The Henry James Review 24.3 (2003) 307-309
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Ann Lilliedahl. Henry James in Scandinavia: His Literary Reputation. Brooklyn: AMS, 2002, 97 pp. $69.50.
This bibliography of James criticism is another addition to the growing body of work devoted to Henry James's presence in other cultures. Its purpose is "to make any Scandinavian material devoted to James available to an English-speaking audience" (viii). Its existence points to the increasing interest in James's presence in cultural contexts other than the Anglo-American—an interest which has gathered pace over the last decade. James studies are on the rise in places as diverse as China, Japan, and Korea.
In Scandinavia, as a quick survey of the major universities suggests, James is popular. The Universities of Copenhagen and Oslo teach his works at all levels, and in the English department at Stockholm University, which has taught him only peripherally lately, a recent visit from J. Hillis Miller has sparked renewed interest in a more thorough treatment.
In his preface to Henry James in Scandinavia: His Literary Reputation, Daniel Mark Fogel points out that Lilliedahl's book has the added interest of "provid[ing] a window into the cultural history of Scandinavia" (vi). Lilliedahl does this well and with clear interest in and sympathy for the cultural characteristics of the countries whose literary criticism she is tracing, even if the "window" is strictly confined to its relevance to the James criticism in question.
The book contains some interesting facts about the reading public and education, for example. Scandinavians today are generally highly educated. Education, understood as the bettering of oneself through understanding (the Scandinavian word for this, "dannelse," is equivalent to the German Bildung), is seen as an end in itself and pursued throughout life in the form of adult education. The result is that the reading public is discerning and literary debate active in all the "cultured" newspapers of the four countries covered by Lilliedahl's study. [End Page 307] Most of the material for this book comes from these newspapers. In other words, Henry James criticism in Scandinavia has, for the most part, been directed at the general reading public.
On this issue of reading habits, Lilliedahl offers the following observation: "the long and dark winter of the Scandinavian countries is an important common denominator. It is clear from library statistics that these nations read almost excessively during the long winter months" (77).
Of the four countries characterized in Henry James in Scandinavia: His Literary Reputation, Denmark and Sweden are similarly active in regard to James criticism, while Norway's and Finland's responses have been slower and more scarce. In the former countries as well as in Norway, translations start to appear as early as in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. In 1911, the first Swedish essay is written on James. It is, significantly, the poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt's appeal to the Swedish Academy to consider James for the Nobel Prize. The first monograph appears in 1920. Of these four countries, Sweden has published the most James responses. According to Lilliedahl, the forties and the sixties, in particular, bristled with translations and criticism. Each new volume of Edel's biography sparked debate as well.
Finland has—until the end of Lilliedahl's study in 1981—had only one translation of James, but Swedish editions have been available to Finland's mainly bilingual population. Criticism has been scarce aside from two prolific literary critics—Helen Af Enehjelm and Ralf Norrman—who dominated the debate throughout a number of decades.
Finally, Lilliedahl groups Norway and Denmark together in this study, a division which makes sense culturally but which seems not to hold up in this case. As her profile of James criticism shows, the responses to James in the two countries were vastly different. As a possible explanation of this difference, she mentions the strong Danish tradition of the novel, which in Norway is matched by a concern with poetry. One exception in Norway's reception of American prose, according to Lilliedahl, occurred during Germany's occupation of...