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The History of Danish Dreams: A Novel
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The History of Danish Dreams: A Novel

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  978 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
From the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow comes this highly imaginative novel, "wonderful in scope . . . crammed with Danish history, social realism, satire, magic realism, high romance, and sexual goings-on" ( Newsday ).

In a Danish feudal castle, 1520, a count believes he has pinpointed the center of the universe--a patch of land on his estate. But when his discovery is
Paperback, 408 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Picador (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 21, 2013 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
It isn't the fault of this book. I've just read all this before- depths of European mourning of the past, the freezing of the present, the absurdities that go along with ancient cultures. I only got to the first two chapters and I didn't feel that I needed to go any farther. The first chapter was a straightforward metaphor with one or two grotesque images and nothing surprised me in the second.

Just read Gormenghast instead. You'll get the same message, less nationally specific, and with even mor
Isla McKetta
Jul 14, 2012 Isla McKetta rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The story was so rich that I often would fall asleep after reading only a few pages. Thus, reading it took forever but I was glad to be immersed in this book. For more about how the author uses ambiguity to create layers of meaning in a dreamworld, check out my blog.
Mar 11, 2012 GoldGato rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, autumn
My bookshelves were missing a Danish flavour, so I purchased this volume to fill that rather glaring hole. Rather like Denmark itself, I was left somewhat ambivalent after finishing this...not sure if it was really great magical realism or just too much northern depression.

Hoeg sketches a family representing the Danish transition from medieval times (and charm) to modern society (20th-century conformity). I was completely absorbed in the story of the aristocrat who seals off his estate and makes
Akira Watts
Oct 21, 2014 Akira Watts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know Høeg only through Smilla's Sense of Snow, an entertaining and well done work that never exactly blew me away. This book, though, blew away. It feels like Calvino or Marquez mixed with something not at all like either.

The writing is stunning and surreal and Høeg plays game after game with the reader's expectations. It moves from fairytale to a weird Danish Gatsby to a piercing psychological study and back. And in the end, it is deeply moving.

I pretty clearly need to reevaluate my opinion
Jul 31, 2016 Tuco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
La storia dei sogni danesi è un romanzo magico che ricostruisce le storie di una famiglia attraverso le varie generazioni, a partire dal 1500 fino agli Sessanta del Novecento; non vi è un narratore onnisciente a raccontarci le vicende ma una ricostruzione in prima persona basata su testimonianze, documenti e storie tramandate, cosicché il narratore ci mette a parte di quanto ha scoperto e prova a ipotizzare le motivazioni dei vari personaggi basandosi sui rispettivi caratteri, ambienti sociali e ...more
Stephen Durrant
Apr 22, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it it was ok
I know little of Denmark and Danish history, so much of this novel probably went over my head. Here and there, though, the commentary on Denmark is so broad and direct that it can hardly be missed, and it is both funny and bitter. For example, "While her guests discuss the excellent warming qualities of angora and the merits of sulfur powder and how Copenhagen museums have so many lovely plaster figures, what they are in actuality discussing is the big questions of life: love and money and relig ...more
Mar 01, 2010 yb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have much to say about this novel. I think I enjoyed it because it held me hostage most of the fall and winter - a type of literary Stockholm Syndrome. It was funny and absurd at times, with ridiculous, larger than life characters. In the end, though, none of the absurdity led to any meaningful conclusions or resolutions - just gratitude at finally being free.
Nov 30, 2007 Shauna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning, I was completely taken with the magical realism--especially the thief who mustrusted the rich and so only stole used shoes and the like--unfortunately, the quality of surreality came to feel strained, and I lost my feeling for the characters. The book just never carried me away.
Annelise Guest
Dec 07, 2014 Annelise Guest rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish.
Jarmil Dufek
Mar 20, 2016 Jarmil Dufek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moc se mi libilo
Feb 01, 2017 Marina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Sorry Mr. Hoeg, I loved the weird in the Elephant Keeper's Children. But this might be a little too far out for me. Got through the first two sections but couldn't really get hooked.
Chris Amies
You may be familiar with that seminal work of English literature, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. This proceeds on the assumption that any work of literature can be improved by adding zombies. I wonder if something similar could be done with Peter Hoeg's "A history of danish dreams", which as it stands is an interminable family saga starting well, with a mad Count who walls himself off from the world around him, but then degenerating into an 'and then .. ...more
Ben Ballin
Sep 22, 2016 Ben Ballin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sort-of Danish '100 Years of Solitude', this ambitious novel romps and meanders through fantastical events, up to the present day. It is both an epic and a magical realist novel, its form allowing Hoeg free rein to let his imagination run riot. This he assuredly does, encompassing crazed aristocrats, lovable thieves, religious mania, zeppelins, love affairs, and a village so poor that its residents eat the seaweed off their hovel roofs. It gives him license for fantasy, satire, romance and mom ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nordic, 2011, denmark
I'd wanted to read this for years, hoping it would have a strong sense of place, history and culture. In many ways it does; there is plenty of unforced, incidental local detail, and the narrator interjects with comments on the attitudes of society at various points in history (though I don't currently know enough about Denmark to judge how accurate all this is).

