In Association with

Choose another writer in this calendar:

by name:

by birthday from the calendar.

Credits and feedback

for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

Stig Henning Jacob Puggaard Paludan (1896-1975)


Danish essayist, poet, and novelist, whose sceptic view of his times marked his writings. Paludan was the leading critic of the conservative Copenhagen newspaper Dagens Nyheder, where he often expressed his fear of the Americanization of European culture. Among Paludan's best-known novels are Fugle omkring fyret (1925), Markerne modnes (1927), and the monumental epic Jørgen Stein (1932-33).

"Min egentlige politiske Overbevisning er vistnok nærmest den, at Parlamentarisme er en skøn Ide, en altfor skøn Ide for denne uskønne Verden." (from a letter to Thorvald Petersen, April 1924, in Breve fra Jacob Paludan til Thorvald Petersen, 1999)

Jacob Paludan was born in Copenhagen, the son of Professor Julius Paludan, and Gerda Puggaard, 16 years her husband's junior. With the support of conservative academic circles, Julius was appointed in 1892 to the chair of  compartive literature at the University of Copenhagen  – a post for which  the leading Scandinavian literary critic Georg Brandes had been the most obvious candidate in 1872, but was not elected. 

Paludan always felt that his older brother Hans Aage was the favoured child. Moreover, Julius never acknowledged his son's accomplishments as a writer, even after the success of Fugle omkring fyret (1925, Birds Around the Light). Paludan, on the other hand, distanced himself from his father and  the reactionary writers of the National Society of Authors (National Forfatterforening).

Originally Paludan was trained as a pharmacist, qualifying in 1918. After working in Nordsjælland and Frederiksberg and experiencing unemployment, he left for the United States in 1920 with Erik C. Eberlin (1899-1943), whom he had met during his apprenticeship as a pharmacist in Aalborg. On his own, he went  to Ecuador. Before returning to Denmark, he also spent some time in New York and Atlantic City. While in the United States he developed a deep aversion to commercial culture and vulgarism. In rejecting the aesthetics of modern technology – "the beauty of speed," as the Italian futurist Marinetti put it – he stood in opposition to many of his contemporary Scandinavian writers, including his countrymen Tom Kristensen (1891-1974) and Johannes V. Jensen (1873-1950). Paludan even preferred writing in longhand to using a typewriter.

Paludan's first novel, De vestlige veje, came out in 1922, but he had written for many years, struggling to get his work published. In this emigrant novel, Paludan attacked American urban life, which the author considered materialistic and superficial. "We are at the end of an epoch," says one of the characters, a professional musician, who hates jazz and the gramophone. "The desperation of the age resonates in its idiotic music." When the book was republished in 1959, Paludan warned against seeing it as an attack on America. Urolige sange (1923), his  only collection of poems, not stir any interest. Søgelys (1923), a satire on the Danish life-style, dealt similar themes as De vestlige veje. The protagonist is a Danish-American war veteran named Hugo Fahlen, who returns to Copenhagen and observes symptoms of cultural decline all around. In the center of the novel is a boarding house and its various guest, all looking for harmony, in one way or another.

At the death of his uncle, Paludan inherited a sizable fortune. At this point, he decided to abandon his career as a pharmacist in Frederiksberg, and move into full-time writing. Both of his parents died in 1926. Paludan lived at home, and in boarding houses and summer houses, but eventually he settled in 1931 in Birkerød, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1943 Paludan married Lykke Vibeke von Holck, costume designer. Living in Birkerød, some 20 km from Copenhagen, suited him well. He was a shy and reserved person, more comfortable as an observer than as a participant. A humanist to the core, he worshipped classical music and played violin for his own pleasure.

After 1925 Paludan worked as a literary critic for various newspapers, including Dagens Nyheder, Politiken, and Århus Stiftstidende. In  the semisymbolic novel Fugle omkring fyret Paludan explored the destructive forces of technological progress – in this case a harbor-building project in the  boom period during WW I – on nature and culture. At the end the ocean crushes human constructions. It was followed by Paludan's most pessimistic novel, Markerne modnes (1927), a tragic story about two artistically gifted young men, Ivar and Ralf, who fail in their ambitious aspirations.

". . . God was Nature, Nature was God; God was the great All, the Great Nothing; was the secret impulse; was heard in the voice of the sea . . ." (from Birds Around the Light, 1928)

Critics have compared Paludan's Bildungsroman Jørgen Stein (1932-33) to Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. This two-volume family saga follows the attitudes of three generations from pre-World War I period to the disillusioned generation of the 1920s.  Jørgen, the title character, is unable to commit himself either to society or to a woman, but finds finally resignated peace in Marie, a down to earth woman, and in nature and physical work. His father, a government official, faces the breakdown of his conservative world. The character is said to have been modelled on the father of Paludan's close friend Eberlin, an advertising pioneer and crime novelist. Jørgen's brother, the lawyer Otto becomes involved in monetary speculations and eventually commits suicide. At the end the resignated Jørgen settles down to a new existence; he marries a farmer's daughter and becomes a chicken farmer.

Upon its publication, Jørgen Stein received negative reviews, but in 1946 it was regarded as one of the major Danish books between the wars. However, after this magnum opus, Paludan did not write any more novels, but embarked on a career as an essayist, starting from Feodor Jansens jeramiader (1927). His early pieces often focused on the American way of life and feminism, as exemplified in 'Jansen og det kvindelige' from this volume, in which Paludan claims that women attach themselves to people and men to objects and young women do not need friends but admirers. In Landluft (1944) and Han gik ture (1949) the author contemplated on nature and mystical experiences. Paludan did not ridicule parapsychology and he had suggested in 1945 in a feature article that scientists look into the matter. Once he witnessed objects floating (seemingly) in the air in the studio of the psychical researcher and photographer Sven Türck. 

