Lucky Per

Henrik Pontoppidan, trans. from the Danish by Naomi Lebowitz. Everyman’s Library, $28 (664p) ISBN 978-1-101-90809-9
This vast bildungsroman from 1917 the Nobel Prize winner Pontoppidan (1857–1943) offers a panorama of early 20th-century Danish society in the throes of social and industrial change. A classic in Denmark, the novel flings its hero, Per Sidenius, into one moral crisis after another. The son of a provincial clergyman, Per flees his family to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. Penniless in Copenhagen, the vain and restless young student encounters poets, politicians, and men of the cloth who represent the conflicting philosophies of Pontoppidan’s day. Per’s grand ambition is to build a massive harbor project that will bring Denmark into the modern age, and he arrogantly schemes to achieve his goals, breaking hearts at every turn. In need of patronage, he falls in with a remarkable Jewish family, whose enlightened daughter, Jakobe, becomes his fiancée for a time. Per is of many minds, however, and his life eventually spirals out of the metropolis into the countryside. His character proves finally to be too small a vessel in which to pour the era’s myriad ideas, and it is Jakobe—one of the most vibrant and complex female characters found in the literature of the era—with whom the author imbues the most noble of them. This sprawling saga of one Dane’s life also succeeds as an epochal portrait of noisy, pluralistic, turn-of-the-20th-century Europe. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/01/2019
Release date: 04/16/2019
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 558 pages - 978-1-4539-0509-8
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