, Volume 4, Issue 3–4, pp 167–194 | Cite as

Scandinavia: The model of a culture and its applicability to literature

  • George Bisztray


Scandinavian Country Literary History Prose National Literature Cultural Sphere 
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  1. 2.
    Cf. e.g. D. S. Connery,The Scandinavians (New York, 1966), p. 17; W. R. Mead and W. Hall,Scandinavia (New York, 1972), p. 19; F. D. Scott,Scandinavia (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), p. 6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    These terms are identical with those adopted by the American Board of Geographic Names (cf.The American-Scandinavian Review, March 1974, p. 101). Scandinavian scholars of geography by and large agree on these terms, except that they tend to regard Fennoscandia as an only geographically but not culturally relevant term, and doubt that Denmark belongs to Fennoscandia (cf. A. Sømme,Norden, Oslo, 1960, pp. 10–15).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    In connection with the recent Norwegian debate about the European Economic Community, a leading Norwegian politician mentioned with disapproval the unfair picture of Catholicism which the youth in this country receive in school (H. Lange, “Norge, Norden og Europa,”Samtiden, 3, 1970, p. 174). A valuable survey of anti-Catholic demagoguery in the Norwegian EEC-debate can be found in T. Hall's article “Religious Attitudes and Arguments in the Norwegian EEC-Debate,”Scandinavian Studies, 4, 1974, pp. 37–91. True enough, anti-Catholicism is most typical of Norway, where it sometimes reaches paranoid dimensions. At the same time, also such spontaneous mass movements were initiated in Norway as the collecting of more than one millionkroner for the progressive Brazilian Catholic bishop Helder Camara (winner of the “Norwegian People's Nobel Peace Prize” in 1973), underscoring the paradoxes and inconsistencies of Scandinavian culture.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    In order to make this paper conveniently readable for those unacquainted with the Scandinavian languages, quotes appear in English translation. Since Scandinavian works were often translated under different titles, however, in our text and notes we refer to the original Scandinavian titles.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    About the documentary tradition in Scandinavian literature, cf. G. Bisztray, “The Documentary Novel in Scandinavia,”Scandinavian Studies, 1, 1976.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Op. cit., pp. 15–22.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    In the perspective of the increasingly vociferous protest from within and abroad against the policy of the Scandinavian countries toward these minorities, it is surprising to find stated in Mead and Hall's book that Scandinavia has “no experience of racial minorities” (p. 19).Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Cf. G. Abel, “Nabosprogundervisningen i Skandinavia,”Samtiden, 8, 1974, p. 498.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Sources: Statistiska centrabyrån,Statistisk årsbok för Sverige (Stockholm, 1972), p. 322;Om å utgi bøker (Oslo, 1974), p. 40; H. Hertel, “Det litteraere system i Danmark,” in R. Escarpit,Bogen og laeseren (København, 1972), p. 297.Google Scholar
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    New York, 1964.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    In order to substantiate our findings, below we list the literature surveyed. Although some relevant studies might have avoided our attention, the works in this bibliography should nevertheless be regarded as a representative international set of data, sufficient to draw certain general statistical conclusions. Scandinavian literature is discussed in a completely or predominantly juxtaposing way in the following handbooks: F. W. Horn,Geschichte der Literatur des Skandinavischen Nordens (Leipzig, 1880); E. Gosse,Northern Studies (London, 1890); H. G. Topsøe-Jensen,Scandinavian Literature from Brandes to Our Day (New York, 1929); G. Bach, F. Blankner et al.,The History of Scandinavian Literatures (New York, 1938); H. Stangerup, Levende nordisk litteratur (København, 1942); E. Bredsdorff, B. Mortensen, R. Popperwell,An Introduction to Scandinavian Literature from the Earliest Time to Our Day (København, 1951); W. Friese,Nordische Literaturen im 20. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart, 1971); Föreningen Norden,Ny litteratur i Norden (Stockholm, biannually); Å. Runnquist,Moderna nordiska författare (Stockholm, 1966). The essayists' claim to their right of dealing with limited subjects only, is especially disavantageous for integration. Indeed, the three relevant essay collections on Scandinavian literature which we ran across are all non-integrated: H. H. Boyesen,Essays on Scandinavian Literature (New York, 1895); L. Maury,L'imagination scandinave (Paris, 1929); A. Gustavson,Six Scandinavian Novelists (New York, 1940). It is much less understandable why so many anthologies of Scandinavian literature establish rigid national pigeonholes, as do theOxford Book of Scandinavian Verse (Oxford, 1925), and numerous editors of otherwise respectable anthologies, such as: M. S. Allwood,Twentieth Century Scandinavian Poetry (Mullsjö, 1950); A. Österling,All Nordens lyrikk (Stockholm, Oslo, 1962); H. Hallmundsson,An Anthology of Scandinavian Literature (New York, 1965); G. Coward,Vår diktning (Oslo, 1967). All of the integrated literary histories available to us were published during the last decade, which is a laudable circumstance. Here are the titles: W. Friese,Nordische Barckdichtung (München, 1968); M. Gabrieli,Le letterature della Scandinavia (Firenze, Milano, 1969—an exceptionally lucid survey which should truly deserve an international reputation!); S. H. Rossel,Skandinavische Literaturen 1870–1970 (Stuttgart, 1973). A pathetic mule is, however, a long awaited two-volume work,Nordens litteratur (København, Oslo, Lund, 1972), which was published by the support of the prestigeous Nordic Council. Although the introductions to the different chapters are comparative and inter-Scandinavian, the chapters themselves discuss the national literatures separately, within fairly narrow historical frames. There are surprisingly few integrated literry collections. In fact, we found only two:Nordens stämma (Stockholm, 1943); and the recently startedAntologi af nordisk literatur (København, 1970—...), planned to be complete in eleven volumes, edited by two large, separate “work collectives.” The amazing shortage of books on, and collections of, Scandinavian iterature is in striking contrast to the immense number of literary histories of the three national literatures, individually.Google Scholar

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© Akadémiai Kiadó 1976

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  • George Bisztray

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