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“...everything seemed strangely to stand up vertically...”

"The scenery of Norway, amongst which she had made her first experience of the passion, contributed to the overpowering impression of it. The country was at its loveliest, the sky was blue, the bird-cherry flowered everywhere and filled the air with sweet and bitter fragrance, and the nights were so light that you could see to read at midnight. Jensine, in a crinoline and with an alpenstock, climbed many steep paths on her husband's arm - or alone, for she was strong and light-footed - she stood upon the summits, her clothes blown about her, and wondered and wondered. She had lived in Denmark, and a year in a pension in Lübeck, and her idea of the earth was that it must spread out horizontally, flat or undulating, before her feet. But in these mountains, everything seemed strangely to stand up vertically, like some great animal that rises on its hind legs - and you know not whether it is to play, or to crush you. She was higher than she had ever been, and the air went to her head like wine. Also wherever she looked there was running water, rushing from the sky-high mountains into the lakes, in silver rivulets or in roaring falls, rainbow-adorned - it was as if Nature itself was weeping, or laughing, aloud." - Isak Dinesen, from "The Pearls"

I first read this collection (Winter's Tales) during college in a Scandinavian literature class, but it didn't make much of an impression then, and I sold off the book sometime afterward. But after reading about the unabashed reverence of William Maxwell and Eudora Welty for Dinesen (especially Maxwell), I decided to give the book another try. I'm realizing now that it probably wasn't the sort of fiction I was into during my twenties, but this time around I'm enjoying it quite a bit. And that's only partly due to the change of scenery - to my Scandinavian homeland - after spending my summer in Welty's Mississippi.

As an aside, the protagonist has such a lovely name: Jensine, which is presumably the feminine form of Jens. I don’t remember ever seeing that name before.

September 4, 2018 in Books | Permalink


Fun fact: Dinesen did the Danish-English translation of the book herself. At first I was confused that the book didn't list any translator, but after hunting around online, now I know why.

Posted by: Pete at Sep 6, 2018 12:38:14 PM