Iceland has always been famous for the quality of her literature, although nowadays but little of it comes to our shores. It is, therefore, an especial pleasure to introduce the author of “Hadda Padda.”
Godmundur Kamban, son of a merchant of an old and well known Icelandic family, was born near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, on June 8, 1888. He was graduated twenty-two years later from the College of Reykjavik, where he received honoris causa in literature and language, the first and only time this prize has ever been awarded. While still at college, he was made assistant editor of the best known newspaper in Iceland, edited by Bjorn Jonsson, the late Prime Minister, in whose home Mr. Kamban lived during his college career. In 1910, he proceeded to the University of Copenhagen, where he specialized in literature and received his Master’s degree. In Copenhagen, Peter Jerndorff, the famous Acteur Royal, practically regarded him as his own son. Under Jerndorff’s direction for five years, he obtained that thorough dramatic education which is so essential to the fastidious Scandinavian Theatre, and to which Ibsen also served an apprenticeship.
“Hadda Padda,” Mr. Kamban’s first dramatic work, was written in Denmark in 1912, while he was still a student at the University of Copenhagen. Originally written in Icelandic, it was translated into Danish and submitted to the Royal Theatre, a fortress difficult of access to the newcomer. This theatre did not even fully recognise such masters as Ibsen and Bjornson until they stood on the heights of achievement. Our author was but twenty-four years old, unknown, and offering his first play.
From the outset “Hadda Padda” caused the directors unexpected trouble. It took them four times as long as usual to come to a decision. They finally accepted it “on account of its literary merit,” but without any obligation on their part to produce it, as the scenery of the last act was of “such daring and dangerous character.”
There was but one thing to do and Mr. Kamban did it. His play was published by Gyldendal, the most distinguished of the Scandinavian publishers. He sent a copy to Georg Brandes, as do thousands of authors from all parts of the world. Next evening he received a letter from the great critic, telling him that he had read the play, and asking Mr. Kamban to call on him at his home. A few days later, when he spent four hours with Brandes at and after table, the latter told him that he received on an average twelve volumes a day from different authors of every nationality, and were he to do nothing else, he could not read even one twelfth of them. “But I am going to write an article about your play,” he concluded. Thus was Mr. Kamban’s place as an artist assured.