.

 


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This highly influential late-19th century Danish novel portrays the melancholy life of an idealistic young poet.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Jacobsen has made a more profound impression on my heart than any other reading in recent years. (Sigmund Freud)

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She had the black shining eyes of the Blid family, with fine, straight eyebrows; she had their strongly contoured nose, their powerful jaw and full lips. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Anoverlooked classic Oct. 20 2011
Format:Paperback
Jens Jacobsen's "Niels Lyhne" deserves all the praise heaped upon it by Rainer Maria Rilke in his Letters to a Young Poet. Jacobsen's prose style is of the highest order; he has few equals in being able to delineate character in a few superbly crafted sentences. "Niels Lyhne" is a most happy find which, in my opinion, deserves a much larger audience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Novel of Disilusion Feb. 9 2001
Format:Paperback
This was the book more fantastic that I had read!!!!! This tell us about how a soul fell itself when your love is not recompensed. It makes a psycological interpretation of your mind in these so sad and difficult situation. It is a sensitive book for sensitive people!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuttal to Independent Publisher Feb. 2 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is not a reprint, but a new translation by acclaimed translator and author Tiina Nunnally of arguably the finest novel ever to come out of Scandinavia. It had a huge influence on European writers, especially in Germany, where teenage boys would carry around a Danish dictionary in the vain hope of reading Jacobsen in the original, according to Stefan Zweig, and where the novel has been translated at least 6 times. Read it and see where Thomas Mann got his ideas for "Tonio Kröger." Jacobsen, who was a botanist as well as the translator of Darwin into Danish, fills the novel with flowers and plants, and he knows whereof he speaks. Dive headlong into this examination of creativity vs. lethargy, atheism vs. faith, and the seemingly infinite ability of the hero to misunderstand women!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuttal to Independent Publisher Feb. 2 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is not a reprint, but a new translation by acclaimed translator and author Tiina Nunnally of arguably the finest novel ever to come out of Scandinavia. It had a huge influence on European writers, especially in Germany, where teenage boys would carry around a Danish dictionary in the vain hope of reading Jacobsen in the original, according to Stefan Zweig, and where the novel has been translated at least 6 times. Read it and see where Thomas Mann got his ideas for "Tonio Kröger." Jacobsen, who was a botanist as well as the translator of Darwin into Danish, fills the novel with flowers and plants, and he knows whereof he speaks. Dive headlong into this examination of creativity vs. lethargy, atheism vs. faith, and the seemingly infinite ability of the hero to misunderstand women!
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad translation, buy the Penguin Classic! Nov. 3 2007
By Bear in the Canyon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's a major drawback for publishers that Amazon's system links the reviews and promotional material for all versions of a book indiscriminately, so that an old, flawed, bowdlerized, and misleading translation such as this one from 1919 by Hanna Astrup Larsen is allowed to profit from the comments made for the new translation by Tiina Nunnally published by Fjord Press in 1990. With Fjord's demise this definitive and superior translation is now available from Penguin Classics -- buy it instead!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Atheist's Progress Jan. 28 2009
By frumiousb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When I was reading this book I had a variety of reactions. First, I was struck by the quality of the thinking and the prose. Second, I was seriously seriously annoyed by the endless Romantic Angst in the book. I really really wanted Niels Lyhne to go out, get a job, and stop whining. That second point inflected my entire reading of the book.

As I closed it, I thought: "I should have read this when I was 18."

And I still kind of think that. The point of view is more immediately relevant to someone just in the throes of figuring out The Meaning of Life.

But now, as I go through my notes and passages from the book, I believe that I did Jacobsen (and the novel) a real disservice. There's something more complicated going on here than the typical Sorrows of Young Werther Sturm und Drang.

I've now, in retrospect, come to see Niels Lynhe as a kind of rewriting of the Book of Job. Only, in the case of our protagonist, it is his atheism which is tested by life. It's an interesting idea, but also a confusing one-- the whole notion of being tested implies agency of some kind (and Lyhne certainly does seem to lead a complicated and cursed life) which throws the whole question of his atheism into a different light. Even the remarks of his friend as he lay dying seem to me to bring into doubt where Jacobsen sat in this debate. The idea that God rewards steadfastness rather than a particular point of view? I feel humbled by my own arrogance that I had reading the book, as I consider now that there is something quite subtle being questioned-- a very delicate point that I'm not sure that I understand even now.

So here's the value for me in doing these reviews and taking notes-- if I'd just left my experience of the book once I put it down, I believe that I would have missed part of the value in the reading experience. I'd recommend it in the end.

(I have no complaints about either the Penguin Classics edition or the Nunnally translation. The introduction wasn't particularly informative, but at least it wasn't tiresome either.)
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books of the 19th Century April 15 2012
By Luca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is unfortunate and distressing that comments on the Penguin Classic edition have made the purchase of this gem a veritable nightmare. Having read the disparaged bowdlerized version of Hanna Astrup Larsen (Scandinavian Classic first printing 1919) and Tiina Nunnally's rendition (Penguin, 2005) I must address the issue and put to rest what has become an absurd debate that is faulty and irresponsible. I should also note that Tiina Nunnally's translation received the PEN Center USA West Translation Award for her labors, and her version retains the candor, lyricism, enthusiasm and melancholy cadence that is often described as proper to Jacobsen's style. I think it appropriate also to note that the Penguin Classic edition is free of any abridgement and that it is published unadulterated by omissions.
The book was deemed controversial for the professed atheism of the protagonist. Indeed Niels refutes the opportunity to renege his atheism at the hour of his death when given the opportunity, and all the more receives the blessing of his friend Hjerrild who claims that if he were God he would rather "Bless the one who would not change his mind at the end". However this is a crucial theme of the book - the loss of a metaphysical authority to make sense of things. The primary focus remains the fearless search for reason and meaning, sensations and love in a world that seems intent on defeating any such quest and demeaning the valor of the heart. The love scenes are of such profound beauty that they delight and excite, inspire and enliven. A constant focus being the idealism of love and the dreaded pragmatic vicissitudes that vulgarize it and, by the book's end, the redemption that may yet come of it. The narrative takes us from the day-dreams of youth to the hope for greatness, and to finally the realization that life is to be endured for what it is. A stark realism pervades the last pages, where hope is lost and truth declaimed as inadequate to satisfy the longings of the brave. It is a novel whose poetry is stifled by the vulgar apprehensions of everyday life. It is a novel that dreams the big dreams and fears the nightmare only to eventually consign itself to the inevitable brutal truth that makes for a "difficult death." It is with reason and accuracy that much as been made of Rilke's, Hesse's, and Thomas Mann's debt to the book; indeed "The Notebooks of Brigge", "Tonio Kruger", and "Damien" thread a common theme and live a similar fate, but there are some passages in Niels Lynhe that are simply brilliant aesthetically, and anyone who forgoes reading Jacobsen's novel should feel deprived of one of literature's best books ever written.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid the General Books edition Jan. 31 2010
By D. Hollowell - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I bought the 2009 General-Books.net edition, which unbeknownst to me was scanned, copied and printed by computers without humans checking the text. It is a shamefully error-filled book. Typos abound and entire paragraphs are frequently cut off. This book is in the public domain and can be read for free online, so a substandard printing is inexcusable, to say nothing of a printing with no standards at all.

Here's a sentence from the first paragraph of the text:

"It tells of his ekrly dreams and ideals, his efforts to know and to achieve, his revolt against the dreaniswathed dogmas in which people take refuge fromjTarsh. reality"
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