Through 4 generations, the characters' lives are suffused with magic-realism. Where it works, it feels like an apt modern mythology - th
Monica Riva
Dec 04, 2015 Monica Riva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sfidamondo
In un arco di tempo di quasi cent'anni Hoeg, attraverso la storia di una famiglia danese, racconta i sogni e le illusioni di un'intera società del secolo corso.
Scavando nei pensieri e nelle azioni dei personaggi con maestria e sensibilità, Hoeg mette a nudo tutte le contraddizioni della modernità e della società del progresso, non solo quella danese, come sottolinea più volte l'autore stesso, ma anche quella della società occidentale in genere.
Pagina dopo pagina Hoeg racconta, studia e smonta id
Nov 27, 2011 Ajk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I dunno. Any Danophiles out there?
Shelves: fiction
There's a pretty rad book exchange off a side street in Asmali Mescit neighborhood here in Istanbul. Full of old folks who tell awesome stories and let you take books from 'em for free...yeah, it's a good deal.

And I was sitting there, trying to find some more books, when I stumbled upon The History of Danish Dreams. Considering I have Danish friends and turn into a deaf mute whenever talk gets going about their homeland, I figure it would be a good introduction. And the author apparently is an e
Apr 21, 2013 Katherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: denmark
This book took forever to read. It just seemed incredibly dense. This is a sort of magical realism generational Danish family saga whatchamacallit and I have a feeling I missed quite a few references by virtue of not being Danish.
The first half of the book, detailing the Count who stops time and the grandmother who can predict/dictate the future, is imaginative and interesting. There's a sort of wonder and fantasy about the people from before the 20th century. After that, however, the descriptio
John Erik Lindgren
Jeg synes på mange måter at historien ble litt springende og flyktig, men det gjenspeiler på mange andre måter det som vel må kunne kalles tematikken i boka -- tilværelsens tilfeldigheter og skjebnens luner. Likevel blir jeg sittende igjen med en liten usikkerhet vedrørende hva boka vil. Hva sitter jeg igjen med etter å ha lest denne fortellingen? Jo, jeg sitter netttopp igjen med en følelse av at det er viktig å fokusere på det som er viktig i livet, og skille ut det som er uviktig. Dette er jo ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This 'family novel' with deep-seated magical realism intertwined, was way more intense than I expected. I should not have been surprised since it is the work that put Peter Hoeg on the map as a writer, but still it got me. The careful prose as well as the mapping of the interconnected characters over time was a tiny bit reminiscent of 100 Years of Solitude. Yet the History of Danish Dreams has its own awareness of time (now, back then, and the murky future), societal (Danish) ideals, and the aut ...more
Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
I think I would need to read some Danish history, let this book simmer a bit in my subconscious, and then read it again, before I could say I really understood all of it. And, I get the impression that part of the point of this novel is that things, especially national dreams, don't make sense so much as they just are. Our world views and fears and past experiences (which we perceive imperfectly and thus may not fully understand) construct our perceptions of the present and build up our expectat ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Kirstie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Denmark and unusual protagonists
This novel has a really intriguing set of stories that all connect in the later half and with those stories come bizarre and wonderful characters. At times it is subtly fantastical and at other times quite realistic. The concepts are quite interesting-a Count who wants to stop time and believes he is living at the center of the Earth, an illiterate newspaper heiress who is able to predict the future, a family of carnival thieves, the daughter of a religious man who can separate herself into seve ...more
Apr 09, 2016 Raymonds009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really great book. For the first third I was not sure what kind of story this was and it was confusing in parts but by that time i decided to stay with it. I was sure glad that I did. Nearing the end I did not want it to stop.

