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Niels Lyhne

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,076 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Jacobsen's immediate importance was his status as the 'writer of his generation.' With the novel Niels Lyhne (1880) he voiced the disoriented and confused rejection of the old values, Romanticism's dream and religion. . . . Like the single volume of short stories Jacobsen published in 1882, three years before he died of tuberculosis, both novels are unique in an age of rea ...more
Paperback, 152 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Aegypan (first published 1880)
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Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"For the first time he had felt fear about life, for the first time he had truly understood that when life had sentenced you to suffer, this sentence was neither a pretense nor a threat- you were dragged to the rack and then you were tortured, and no fairy-tale liberation came at the last moment, no sudden awakening as if from a bad dream.”- Jens Peter Jacobsen, Niels Lyhne

A book I probably wouldnt have picked up had I not come across a beautiful quote from it here on Goodreads. It's the coming-
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nools by: R M Rilke
This novel will not help you sleep at night. I haven't felt this kind of despair over literature since Proust's Recherche. Jacobsen despises his characters so tenderly. Or is it that he loves them ruthlessly? I finished it nearly ten hours ago, but an oppressive sadness is still lingering. It's not a cathartic sorrow, either -- not in the least bit; it's too stonily troubling for tears. In part, this can be blamed on my Christian upbringing, but I won't let my background take away any credit fro ...more
I wonder if Ingmar Bergman read this? I can almost imagine he did.

"There are those who can take up their sorrow and bear it, strong temperaments who feel their strength in the very weight of the burden, while those who are weaker give in to the sorrow, as powerlessly as they would surrender to an illness; like an illness, grief penetrates them, seeping its way into their innermost being and becoming one with them; it is transformed within them in a slow battle and then lost inside them in a full
Chiara Pagliochini
«Era stanco di se stesso, dei suoi freddi pensieri e dei suoi sogni. La vita un poema! Non quando si passa il tempo a poetare sulla vita invece di viverla. Com’era priva di contenuto, vuota, vuota, vuota! Ah, quel continuo andare a caccia di se stesso, spiando scaltramente le proprie impronte, in un eterno girare in tondo; quell’apparente tuffarsi nel fiume della vita, e intanto starsene seduto a gettar l’amo, aspettando di pescare se stesso sotto chissà quale travestimento! Ah, se solo si fosse ...more
Vanni Santoni
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
comincia leggero poi esplode nel capolavoro. Impressionante vedere quanto Mann ha preso da qua.
Eliza Rapsodia
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Amantes de los clásicos
Recommended to Eliza by: Recomendado por M. Te quiero, tonto.
Shelves: 2018, classics


This novel was a recommendation by M. a dear person of mine that really loved it. I had never read a danish author before so I was eager to read it.

Niels Lyhne is a young Danish man from a rural family. We get to know about him before he was even born, first with his parents and how was their relationship, then we follow him from childhood to adulthood. As time passes, we are living things with him: his first love, his disappointments, his joys, his sorrows, his friendship
At times, you're reading Niels Lyhne, and you're caught up in the romanticism of it-- the unconsummatable romances, the damaged-soul artist-hero, and the lush, hypotactical descriptions of the natural world. But what Jacobsen effects is something far subtler, with one eye winking at a dawning modernism.

Let's start with those descriptions. Baroque in form, precise in biology, they seem like they would be perfectly at home in the weird tales of Lovecraft or the morose ponderings of Sebald. They ar
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

