Brandes After Main Currents: Political Journalism. Oppressed Peoples

by William Banks

As is evidenced in the new introductions to the six volumes of Main Currents -- as well as in the books themselves -- Brandes gradually drifted away from the sharply ideological and politically focused literary criticism of the early volumes toward a rising preoccupation with the individual "great personalities" of European literary history, among them, of course, Goethe and Heine. In some sense it is thus fair to say that Main Currents became somewhat less politically charged as the nearly two decades long project unfolded. Yet it would be a mistake to presume from this that Brandes after the completion of his master work somehow abandoned political engagement. Indeed, from the mid 1890s until the end of his life, the very opposite is the case. This essay briefly summarizes Brandes' activity as international human rights advocate in the final three decades of his long life in letters.

The essay draws upon the author's forthcoming volume, Georg Brandes. Human Rights and Oppressed Peoples. Collected Essays and Speeches, which will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in the spring of 2020.

1. Introduction

The completion of the immense enterprise that has been the Digital Currents project will surely go a long way toward generating new and deserved interest in the figure of Georg Brandes, he who for a half century was placed at the very center of the world republic of letters and yet, for a number of reasons, no longer occupies such a position within world literary historical memory. The project has performed a critical service to the human sciences in making Main Currents, that single work upon which his formidable reputation had been built, widely accessible to a new generation of readers. Given the extent of the impact of Main Currents, both at home in Norden, in Europe and eventually the much larger world, Brandes could, after he delivered the manuscript for the sixth and final volume in 1890, opted for an early retirement. Indeed, he could have done so relatively certain that his place in world literary history had been firmly secured. In the disciplinary (and international) domain, the work had done a great deal toward establishing comparative literature as an independent and autonomous branch of literary studies. Perhaps even more importantly, within the local Danish (and Scandinavian) context, Main Currents had by all means fulfilled its equally significant aim of provoking literary (and, more broadly, cultural) change in relatively backward Norden. The critic’s famous call, in the famous inaugural lecture of November 3rd, 1871, for a new literature that “provokes debate” was very soon answered by the young writers of Scandinavia, so much so that only a dozen years later, Brandes could declare unconditional victory, issuing a celebratory volume of portraits of the leading lights of the movement he had deemed the Modern Breakthrough (Det Moderne Gjennembruds Mænd 1883). Not only had Brandes and his many allies emancipated Scandinavia from its “long Romantic hangover,” they had transformed Norden from a literary afterthought to a vital center within the world literary republic, effectively crashing the party so long the exclusive affair of France, of Germany, of England, a rare moment in the sun for such a peripheral part of the globe that would not be relinquished until the First World War.

Given how restless and searching as was the spirit of Brandes, the critic could hardly rest on the considerable laurels he had already acquired before reaching the age of fifty. His productivity after Main Currents, accordingly, shows no sign of abatement, right up until his death in 1927. The nature of this production, however, most certainly does change, and indeed had already begun to do so during the nearly two decades during which he labored on his master work. This essay provides a brief, although by no means comprehensive, overview of the critic’s work after Main Currents. All emphasis is placed on what is wholly new in mature Brandes, specifically his sustained activity as political journalist, his tireless advocacy on behalf of all those to whom he referred as undertrykte folkeslag, those oppressed peoples, beginning with his fellow Danes in Sønderjylland but eventually encompassing the manifold of national minority populations of Eurasia as well as, gradually, the colonized peoples of Europe’s oversea imperia

2. Two Brandesian Radicalisms: Literary and Aristocratic

It is customary to divide the long career of the critic into two distinct phases, namely the early period of his specifically literary radicalism, which loosely corresponds to his work on Main Currents (1870-1880s), and the later period of his aristocratic radicalism, roughly stretching from the late 1880s until his death. This division is of great usefulness in acquiring an understanding of the long-term evolution of the critic’s thinking, although two important observations are in order. In the first place, contemporary readers of Brandes must be wary of overestimating the extent of the rupture that took place in the 1880s; the critic’s thinking and praxis did indeed change dramatically at this time, yet there is far more continuity between the “literary” and “aristocratic” iterations of his radicalism than it would appear. In the second place, it must be kept in mind that while the general intellectual orientation of each of his two phases was characterized by a considerable degree of instability, the young Brandes was by and large a significantly more coherent figure than the mature critic, that is to say that the cracks and the fissures of literary radicalism were less severe than those its aristocratic variant.

