by Ivo de Figueiredo, translated from the Norwegian by Robert Ferguson
Ivo de Figueiredo’s biography Henrik Ibsen: The Man and the Mask is a document of determination, a record of Ibsen’s tireless energy and discipline, and the transformation of a poor Norwegian merchant’s son into an international literary phenomenon who revolutionized modern drama. But it is also, more penetratingly, an account of the transformation of man into mask. “Henrik Ibsen’s life is like a long, gradually drying plaster cast,” de Figueiredo writes. “He became his own statue, an icon, a tourist attraction.” So monumental was his mask that it can be difficult to see the human being behind it.
On the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 1927, Henrik Pontoppidan was lauded by Thomas Mann in an open letter to the Danish newspaper Politiken, describing him as “a full-blooded storyteller who scrutinizes our lives and society so intensely that he ranks within the highest class of European writers.” In August, a cinematic adaption of Lykke-Per by the Academy-Award winning director Billie August opened in Danish theaters. And yet, Pontoppidan’s writing has remained almost entirely unavailable to English-language readers.