Jacobsen was, for Rainer Maria Rilke, one of two "inexhaustible" masters he revered. (The other was Rodin.) Rilke noted that "every time I want to go on, I find the next, the next higher, the approaching stage of my growth sketched out and already created in [Jacobsen's works and letters]." Both Jacobsen and Rodin "have that penetrating, devoted observation of nature, both have the power to transform what they have seen into reality enhanced a thousandfold." Time to re-read The Notebooks of Malt
Jun 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Written during the naturalism was a nightmare to read. Almost no dialogue but overly detailed descriptions and useless musings. I had to fight sleep all the damn time.
A whiny character who can't make up his damn mind, lots of pointless occurances, somewhat ridiculous drama.
Almost as bad as the "Metamorphosis" by Kafka. Almost.
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: danish, european, classics
J. P. Jacobsen's Niels Lyhne was a very positive surprise. His nature descriptions are unique, perhaps matched only by those of Turgenev, by whom he was influenced. To a degree Jacobsen even surpasses Turgenev in the way his delineations of nature are so masterly integrated into the book’s thematic. I was glad to be able to read this in the original Danish, as many of those outstanding passages must be really hard to translate (and even to my native Norwegian.) I read in the very useful afterwor ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Life isn't always grand, life isn't always tragic. It isn't always filled with success and it isn't always filled with failure, it isn't right and it isn't wrong. Sometimes, probably a lotta times, life just is, and there's beauty in that. So while you're striving forward look left and right and stop and appreciate. Don't adhere but don't give in. Above all, be natural.

That's roughly what I took away from Niels Lyhne.
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, danish-lit
I decided to read ‘Niels Lyhne’ as Rilke recommended it very highly in Letters to a Young Poet. He went into raptures about it, actually. Thus it surprised me to find the novel initially rather stolid and difficult to get into. I wonder if this might have something to do with the translation I read? I got a copy from the university library that was published in 1920 and translated by Hanna Astrup Larsen. The style of the translation, which may accurately reflect the original Danish for all I kno ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Niels Lyhne is a book haunted by death.
The story follows a young poet, Niels Lyhne who passionately observes the world and the people in his life before he delves into himself, reflecting and dwelling on their motives and nature in order to transfer his thoughts into his writing. His convictions about the world are tested a number of times throughout the novel as he deals with rejection, loss, betrayal and numerous deaths...and it all culminates in the final chapters when his resolve almost fai
Sep 05, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Had never heard of JPJ until I came across reference to this novel in recent essay by James Wood, "The New Atheism," in The Guardian. Wood argues that whereas the "new atheists" like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al and fundamentalist Christians are equally guilty of engaging in narrow, literalist approaches to questions of faith, novelists like JPJ provide far more insightful reflections on such questions by exploring the ambiguities of a fluctuating faith that most of us experience. Essentiall ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anime-gelate, nord
Fedele all'antiprincipio del "Tell not show" Jacobsen decide di dedicarsi alla verbosa e minuziosa descrizione di ciò che i suoi personaggi dovrebbero essere, mancando completamente ogni accenno a ciò che fanno.
Lyhne, in assenza di ogni esigenza di ordine materiale, decide di dedicare il suo tempo sovrabbondante a un ozio neanche troppo creativo nel quale una quota assolutamente esagerata di spazio viene occupata da quelle che, con felice anonima sintesi, al giorno d'oggi si qualificano come se
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Hated it during the whole reading. Once finished, I found it not that bad...
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: studies, nordic
The "Madame Bovary" of North.
As most readers today I approached this book by Rilke’s recommendation. Reading this life story was not an unalloyed pleasure, however. The book is too episodic to be considered a novel. It comes across as a sequence of Jugendstil-ish woodcuts in which the relationships between the protagonist and (usually) a woman are quasi-allegorically played out. But Jacobson’s heavily perfumed prose occasionally makes way for acute, sobering psychological insights that have lost nothing of their pertinence. ...more
Mandy E
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i read this for rilke, to know why he loved.
Jacob Wren

Jens Peter Jacobsen writes:

They began to talk about Christianity. It was as if the subject was in the air.

Niels spoke fervently but rather superficially against Christianity.

Hjerrild was tired of retracing the threads of conversations that were old for him, and he said suddenly, without any real connection to the preceding: "Be careful, Mr. Lyhne; Christianity has power. It's stupid to quarrel with the ruling truth by agitating for the truth of the crown prince."