Young Brandes, that is the Brandes of literary radicalism, was in particular blessed with a relatively happy harmony between political and purely artistic concerns within his overall aesthetics. As so forthrightly asserted in the November lecture, the critic had pressed young Nordic authors to reject their preoccupation with an imagined and idealized past in favor of an immersion in the present and in reality. More importantly, at the same time he enjoined them to seek to transform that stagnant and reactionary reality into something modern, progressive, freethinking, just as the poets and thinkers of Europe’s major countries, beginning with Byron, had done fully forty years prior. Literary radicalism, critically, thus understands politics and political engagement to be a constituent element of modern literature, not exactly on an equal footing with purely formal considerations, but very much a sine qua non. As Julie Allen has recently emphasized, the critic would later, in the foreword to the second German edition of Main Currents (1897), written after his views had changed fundamentally, note that “the original orientation of the work is political, not literary” (cited in Allen 2012:63). A quarter century later, as stressed by Brandes biographer Jørgen Knudsen, the critic would reaffirm this view of Main Currents in the preface to the sixth Danish edition (Knudsen 2004:424).

Brandesian literary radicalism as manifested in Main Currents was also, critically, deeply indebted to the dialectical Hegelian (and post-Hegelian) tradition in which the young critic had been educated. As carefully outlined by Anders Engberg-Pedersen in his article for this project (see especially section 3, “The Reaction in France”), the dramatic structure of the work was staged as a dialectical interplay of a series of oppositions, Voltaire’s kingdom of reason and Rousseau’s kingdom of feeling, the principle of freedom and brotherhood as manifested in 1789 and the authority principle that followed in its wake, the spirit of the freethinking of the 18th century and the stifling descent into reaction of the early 19th. In Brandes’ peculiar appropriation of Hegel, critically, the poetic works (and the personalities that composed them) were viewed principally as (mere) expressions of the underlying intellectual and affective currents of the age. Brandes effectively attempts to look through the work and the personality for the more significant ideological underpinnings, the Idea at the expense of individual genius.

By the end of the 1880s, the literary radical theoretical foundation of Main Currents, never entirely secure in the first place, began to unravel, especially with respect to its Hegelian component. As Per Dahl has illuminated (see section 4c in his essay for this project, “The Textual History of Main Currents), Brandes provided us with a clear point of departure for his evolving thought, expressed in an important open letter of 1887, in which he confesses that in the early stages of the project he was “still metaphysically minded,” i.e. Hegelian, and that he had “overlooked the personalities; they were only the organs of the Ideas” (Brandes 1887). During the long period of work on Main Currents, the critic thus gradually became increasingly preoccupied with the personalities of the poets and thinkers themselves, at the expense of the Ideas they expressed; in a different sense this further corresponds to a movement away from the sociology of Taine to the psychology of Sainte-Beuve. The consequences of this shift in understanding were immense, for now the significance of the individual talent was seen to be located within the constitution of the personality itself, rather than somewhere outside of it. As Dahl has demonstrated (see section 4d), there were already strong hints of this in the portrait of Byron, which so thoroughly dominates Naturalism in England (1875). By the late 1880s, the internal conflict within Brandes had clearly been resolved, as from this point forward in his literary work, the critic becomes increasingly preoccupied with the great personalities of world history at the expense of Hegelian Absolute Spirit; as Adam Paulsen notes (see section III.B of his essay for this project, “Young Germany”), mature Brandes practiced “an experiential and biographical aesthetics, according to which art was conceived as ‘the expression of mental perturbations’ with ‘the aim of calling forth mental perturbations.’”

