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The History of Danish Dreams Hardcover – October, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st edition (October 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374171386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374171384
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,528,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

His name having been established here through his second and third novels, Smilla's Sense of Snow and Borderliners, Hoeg now offers his debut work, first published in Denmark in 1988. As its subtitle indicates, this is an ambitious and quirky novel, reading like an epic fairy tale in which the magic elements are the social revolutions of the modern era. These revolutions are fancifully cast in terms of the characters' ever-evolving "dreams"-such as "the dream of rebellion" or the "dream of the Village"-in a sprawling plot that progresses as a sort of surreal family saga. Introduced in the first section are four characters born around the turn of the century: Carl Laurids, whose ambitions lead him beyond his estate, where, in the 16th century, the resident count had banned the keeping of time; Amalie Teader, a girl whose delusion that she has been "chosen" springs from a wealthy and powerful grandmother, who writes a newspaper that predicts the future; Anna Bak, a pastor's innocent child who is deemed worthy of bearing "the new Messiah"; and Adonis Jensen, the son of roving thieves, who refuses to learn how to steal because of "his compassion for mankind." In Part II, which ends at 1939, these four become couples: Carl and Amalie have a golden child, Carsten, for a son, while Anna and Adonis produce rebellious Maria; in the final section, Carsten and Maria marry and have children of their own. The characters are as vivid and believable as they are eccentric; unfortunately, they become somewhat buried under an over-staged plot, which seems intent on reflecting every trend of the 20th century, itself fated to bear "the weight of so many dreams that refuse to amalgamate." Luckily, Hoeg's use of a casual first-person narrative voice to frame the story infuses humor and a certain earthy wisdom into his philosophical musings.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In a series of linked vignettes that move from 16th-century aristocratic arrogance to 20th-century social crisis, Hoeg offers a wildly inventive account of Danish history. He opens with the story of Carl Laurids, a steward's son at the manor of Morkhoj, where time has stood still for four centuries following a decree from the count. Amalie Teander, scion of a newspaper family whose matriarch cannot read but magically predicts the future; Anna Bak, a parson's daughter who seems to be one of God's elect; Adonis Jensen, who veers from the family profession of thievery?all are remarkable creations embedded in an ornate, carefully observed text. In the book's second half, these characters link up in explosive combinations. While profoundly different in style from the suspenseful Smilla's Sense of Snow (LJ 8/93) and Borderland (LJ 8/94), a hard-edged social fable, this new novel?actually, the author's first, though the third published here?sustains Hoeg's attack on conformity and social injustice. A dark but brilliant fairy tale; highly recommended.
-?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The writing is very unique and picturesque.
m safft
There is a strong element of Latin American "magical realism," of which Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best known practitioner, in this Nordic work.
John P. Jones III
This book is well-named -- "History of Danish Dreams" does, indeed, seem like a dream.
E. A Solinas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Hovious on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a stunning literary accomplishment that should be much more widely known than it is. Peter Hoeg weaves this tale in a way that marries the magical realism of García Márquez with philosophical ruminations reminiscent of Kundera.
This is the history of Danish dreams in the sense of hopes, of aspirations: of discussing what Danes of different classes and generations have wanted in the past two hundred years, and how these aspirations contributed to building the Danish society of today. Hoeg achieves a rare and seemingly contradictory feat: he criticizes a great many aspects of his country and its society, yet does so in a way that makes his Denmark captivating to non-Danish readers. Hoeg tells his story in a series of seven segments which relate to each other, through the lives of a cast of recurring characters and their children and grandchildren, paradigmatic of Denmark's different social classes. 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. In one segment, Hoeg includes a recurring device in which several of the most influential figures of 19th-century Denmark --- a business tycoon, an architect, a Socialist rabble-rouser --- are secretly all siblings who have conspired to obscure their shared past as the sons of a small-time crook and a circus performer.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Danish author Peter Hoeg is best known for "Smilla's Sense of Snow," in which he took what could have been a tepid thriller and froze it into an icy sculpture. But his most outstanding work may be "History of Danish Dreams," a magnificently dreamlike novel -- not of Danish history, but Danish dreams.
The manipulative Carl Laurids was adopted by the steward of Morkhoj, a place where (the tyrannical Count has declared) time stands still. Elsewhere, little Amalie Teander is nearby when her fearsome grandmother dies; despite the fact that the old lady was illiterate, she somehow predicted the future in the newspapers... and then in her last will and testament, including how her daughter-in-law would die and how the house would be run.
And then there is the sweet, innocent Anna Bak, seemingly one of God's chosen, and Adonis, who turns away from thievery. Taking place in several generations over four centuries (16th to 20th), it shifts from surreal aristocratic realms to impoverished fishing villages, as the fates of the different people intertwine.
Don't expect a taut thriller like "Smilla" or a chilly sociological study like "Borderliners." Hoeg's first novel is far more nuanced and rich, with a dark, weight atmosphere hanging over the ornate language. It's a social satire, but so subtle that it only dawns on readers gradually just what he's saying through his surreal stories.
This book is well-named -- "History of Danish Dreams" does, indeed, seem like a dream. It's a reflection of our own world, but twisted and darkened. At times, Hoeg lets the storyline run away from him, as if the many intricate storylines are spilling out of his hands.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
When I finished this book, I suddenly realised that it was 3AM, and I had been reading solidly for about 6 hours. That's how good this book is. Characters like Amalie are so lifelike, that you can love them on one page and hate them on the next, without seeing any contradiction in their characters. The book starts off in the realms of fantastic myth and dream, but as the 20th century progresses, history creeps in and memories become more reliable. The dreams of the title are the "memes" (the cultural equivalent of genes) of the characters, passed on from generation to generation,hybridised and mutated. They are also the symbolic visions of sleep. One reviewer said that the characters are "too heavily laden with symbolic baggage". I think this misses the point. Hoeg is saying that everyone's personality is shaped by the dreams or memes of those who have come before, through family, religion and society. The symbols aren't baggage, Hoeg has seen through the twentieth century and found the underlying myth.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Chalcenteric Kid on January 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
When I was reading this book, I was thinking "will this ever end?". I am glad I persevered with it. More than six months after I finished it, characters are popping back into my head and making me smile. I think that is the highest recommendation that you can give a novel. The way all the threads of the story were interconnected and in particular how they were resolved at the end was very satisfying. But, people who enjoyed 'Smilla's Sense Of Snow' may find that 'magic realism' is not the genre for them. In fact, the two books are so unalike that they don't even feel like were written by the same author. And that I think says something about Peter Hoeg's ability.
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