"Stupid or not, that's not a cons
Farhan Khalid
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am describing her as she was at seventeen

She loved poetry. She lived on poems, dreamed poems

Grief was black, and joy was red

They glowed with images, foamed and sparkled with rhythm and rhyme

She dreamed a thousand dreams

One fine day a suitor came to her: Young Lyhne

Like the memory of a feast after the the last candle has burned down

And the last note of music has died away

He called, met Bartholine, and fell in love with her

Love made him poetic

The cloud seemed like those drifting through the poe
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mariana Ferreira
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Duvido alguma vez ler tamanho eco, compreensão, interioridade. Foi através de Rilke que conheci esta obra, e foi pelas suas palavras acerca desta que decidi lê-la:

" (...) Niels Lyhne, um livro magnífico e profundo; quando mais o lemos, mais parece que encontramos nele tudo: do cheiro levíssimo da vida ao sabor cheio e grande dos seus frutos mais pesados. Não há nele nada que não tivesse sido entendido, apreendido, vivido, reconhecido nas reverberações vibrantes da memória; nenhuma experiência é
Marius Ghencea
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
Un bellissimo romanzo di formazione del suo tempo, ma anche attraversata relazione con il proprio (e degli altri) ateismo efferato. Un Werther forse troppo distinto, ma non per questo indimenticabile.
Afshin Berahmand
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ét langt digt
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bigum knew full well what an unfavorable impression he presented and how completely hopeless his love was, but he knew it the way you do when, with all the power of your soul, you hope that your knowledge is false. There was still a chance for a miracle, and miracles don't happen, but they might. Who knows? Perhaps you make a mistake, perhaps your reason, your instincts, your senses with all their daylight clarity still lead you astray, perhaps the thing to do is to possess the reckless courag ...more
Arvind Radhakrishnan
This is easily one of the best books i have ever read. Jens Peter Jacobsen is an extraordinary writer.The literary talent is so evident and undeniable.This is a book of profound ideas and deep ruminations.The prose has such lyrical beauty that at times i felt i was listening to a Schubert symphony or looking at a Vermeer painting.Some parts where the writer talks about Niels' (the protagonist) inner monologues reminded me of James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'.It is a pity th ...more
There was a time when a book this depressing would never have made it to my "favorite books of all time" list, but I can't really hold its heartbreaking nature against it. This book was extremely well written and beautiful, yet it was also ridiculously disheartening. It's been quite some time since a book made me cry. I loved it. (The book, not the crying, although sometimes the crying does us good.) ;)
Carinna Tarvin
May 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like old things
Rilke said in "Letters to a Young Poet" that he always carried two books with him; the Bible and a collection of Jacobson's short stories. I couldn't make my mind up about this book when I was reading it, but then it sunk in and I decided I liked it. I wonder what it's like in Danish.
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Intressant och varierat språk (läste svensk översättning) med många referenser. Ibland suckade jag högt över Niels person och liv. Men faktiskt ändå bra bok!
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Jacobsen was born in Thisted in Jutland, the eldest of the five children of a prosperous merchant. He went to school in Copenhagen and was a student at the University of Copenhagen in 1868. As a boy, he showed a remarkable talent for science, in particular botany. In 1870, although he was already secretly writing poetry, Jacobsen adopted botany as a profession. He was sent by a scientific body in ...more
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“He was weary of himself, of cold ideas and brain dreams. Life a poem? Not when you went about forever poetizing about your own life instead of living it. How innocuous it all was, and empty, empty, empty! This chasing after yourself, craftily observing your own tracks--in a circle, of course.

This sham diving into the stream of life while all the time you sat angling after yourself, fishing yourself up in one curious disguise or another! If he could only be overwhelmed by something--life, love, passion--so that he could no longer shape it into poems, but had to let it shape him!”
“And it all came to pass, all that she had hoped, but it did not fill her with rapture nor carry her away with the power or the fervor she had expected. She had imagined it all different, and had imagined herself different, too. In dreams and poems everything had been, as it were, beyond the sea; the haze of distance had mysteriously veiled all the restless mass of details and had thrown out the large lines in bold relief, while the silence of distance had lent its spirit of enchantment. It had been easy then to feel the beauty; but now that she was in the midst of it all, when every little feature stood out and spoke boldly with the manifold voices of reality, and beauty was shattered as light in a prism, she could not gather the rays together again, could not put the picture back beyond the sea. Despondently she was obliged to admit to herself that she felt poor, surrounded by riches that she could not make her own.” 32 likes
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