THE DANGEROUS AGE
LETTERS AND FRAGMENTS FROM A WOMAN’S DIARY
TRANSLATED FROM THE DANISH OF KARIN MICHAELIS
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY. MCMXI
MY DEAR BROTHER-IN-LAW
INTRODUCTION TO THE FRENCH EDITION By MARCEL PREVOST
Here is a strange book. A novel from the North, its solid structure, its clear, unadorned form are purely Latin. A woman’s novel, in its integral and violent sincerity it can only be compared to certain famous masculine confessions.
The author, Karin Michaelis, a Dane, is not at all known in France. The Dangerous Age is not her first book; but it is, I feel sure, the first that has been translated into French. Naturally enough the Danish-Scandinavian literature is transmitted in the first instance through newspapers and reviews, and through German publishers. This is the result of local proximity and the affinity of language. Several novels by Karin Michaelis were known to the German public before The Dangerous Age; but none of them had awakened the same keen curiosity, provoked such discussion, or won such success as this book. In all the countries of Central Europe the most widely read novel at the present moment is The Dangerous Age. Edition succeeds edition, and the fortune of the book has been increased by the quarrels it has provoked; for it has been much discussed and criticised, not on account of its literary value, which is incontestable, but because of the idea which animates it.
Shall I confess that it was just this great success, and the polemical renown of the novel, that roused my suspicions when first I chanced to see the German version of it? Contrary to the reputation which our neighbours on the other side of the Vosges like to foist upon us, French literature, at the present day, is far less noisily scandalous than their own. It is only necessary to glance over the advertisements which certain German publishing firms issue at the end of their publications in order to be convinced of this. It is amusing to find every kind of “puff” couched in the exaggerated style which the modern German affects.
It was with some bias and suspicion, therefore, that I took up Das gefaehrliche Alter. When I started to read the book, nothing could have been further from my mind than to write, a French version and to present it myself to the public. This is all the more reason why justice should be done to Karin Michaelis. I have read no other book of hers except The Dangerous Age; but in this novel she has in no way exceeded what a sincere and serious observer has a right to publish. Undoubtedly her book is not intended for young girls, for what the English call “bread-and-butter misses.” But nobody is compelled to write exclusively for schoolgirls, and it has yet to be proved that there is any necessity to feed them on fiction as well as on bread and butter.