These interconnected families and stories are compelling and will leave you scratching your head trying to connect all the dots. They do connect in a way you were not sure would ever happen.

The writing is by turns funny and harrowing. Not in a predictable way. His writin
Marilyn Saul
This novel is a wonderful, inter-twined history of the dreams of 4 generations of a family (dreams, here, has more to do with what they want out of life and how they obtained it). In all cases, one must suspend beliefs (much like One hundred Years of Solitude). Though not to everyone's tastes (no "plot" or even likable characters), the writing was exquisite! Not a book to speed read, as you'll miss all the nuances in the writing. Since there is no plot, the ending was rather ambiguous. I'm glad ...more
Apr 18, 2010 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
High 2. Hoeg has created some intriguing characters in the Count who builds a wall around his estate to stop time from entering and advancing, and the aristocratic family who so hold sway over their community that they report events in the local newspaper under their control which then come to pass. However, these are wasted in a chronicle of Danish society from the 16th to the 20th centuries which centres on the descendants of one family but which contains no plot development and holds no insig ...more
Klaas Roggeman
Eventually I'm glad I persevered, but this one is a tough cookie.
The writing is topnotch, but it is really dense and the fact of not really having a main character makes it difficult to engage with the story. Luckily the elements of magical realism are a bit more turned down towards the end of the book. I also missed quite a bit of the references, because I'm only vaguely aware of the history of Denmark. As previous reviewers said, it is rather a presentation of 1880-1960 instead of the 20th cen
Oct 23, 2008 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Heidi, Esther, Shannon, Marten
Recommended to Katrina by: found it for 10 cents in a garage sale! Love those kind of finds
This is the weirdest book ever written. That is a bold statement, happens to be 100% true. I can't really describe what it's about, and if you decide to read it, you will certainly understand why. It is decidely fiction, it is set in late 1800's or early 1900's Denmark, and the rest is ...odd. It grabs you and takes you along though, no matter how confused you get. It is a joy to read because you just don't know whwere you are going, but it's a pleasant journey! I finally convinced my dad to rea ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Werehare rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Vorrebbe tanto essere brillante/rivoluzionario/Cent'anni di solitudine, ma fallisce miseramente nel suo intento. E' chiaro che l'autore sceglie certi personaggi, certi luoghi, certe situazioni con l'unico intento di far restare a bocca aperta il lettore (intento peraltro talmente dichiarato da far risultare l'intera opera patetica): non c'è una storia da raccontare, infatti la "storia" non starebbe in piedi se non ci fosse la mano dell'autore che in ogni momento la tiene in piedi e la indiri
Joseph Petrillo
Nov 26, 2016 Joseph Petrillo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Gabriel Garcia Marquez were a Scandinavian, he might have written this book. Although it sprawls across centuries and the full spectrum of social strata (but is confined entirely to Denmark), it's a shorter read than 'One Hundred Years of Solitude," but no less satisfying. As the ages trudge to the near-present, the magical-realist mix tilts from the former to the latter, mirroring the de-mystification of Western culture. The characters, although bearing the burden of symbolism, never fail to ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book chosen by Stewart for book club. The description of the novel was much more enticing than the actual novel. The style of the book is magical realism. My thought was that I would learn at least something about Danish history. It turns out to be very, very tedious. I made it through 250 pages and then had to skim the last 70.

But do not despair for this author! He had a smash hit with Smilla's Sense of Snow (a mystery). I highly recommend it.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, danish
Beautiful magical-realist historical novel from Denmark--opening in a rural estate where time has stood still since the 16th century on an order from the lord and closing with an apartment building sinking into Copenhagen harbor literally under the weigh of its inhabitants' problems, Hoeg portrays a spectrum of Danes--rich, poor, pious, dissolute, confused and assured of righteousness in what the Danish version titles "The Conception of the 20th Century."
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Peter Høeg was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before becoming a writer, he worked variously as a sailor, ballet dancer, and actor. He published his first novel, A History of Danish Dreams (1988), to positive reviews. However, it was Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1992), a million-copy best seller, that earned Høeg immediate and international literary celebrity. His books have been published in more than th ...more
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