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The History of Danish Dreams Hardcover – Oct 1995

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); First Edition edition (Oct. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374171386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374171384
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 17.1 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,883,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Peter Hoeg's first novel is an interweaving of the lives and loves of four families, within which histories time expands, clocks stop or race forward at will. The dreams and disappointments of the children of the author's magnificent imagination foreshadow the themes of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow and Borderliners. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peter Høeg was born in 1957 and followed various callings - dancer, actor, fencer, sailor, mountaineer - before he turned seriously to writing. He published his first novel, The History of Danish Dreams, in 1988, and was called 'the foremost writer of his generation' by Information magazine. His crime novel Miss Smilla's feeling for Snow received international acclaim and was an international bestseller. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I first came by the work of Peter Hoeg when I read Smilla's Sense of Snow shortly after it was translated into English, in the mid-90's (Note: The original English title was slightly different: "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow."). I was impressed with this masterly written book, but was under the erroneous impression that it was his only work, which fortunately a fellow Amazon reviewer corrected. In fact, "The History of Danish Dreams" was actually his first work, written four years prior to "Smilla."

There is a strong element of Latin American "magical realism," of which Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best known practitioner, in this Nordic work. It covers five centuries of Danish life... or, more appropriately, that strange amalgam of historical fact and fantasy that the people of most cultures carry as part of their identity. To me, that was the key to appreciating this work: every time I was tempted to be put-off by some literally impossible occurrence (like time standing still!), I considered the "dream" aspect of the title, and realized that such is an integral part of any culture. I suspected a number of sly references that only someone who is Danish would understand... fortunately I have a few Danish friends and will confirm if that is true.

Hoeg is a master storyteller. Spanning five centuries, there are a wide variety of character-types that he vividly depicts. For example, there is the chronicle of the Rabow family, which follows a familiar life-generational trajectory: they commence poor, hit it lucky with a printing press, and print newspapers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
After reading the excellent "Miss Smilla" and the so-so "Borderliners", I then picked up this work hoping for further inspiration and cause for thought. The opening chapter is a real tour de force in its moulding of space and time, and I considered that this might be one of those rare events: a veritable five-star novel. I read on, but the closer the story came to the present day, the less interesting became the lives protrayed, so that post-war life becomes so ordinary in its extraordinariness. And this is, I suppose, one of the book's strengths and a clear indication that we have here an author of real perspicacity. It is also true that, the closer one comes to the present, the more comical are the situations and the ideas, though it should be said that the humour is subtle, darkly subtle.

So why only three stars? Because, despite the black humour, despite the clever insights, despite the vitriolic (and yet sympathetic) comment - both direct and indirect - on the state of contemporary Danish society, the method of narration is so tedious. The storyline maybe so fantastic and yet equally so everyday, but the tale is nevertheless a family saga: it can only indulge its readers by assuming they are at bottom actually interested in the minutiae of such a saga writ large. And, I'm afraid, often I simply could not care less.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter Hoeg has put together a masterful tale that at times is difficult to read, but if you stick with it you will be rewarded. Generally it sweeps along at a good pace, picking up characters at the point where others are dropped off and relating these characters in a very detailed and sensitive manner.
the quirkiness is in common with hoegs other books and if you enjoy them you will enjoy this.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Norma on 18 Aug. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a terrible book and a waste of money. Absolutely no merits whatsoever. One star for the name. Content very poor. Don't buy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A dreamy read 17 Aug. 2002
By Matthew Hovious - Published on
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. And at the beginning and end of the story he introduces us to the devious Carl Laurids, the millionaire rogue whose underhanded schemes and shady dealings so perfectly epitomize the financial world of the twentieth century.
The wisdom in Hoeg's book is not exclusive to Denmark: he speaks of the nature of "the twentieth century, where things change so rapidly that parents' experiences are totally and hopelessly outdated by the time their children have need of them." This book works on two levels, both as an entertaining family saga of men and women in their times, and as an embroidered parable of the forces behind national conscience. This is a dreamy read that will please anyone who's looking for unusual philosophical storytelling and who welcomes a book that fully engages one's mind.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Expect the unexpected 24 May 2004
By E. A Solinas - Published on
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. But he makes up for this with his outstanding, poetic descriptions of the decayed Count's lands, the dusty house of Amalie's family, and the stinking little village.
His characters tend to be rather distant; there are so many of them that it's a bit difficult to get attached to them. But they are definitely interesting, from the manipulative Carl to the observant Amalie to the sweet, innocent Anna. Somehow the nastiest characters are the most fascinating, such as the Count who declares time "a common, modern invention."
A strange and unique debut, "History of Danish Dreams" is Peter Hoeg's best novel to date. With its veiled social commentary and dreamlike language, it is a vivid experience in itself.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Imaginative funny dreamlike tour of the twentieth century 22 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A little hard going, but worth the effort. 22 Jan. 1998
By The Chalcenteric Kid - Published on
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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An exploration of the Danish Cultural Psyche 4 Oct. 2001
By Marc I. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Don't think of this book as a traditional novel. There's not much traditional about it. The word "Dreams" in the title is a good choice. The many stories and characters which make up this book are like the fairie tales, fables and mythology that shape most cultures. And all these stories together start to shape a picture of what makes the Danish unique. This novel is expansive and ambitious, and even if it is uneven at times, it's characters, situations and images will stay with you for a long time
Hoeg's characters are tortured and flawed but always human. He is strongest when he writes characters that are children. They will haunt you and break your heart. His prose is poetic and thick with atmosphere. The mood is dark and suffocating. And yet there are plenty of moments of humor and hope.
This is one of my all time favorite novels. It's one of those books that envelopes you in it's unique world and when it let go of you, you feel changed by the experience.
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