This general reordering of the critic’s views marks the point of transition from the early literary radicalism of his first phase to the specifically aristocratic radicalism of his mature period. Critical to this process of self-reinvention was Brandes’ fateful late 1880s encounter with a then still obscure Friedrich Nietzsche; indeed, the name of the critic’s second phase is taken from the title of his seminal portrait of the philosopher of Basel, “Aristocratic Radicalism” (Tilskueren August 1889), which was based on a series of lectures delivered earlier that year in Copenhagen, lectures which would soon come to rival the address of November 1871 with respect to their impact on Nordic (as well as German) literature. From Nietzsche Brandes acquired a new appreciation of what he would come to call det store Menneske [the great man]:

This person willingly takes upon himself the sufferings of speaking the truth. His foundational insight is that a happy life is impossible; the highest a human being can reach is a heroic life, one in which he struggles against the greatest dangers for something that in one or another matter will benefit everyone. Only those authentic humans among us can rise up to the truly human, those who seem destined to be a leap in nature, thinkers and mentors, artists and creators, and those who make an impact more through their being than through their works: the nobility, those whose goodness is grand, those in whom the genius of the good manifests itself. (Brandes 1889:574)

Still the provocateur, Brandes proceeds to claim that such great personalities constitute no less than “the purpose of history,” and that the role of us ordinary souls is thus limited to “the task of working, both inside ourselves and without, for the bringing forth of the thinker and the artist, the lover of the truth and of beauty, the pure and good personality” (Brandes 1889:574,575). As Paulsen has noted (see the sections IIIb and IIIc), the critic’s new approach was already fully on display, in the expansive portraits of Goethe and Heine, in the sixth and final volume of Main Currents; for the remainder of his career as literary critic, Brandes would largely devote himself to a long series of monographs on the “great individuals of world history,” among them Shakespeare (1895-1896), Ibsen (1898), Goethe (1915), Voltaire (1916-1917), Napoleon (1917), Julius Caesar (1918), Michelangelo (1921).

3. Brandes contra Høffding

Like the November 1871 lecture, “Aristocratic Radicalism” was designed to provoke, and once more Brandes would not need to wait long for the inevitable fallout. Just a few months later, the Danish philosophy professor Harald Høffding, the very representative of the intellectual establishment that had found no use for Brandes, responded with a vigorous critique, “Democratic Radicalism. An Objection,” which appeared in the November/December number of Tilskueren. The ensuing debate, which reached ever greater magnitudes of intensity, would continue into the following spring, with each combatant weighing in twice more.

The feud between Brandes and Høffding is of significance here for the light it sheds on the critic’s transition toward his mature position of specifically aristocratic radicalism. The break with Hegel was a long time coming, but when it arrived it was in every way decisive. The equally important question, that of whether Brandes’ apparent affirmation of a new (intellectual and artistic, rather than hereditary) form of aristocracy also amounts to a rejection of the other component of literary radicalism, namely its insistence that if art is to be modern, and after Brandes in the Germanic world all ought should be modern, it must be politically engaged. More clearly formulated, did the critic’s movement from literary to aristocratic radicalism amount to a retreat from politics? In brief, the answer is most certainly no, yet much in the critic’s production during his mature period would seem to suggest otherwise.

In surveying the literary monography of his aristocratic phase, it must certainly seem that the old harmony between progressive political engagement and purely artistic concerns has largely been abandoned. Indeed, the list of “world historical personalities” the critic chose to profile is conspicuous in that only Voltaire and Ibsen may be counted among those who consciously aligned themselves with the Enlightenment values so cherished by young Brandes; and Ibsen, rather notoriously, was famously uncomfortable with such a designation. Two of Brandes “culture heroes,” moreover, were arguably on the other side of history, Caesar and Napoleon having effectively ending their respective traditions of republican rule.

Even more so, Brandes’ reckless sallies against Høffding reveal a disturbing tendency toward contempt for “the mob” and even for the idea of democracy itself. Over and over again, the critic evinces the form of contempt for the masses so familiar to us from Nietzsche, a contempt also, it must be remembered, present in the thinking of another of Brandes’ interlocutors, the consummate liberal J.S. Mill. Freethinking and progress, it seems, have far more to fear from the deprivations of the organized mob than from the actions of the “great men” appointed by history to lead humanity toward a brighter future:

When the passions of the masses come into motion, the rational majority, even more the rational individual, will be overruled, shoved to the side, or crushed. The masses are not 1 + 1 + 1 (up to the number they come to), but 1 + 1 + 1 [...] + X, that is the beastliness that is developed within the individual when he becomes the masses. [...] When Proff. Høffding, in a contradiction more apparent than real, thereby asserts the necessity of releasing steadily more of the masses to a free, humane life, this necessity is a testimony of precisely the meager human worth of the masses as masses, and of the danger the masses pose as opponents of the great men. This danger naturally also determines the usefulness of the masses as power in the hands of the great man, as a means of accomplishing his plans, which namely include the plans for the advancement of the masses. (Brandes 1890:19-20).

