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||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
he left for the United States in 1920 with Erik C. Eberlin
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
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
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)