The Dangerous Age by Karin Michaëlis


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Page 1

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

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

_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.

_The Dangerous Age_ deals with a bold subject; it is a novel filled with
the "strong meat" of human nature; a novel which speaks in accents at
once painful and ironical, and ends in despair; but it is also a book to
which the most scrupulous author on the question of "the right to speak
out" need not hesitate to attach his name.

It is difficult for one who knows no Danish, to judge of its literary
value; and that is my case. In the German version--and I hope also in
the French--the reader will not fail to discern some of the novelist's
finest gifts. In the first instance, there is that firmness and solidity
of structure which is particularly difficult to keep up when a book
takes the form of a journal, of jottings and meditations, as does _The
Dangerous Age_. Then there are the depth of reflection, the ingenuity of
the arguments, the muscular brevity of style, the expression being
closely modelled upon the thought; nothing is vague, but nothing is
superfluous. We must not seek in this volume for picturesque landscape
painting, for the lyrical note, for the complacently woven "purple
patch." The book is rigorously deprived of all these things; and, having
regard to its subject, this is not its least merit.

* * * * *

When a woman entitles a book _The Dangerous Age_ we may feel sure she
does not intend to write of the dangers of early youth. The dangerous

inspired Octave Feuillet to write the novel, half-dialogue,
half-journal, which appeared in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ in 1848, was
adapted for the stage, played at the _Gymnase_ in 1854, and reproduced

entitled _La Crise_.

It is curious to compare the two books, partly on account of the long
space of time which separates them, and partly because of the different
way in which the two writers treat the same theme.

Octave Feuillet, be it remembered, only wrote what might be spoken aloud
in the most conventional society. Nevertheless those who think the
author of _Monsieur de Cantors_ timid and insipid are only short-sighted
critics. I advise my readers when they have finished the last page of
_The Dangerous Age_ to re-read _La Crise_. They will observe many points
of resemblance, notably in the "journal" portion of the latter.
Juliette, Feuillet's heroine, thus expresses herself:

"What name can I give to this moral discomfort, this distaste for my
former habits, this aimless restlessness and discontent with myself and
others, of which I have been conscious during the last few months?... I
have taken it into my head to hate the trinkets on my husband's
watchchain. We lived together in peace for ten years, those trinkets and
I ... Now, I don't know why, we have suddenly fallen out...."

These words from _La Crise_ contain the argument of _The Dangerous Age_.


read it, however, her book would still have remained all her own, by
reason of her individual treatment of a subject that is also a dangerous
one. We have made considerable advances since 1848. Even in Denmark
physiology now plays a large part in literature. Feuillet did not
venture to do more than to make his Juliet experience temptation from a
medical lover, who is a contrast to her magistrate husband. Although
doctors come off rather badly in _The Dangerous Age_, the book owes much
to them and to medical science. Much; perhaps too much. If this woman's
work had been imagined and created by a man, no doubt he would have been
accused of having lost sight of women's repugnance to speak or write of
their physical inferiority, or even to dwell upon it in thought. Yet the

sex as her heroine Elsie Lindtner.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Tue 16th Jul 2019, 12:56