Sweden Literature - Naturalism (1880 - 1890)

Sweden Literature – Naturalism (1880 – 1890) and the ” Nordic Renaissance ” (1890-1910)


It was within this situation in spirituality and in art that the naturalist revolution broke out towards the 80s. Which, referring to that return to nature from which romanticism was born and to that need for reality into which romanticism had blossomed, opposed any academic formalism and any intellectual idealism, with aggressive violence “the brutality of truth” and also brought into poem “the prose of life”. Anticlericalism towards religion; economic materialism and exaltation of the proletariat in the discussion of the social problem; anti-traditionalism and sensitivity to the needs of physical life in the unscrupulous consideration of the moral problem; positivism in philosophy; radicalism in politics; realism in art: these are the great currents that G. Brandes had already been the interpreter of for some years in his lectures in Copenhagen; but, in the whole North, they reached for the first time a plenary affirmation of art with the novel Röda Rummet by A. Strindberg, and around the trial for the “marriage novels” – Giftas – by Strindberg himself reached the maximum controversial vehemence. It was a radical renewal. Even the spirituality of which the realism of Ibsen’s social dramas is enlightened (cf. the Ibsenian writings of U. Feilitzen Robinson) was overwhelmed by the storm. We sought what “man is” behind what “he says he is”. The veils were lifted over all shame. While Strindberg, under the impulse of his irrepressible vitality, was already on his way to new experiences, the whole of “Young Sweden” committed himself, with creative fervor, in the direction he had opened: and works of unequal value were born (the novels by Anne Charlotte Leffler, Duchess of Caianello, by Victoria Benedictsson – pseud. Ernst Ahlgren – by A. Lundegård, by G. af Geijerstam, by O. Hansson, the plays by T. Hedberg, etc.); but if tendentiousness sometimes clouded art and if poetry was not always saved from the detrimental elements that were implicit in the materialistic sympathies of naturalism, new worlds opened up not only in the discovery of external reality, but in the analysis of souls. Poetry conquered a new language. And the linguistic revolution, which had already begun with precursor uncertainties and diversions from Almquist, came to its completion: the word, without illusions and without repugnance, became identified with life.

And it is for this reason that naturalism and the “Nordic Renaissance” that followed it – when contemplated in the entirety of their historical evolution – appear as successive moments of an inseparable single period. Not only biographically W. v. Heidenstam found himself, in the first years of his spiritual formation, alongside Strindberg.

According to ANIMALERTS.COM, the tangibility of the image, the awareness of reality, the calling of things by their name: all that had constituted the substantial conquest of naturalism also remained at the basis of the new movement. Except that the passive attitude towards life was replaced again by an active attitude of the spirit. It was recognized that reality is not only that of those who succumb to life, but also that of those who shape and mold life according to the truth of an interior need (v. Nugget bröllop by W. v. Heidenstam and O. Levertin, 1890). And he asked himself, first of all, that poetry was poetry: not news, but style; not personal release, but creation. Levertin, a spirit sensitive to all forms of culture and agile critic, revealed to Sweden the poetry of modern European aestheticism and found its ways – together with R. Josephson, poet and painter – in the impressionism of his lyrics. And the awareness that poetry is always beauty was reborn. But the abandonment to creative inspiration was also reborn – with a new awareness. And Heidenstam moved from his initial aestheticism towards a poem, which, in naked Gothic, essentiality of style, rediscovers the rhythm and line of the ancient saga; and he became the interpreter of Nordic nature and the hard life and heroic history of his people: poet and formator of the new national consciousness. Selma Lagerlöf, saw, in the eternal miracle of the human heart, life acquire wings and rise with lightness to flights of legend. P. Hallström drew, with intelligence, grace and measure, against the dark background of his immanent sense of death, the multicolored arabesques of the sweet and deceptive passion. G. Fröding, sensitive and sick, descended with a sad smile into the depths of his suffering, drawing from it the purest and most musical sweetness of songs that Sweden possesses. E. Karlfelt, clear, sober, but substantial and full of emotional vitality, gave expression to the humor, inspiration, joie de vivre and sense of mystery inherent in the nature of his people, creating a poem of such freshness and purity of timbre, which was compared, in its “orchestrated fullness”, to a “forest of its Dalecarlia.

Sweden Literature - Naturalism (1880 - 1890)