Niels Lyhne- Jens Peter Jacobsen

“For the first time he had felt fear about life, for the first time he had truly understood that when life had sentenced you to suffer, this sentence was neither a pretense nor a threat- you were dragged to the rack and then you were tortured, and no fairy-tale liberation came at the last moment, no sudden awakening as if from a bad dream.”– Jens Peter Jacobsen, Niels Lyhne

A book I probably wouldnt have picked up had I not come across a beautiful quote from it on Goodreads. It’s the coming-of-age story of Niels Lyhne, a Danish boy striving to be a poet. My copy had a melancholy-looking painting by Edvard Munsch on the cover and indeed the book is quite bleak and dreary at times. It deals with disappointments, atheism, loss of creativity, death and love, among other things.

What I loved the most about this book was its beautiful prose. It was poetic and at times philosophical, sometimes heavy and depressing. As Niels grows up he experiences psychological growth, aided by his experiences with various women, which help formulate his realizations of life in general:

“But love was in their hearts and yet was not really there- just as crystals exist in a supersaturated solution and yet do not exist, until a splinter or simply a speck of the right substance sinks into the liquid and as if by magic instantly precipitates out the slumbering atoms so that they race to meet each other, wedging themselves together, rivet upon rivet, according to unfathomable laws, and become all of a sudden a crystal…crystal.”

This is definitely a book I would read again and again.

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