Hansen, Martin A.

   A Danish novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Hansen had rural roots and later became a teacher. He was keenly aware of the crisis in the Danish farming communities in the 1930s and published two novels which proffered Marxism as a solution to contemporary economic problems. Hansen's first significant novel, Jonatans Rejse (1941; Jonathan's Journey), uses the legendary motif of the blacksmith who has confined the devil to a bottle as part of a commentary on the existential and moral situation of modern human beings. Hansen believes that the old farm society has lessons of responsibility and ethics to teach to modern men and women.
   The novel Lykkelige Kristoffer (1945; tr. Lucky Kristoffer, 1974) tells about two men, Kristoffer and Martin, who travel to Copenhagen at the time of the Reformation, which is also a time of bloody conflict. Owing to his cleverness, Martin survives and profits from their circumstances, while Kristoffer dies. But Kristoffer has acted ethically and is truly the luckier of the two, while Martin is devoid of both integrity and true humanity. There is a parallel between Kristoffer and the Danish resistance fighters who died during World War II, whom Hansen admired for their courage and sacrifice.
   Ethical and existential themes also dominate the short stories in the volumes Agerhønen (1947; The Partridge) and Tornebusken (1946; The Briar Bush). Such concerns take center stage in the novel Løgneren (1950; tr. The Liar, 1954), which was serialized on Danish State Radio. Its narrator-protagonist, Johannes Vig, is extremely conscious of his ethical weaknesses, but he is still dishonest in his narrative, which is addressed to an imaginary reader named Nathaniel. The biblical character Nathaniel, for whom Hansen's addressee is named, was a man utterly without deceit, while Johannes Vig has deceit built into his name, as svig means "deceit" in Danish. Løgneren is thus ultimately a story about fidelity and honesty as contrasted with dishonesty and betrayal. It highlights the existential choice of the literary artist, who must choose between fidelity to lived truth and dishonestly using life as material for art.
   Hansen turned away from fiction in Orm og Tyr (1952; Serpent and Bull), which discusses the coming of Christianity to Scandinavia. Hansen believes that Christian ideas enriched Scandinavian life, but he also holds that many of the ethical norms ascribed to Christianity were already present in the indigenous culture. For most of the rest of his active life as a writer, Hansen wrote mainly travel books.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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