From 1940 Paludan edited Hasselbalchs Kulturbibliotek, a book series that popularized arts and letters. Paludan translated several books into Danish, most notably Sinclair Lewis' Dodsworth and Kristmann Gudmundsson's Livet's Morgen. His sarcastic wit Paludan showed in his two collections of aphorisms, Tanker og bagtanker (1937) and Små apropos'er (1943), which mocked current fashionable trends. He was a founding member of the Danish Academy, and received several awards, among them Holberg Medal (1939) and Danish Academy Prize (1964).

Between the years 1973 and 1975 Paludan published three volumes of memoirs, I høstens månefase (1973), Sløret sandhed (1974), and Vink fra en fjern virkelighet (1975). Posthumously appeared another volume of memoirs, Låsens klik (1976), finished just before his death. Paludan died in Birkerød, on September 26 in 1975. 

For further reading: Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater by Jan Sjåvik (2006); Dansk litteraturens historie: 1920-1960, edited by Klaus P. Mortensen, May Schack (2006); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Vol. 3, ed.  Steven R. Serafin (1999); 'Paludan, Jacob' by P.M. Mitchell, in The Encyclopedia of the Essay, edited by Tracy Chevalier (1997); Fra Amerika til Danmark: på rejse gennem Jacob Paludans ungdomsromaner by Poul Houe (1993); A History of Danish Literature by Sven H. Rossel (1993); Janus fra Thisted: Jacob Paludan som romankunstner by Henrik Oldenburg (1988); Jacob Paludan: historien om et venskab by Henrik Oldenburg (1984); A History of Scandinavian Literature, 1870-1980 by Sven H. Rossel (1982); Jakob Paludan, en bibliografi by B. Børge (1980); Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, ed. by Jean-Albert Bédé and William B. Edgerton (1980); Jacob Paludan by Emil Frederiksen (1966); Contemporary Danish Authors by J. Claudi (1952); Jacob Paludan by Orla Lundbo (1943); Jacob Paludan by Søren Hallar (1927)

Selected works:

  • De vestlige veje, 1922 [The Western Roads] 
  • Søgelys, 1923 [Search Light] 
  • Urolige sange, 1923 [Unquiet Songs] 
  • En vinter long, 1924 [All Winter Long] 
  • Fugle omkring fyret, 1925
    - Birds Around the Light (tr. Grace Isabel Colbron, 1928)
  • Markerne modnes, 1927 [The Fields Are Ripening] 
  • Feodor Jansens jeremiader, 1927 [The Jeremiads of Feodor Jansen]
  • Landet forude; et spil om utopien, 1928
  • Året rundt, 1929 [TheYear Around] 
  • Jørgen Stein, 1932-33 (2 vols.: Torden i syd; Under regnbuen)
    - Jørgen Stein (tr. Carl Malmberg, 1966)
  • Tanker og bagtanker, 1937
  • Chr. Kongstad Petersens Tegninger, 1937 (ed.)
  • Som om intet var haendt, 1938
  • De gamle sagde, 1941 (radio play)
  • Smaa apropos'er, 1943
  • Søgrende aander: redegørelser og debatter, 1943
  • Landluft, 1944
  • Mit kaktusvindu. Mandens blads satiriske kavalkade, 1944
  • Bøger på min vej, 1946
  • Prosa: korte ting fra tyve år, 1946
  • Bøger paa min Vej. Et Causeri, 1946 (illustrated by  Robert Storm-Petersen)
  • Facetter, 1947 [Facets] 
  • Skribenter paa yderposter: redegørelser og debatter, 1949
  • Han gik ture, 1949
  • Goethe: Af maksimer og refleksioner, 1949 (editor; Hasselbalchs Kultur-bibliotek, nr. 83)
  • Retur til barndommen, 1951 [Back to Childhood]
  • Jacob Paludan, et udvalg ved Hakon Stangerup, 1951
  • Fremad til nutiden, 1953 [Toward the Future] 
  • Sagt i korthed, 1929-1954, 1954
  • Bøger, poeter, og stilister, 1954
  • Aalborg i min ungdoms vår, 1955
  • Litterært selskab. 32 knoniker of essays, 1956
  • Den lille bog om de gode glaeder, 1956
  • Skribent at være, 1957
  • Glæde over Danmark, 1958
  • Røgringe, 1959
  • En kunstsamlers meditationer, 1960
  • Landeveje og tankeveje; udvalgte essays fra tredive aar, 1963 (3 vols.)
  • Mørkeblaat og sort, 1965 [Dark Blue and Black] 
  • Oluf Høst: Tegninger og notater, 1966 (introduction)
  • Siden De spørger--og andre Omkredsninger, 1968 [Since You Are Asking and Other Roundabout Ways]
  • Her omkring Hjørnet, her blæser det mindre, 1969
  • Draabespil. Fjorten Stykker, skrevet ved Anledning, 1971
  • Skrivebord og stjernehimmel, 1972 (ed.  Niels Birger Wamberg)
  • I høstens månefase. Lidt af en livsregistrering, 1973
  • Sløret sandhed: lidt af en livsregistrering, 1974
  • Vink fra en fjern virkelighet, 1975
  • Låsens klik: lidt af en livsregistrering, 1976
  • Breve fra Jacob Paludan til Thorvald Petersen, 1999 (ed. Niels Stengaard) 

In Association with

Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008

Creative Commons License
Authors' Calendar jonka tekijä on Petri Liukkonen on lisensoitu Creative Commons Nimeä-Epäkaupallinen-Ei muutettuja teoksia 1.0 Suomi (Finland) lisenssillä.
May be used for non-commercial purposes. The author must be mentioned. The text may not be altered in any way (e.g. by translation). Click on the logo above for information.