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Herman Bang

Herman Bang, 1857-1912, was from the late 1870s until his death frequently travelling and restlessly active as an author, journalist, stage director and reader. With his talent for dialogue and narrative he created short stories and novels which have been called impressionist and which are sometimes reminiscent of the cutting technique of film.

Herman BangHis narrative style is one of the original Danish contributions to world literature. Bang's breakthrough novel, Haabløse Slægter (1880, Generations Without Hope), describes the last male descendant of a famous family and thus forms part of the contemporary European Decadent literature. The young protagonist's intimate relationship with a much older woman was condemned as pornographic and the book was banned.

During the years 1885-87, Bang resided in Berlin, Vienna and Prague, whence he wrote articles for Danish newspapers. These years were also the culmination of his authorship with the books Excentriske Noveller (1885, Eccentric Short Stories), Stille Eksistenser (1886, Humble Lives), the masterpiece Ved Vejen (By the Roadside) and the novel Stuk (1887, Stucco), which captures moods from the hectic, construction-obsessed Copenhagen of the gründer (company promoter) years.

The novel Tine (1889) is a love story with a disastrous ending, interwoven with Denmark's defeat in the war of 1864. Other novels and short stories followed, often with a keynote of disappointed love and resignation. A life-long fascination with the theatre was kept alive by occasional assignments as a stage director, among others with Aurélien Lugné-Poë in Paris in 1893-94.

In Herman Bang's time, society's established moral code denied homosexuals a natural relationship with their own emotional life.

Bang's talent enabled him to give literary expression to aspects of his love life, but as a writer he was forced to transfer erotic feelings onto heterosexual relationships. He is the master of some of the most penetrating psychological portraits of women in Danish literature. In 1911 he went on a reading tour of Russia and the year after he had planned a tour of USA and Japan. He died in Ogden City, Utah.


Gert Posselt, Gyldendal Leksikon

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