The History of Danish Dreams, by Peter Hoeg

by admin on January 11, 2010

This is Peter Hoeg’s extremely remarkable debut novel. It was the wonderful Smilla’s Sense of Snow that turned Peter Hoeg into an international literary superstar, The History of Danish Dreams, by Peter Hoegbut this novel, written before Smilla’s Sense, may well be Peter Hoeg’s best novel so far. Really an outstanding and exceptional debut!

The History of Danish Dreams is a stunning literary accomplishment. It deserves to be much more widely known and read than it is. In this book, Peter Hoeg masterfully tells a tale that is a skillful blend of a solid dose of the rich magical realism of Garzia Márquez with the strange philosophical ruminations of Kundera. The book is a highly imaginative epic novel – a magnificent dreamlike tale – that provides a very intriguing and satiric look at Danish social history. It is a tough fable about the gifts and iniquities of progress, and a subtle social satire in the Ludvig Holberg tradition, only gradually do readers grasp what he is saying through his surreal stories.

In a fable-like manner it tells the strange history of Danish dreams – about the hopes and aspirations of the Danes and how they have contributed to the shaping of Denmark. Hoeg does this in a way that makes his Denmark captivating to non-Danish readers. The tale is told in seven related segments.

Hoeg brings to life the foolish 18th-century Count of Morkhoj, who one day decrees that on his estate time shall stand still forever; he gives us the Teander Rabow family, owners of a provincial newspaper whose power over their fellow townspeople is such that they print the news first and the events actually happen later, precisely at the time and in the fashion dictated by the influential journal; and many more strange characters and tales. And at the beginning and the end of the story he introduces us to the devious Carl Laurids, the millionaire rogue whose underhanded schemes and shady dealings so perfectly epitomize the financial world of the twentieth century.

The History of Danish Dreams is a demanding book that raises many questions: Is it history or dream? Can a history of dreams be written in chronological order? Who knows? It is an extremely well written and interestingly composed book, very provocative and stimulating, and one of the most innovative and intelligent novels I have ever encountered. A dark but brilliant fairy tale, highly recommended, one that will leave an impression!

“wonderful in scope . . . crammed with Danish history, social realism, satire, magic realism, high romance, and sexual goings-on” (Newsday).

“Høeg writes prose that is as bitter, changeable, and deep-fathomed as poetry—prose that demands to be read aloud and savored.”–The New Yorker

“An exuberant, freewheeling fantasy.”–The Washington Post

“A very fine piece of imaginative writing.”–The New York Times Book Review

“A young man’s all-or-nothing book, as if Søren and Hans, those melancholy Danes, had teamed up and set sail, with Melville and García Márquez, to rewrite the universe.”–The Nation

“A uniquely talented writer . . . A multigenerational saga spanning four centuries of Danish history.”–Booklist

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