Hans of Iceland

Hans of Iceland

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by Victor Hugo
     
 

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An excerpt from the:

AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION.

" Hans of Iceland " is the work of a young man, and of a very young man at that.

One feels on reading " Hans of Iceland " that the boy who wrote it, in a fit of desperation in 1821, had no previous experience of affairs, no previous experience of men, no previous experience of ideas, and that he… See more details below

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An excerpt from the:

AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION.

" Hans of Iceland " is the work of a young man, and of a very young man at that.

One feels on reading " Hans of Iceland " that the boy who wrote it, in a fit of desperation in 1821, had no previous experience of affairs, no previous experience of men, no previous experience of ideas, and that he was seeking to guess all that he did not know.

Three ingredients enter into every work of the imagination, be it drama, poem, or novel: what the author has felt, what he has observed, what he has surmised.

A novel, particularly, in order that it may deserve success, must contain an abundance of the author's feelings, observations, and surmises; and the surmises must follow, simply, logically, and without solution of continuity, from the observations and feelings.

Upon the application of this law to " Hans of Iceland " it will be easy to put one's finger upon the glaring fault of the book.

There is in " Hans of Iceland " but one of the author's feelings, the young man's love, — but one thing drawn from his observation, the young girl's love. All the rest is surmised, that is to say invented. For youth, which has neither deeds, nor experience, nor examples to fall back upon, has only the imagination to assist in forming surmises. And so " Hans of Iceland," assuming that it is worthy to be classed at all, is little more than a romance of the imagination.

When the first gush of enthusiasm has spent itself, when the brow begins to knit, when one feels the need of writing something better than strange tales to frighten old women and little children, when contact with the world has worn off the rough edges of youth, one realizes that every invention, every creation, every fancy of the artist should be founded upon study, observation, contemplation, knowledge of perspective, comparison, serious meditation, constant, studious delineation of every object according to nature, and conscientious criticism of himself; and the inspiration which is evolved from these new conditions, far from losing anything of its force, finds its horizon greatly enlarged and its wings strengthened. The poet then has full knowledge of where he stands. All the visionary dreaming of his early years becomes in some sort crystallized into serious thought. The second period of life is ordinarily that in which the artist produces his greatest works. He is still young, and already mature. It is the priceless moment, the crowning medial point, the warm, brilliant noon-tide, the one instant when there is the least possible shadow and the brightest possible light.

There have been incomparable artists who have remained at that supreme height all their lives, despite their declining years. Such men are the transcendental geniuses in the world's history. Shakespeare and Michel-Angelo left the mark of youth upon some of their works, but not one of them bears any indication of old age.

To return to the novel of which a new edition is about to appear, — this book, such as it is, with its jerky, gasping action, its inelastic characters, its clumsy diction, its pretentious but ill-conceived plot, its unblushing lapses into mere dreaming, its inartistic jumbling together of colors without regard for the eye, its crude, uneven, and offensive style, undiscriminating and inelegant, and with the thousand and one offences against good taste which it commits, quite unknowingly, in its course, — this book accurately represents the time of life at which it was written, and the condition of the mind, the imagination, and the heart in early youth, when one is in love with one's first love, when one magnifies the commonplace disappointments of life into insuperable, poetic obstructions, when one's head is filled with heroic fantasies which make one great in one's own eyes, when one is a man in two or three respects, and a mere child in twenty others, when one has read Ducray-Duminil at eleven years, Auguste Lafontaine at thirteen, Shakespeare at sixteen, — a curious intellectual ladder, which carries one in rapid succession from the absurd to the sentimental, and from the sentimental to the sublime.

For the simple reason that, in our opinion, this book, which is ingenuous before everything, represents with some fidelity the time of life at which it was produced, we present it once more to the public in 1833, just as it was written in 1821.

Furthermore, since the author, unimportant as is the place he holds in literature, has undergone the fate common to all writers, great and small, of seeing his early works belauded at the expense of his later ones, and of hearing it said that he is a long way from having realized the moderate anticipations founded upon his first efforts, he deems it to be his duty, without venturing to put forward arguments...

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940014842204
Publisher:
OGB
Publication date:
08/09/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,201,605
File size:
1 MB

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