Original artwork inspired by Lykke Per, courtesy “Tourist Near Paradise.”
Way back in October, it was brought to my attention that Danish Nobel Laureate Henrik Pontoppidan had been somewhat (facetiously) maligned in a New Yorker piece about the relative (un)importance of the Nobel Prize. As I mentioned then, Pontoppidan’s short stories “The Royal Guest” and “The Polar Bear” were largely responsible for my further investigations of Danish literature. Or rather, it was a combination of the limited availability of those short stories, as well as the almost complete unavailability of Pontoppidan’s novel, Lykke Per.
It’s seemed to me a very sad state of things that the most famous novel by a Nobel Laureate had fallen out of English translation, which is why I was delighted to find out that a new translation of Lykke Per was published in English in June 2010. The new translation was undertaken by Naomi Lebowitz, a much lauded professor in Washington University, St. Louis’ Comparative Literature Department.
The book will set you back about $70 on Amazon, which you may not be entirely inclined to invest this soon after the holidays. Luckily, however, you can get a taste of the novel via an abridged lay translation that was done by fellow Danish language and literature enthusiast “Ventristwo” on his blog “Tourist Near Paradise.” Ventristwo generally blogs about life on the island of St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. (It may surprise you to know that the U.S. Virgin Islands were colonized by the Danes in the late 1600s and were previously known as the Danish West Indies.) “An even-handedness comes through the work and a spirit of irrepressible youth, luck and determination fashion an honorable peace for all despite rigid adult certainties bent on suppression,” Ventristwo says of the book.
Ventristwo includes a number of long passages from throughout the novel on his site, so definitely check it out. It seems that great minds are thinking alike to finally bring us Lykke Per in English again. Lucky us!