In parrying these attacks, Høffding comes off as by far the more sober – and humane – figure, effectively outflanking his opponent. Employing the nascent logic of social democracy to the domain of culture, Høffding asserts that the measure of the cultural development of a people is to be found in the mean, rather than at the top, and that single individuals of greatness, which he readily concedes are a necessity for a well-functioning human society, are to be evaluated according to the good they produce for society, as a means rather than an end in themselves. Perhaps most effectively, he offers up the eminently reasonable observation that the more ordinary people are educated and cultivated, the more likely they are to be capable of appreciating the great individual.

4. “Thoughts at the Turn of the Century”

Much in the seemingly illiberal and anti-democratic stance adopted by Brandes in his polemics against Høffding would appear to suggest that the critic had largely turned his back on politics, and yet, as has been noted, this is precisely not the case; indeed, the critic would, beginning around the middle of the 1890s, dramatically intensify his involvement in affairs of state. However counterintuitive it might appear, there is in fact ample room for political activity within the mature, aristocratic iteration of Brandesian radicalism, although the nature of the critic’s political engagement, as indicated, has changed in quality as well as in quantity. Whereas Brandes the literary radical had largely embedded his politics within his literary criticism and history – a fitting descriptor for the methodology of Main Currents is what the Danes would later come to call ideologikritik – the mature critic effectively sections off his politics from the relatively (but hardly entirely) apolitical literary monography. That the critic is conscious of the bifurcated nature of his mature production is acknowledged in his 1905 essay “Zionism,” written around the time that his first period of sustained activities as political journalist was coming to an end; here Brandes laments that such labors “have consumed three months of my working life this year” (Brandes 1910:407).

What motivates the critic to make this fateful leap, from relatively abstract ideological critique to direct intervention in the form of political journalism, was a dramatically revised – and much more pessimistic – understanding of political development within Europe’s core countries. As clearly evident in the November 1871 lecture, the young Brandes held up France, Germany and England as exemplars of progress and freethinking, as models worthy of study and emulation by backward Denmark. In the 1870s, the essential task for young Danes was working toward to the closure of the “forty-year gap” separating Denmark from Europe. By the 1890s, however, a series of disturbing developments in the major countries had compelled the critic to rethink his youthful valorization of them. The critic would outline his new views in a seminal 1899 address to the Danish Student Union, the association of freethinking young Danes that had long served as a forum for his evolving thinking. “Thoughts at the Turn of the Century,” published in the January 1900 edition of Tilskueren, begins with an acknowledgement that as young man he had overlooked two troubling developments within the core countries of Europe. In the first place the critic had failed to appreciate the significance of the outbreak of the Paris Commune in March of 1871, which is now understood as “the event that has most determined European politics” ever since, in that “fear of its repetition led the bourgeoisie of all the main countries” to forsake the very “freethinking” that had been the source of all their progress; the “social question” raised by events in Paris would come to “occupy all of the minds of the political class at the turn of the century,” and “the social revolution” was seen as imminent (Brandes 1902a:143). In the second place Brandes had failed to appreciate the intensity of French revanchist rage at the loss of Alsace and Lorraine, and because “both Germany and France had entered in to powerful systems of alliances, the outbreak of a world war remained continuously plausible” (Brandes 1902a:143). That neither of these grim possibilities had realized themselves by the end of the century was hardly, the critic warned, cause for celebration:

Although the world war and the social revolution have not come to pass, it is evident that they have only been postponed. But the decisive political event we have experienced at the end of the 19th century is this: the great powers divide the world among themselves. They try to do this as peacefully as possible, in that they attempt to avoid a world war. Yet still they act with an injurious recklessness, because for the sake of economic advantage they sacrifice not only those peoples whom they conquer by fire and sword, but further all the small nations within their immediate orbit, which are either absorbed for the sake of national unity or exchanged as bounty or delivered up to brutality, all in order that the peace be preserved. (Brandes 1902a:144-145).

If the young Brandes had largely conceived of Europe as divided into freethinking and reactionary blocs, the latter in desperate need of following the lead of the former, the mature Brandes perceived the world very differently, as a wholly unequal contest between predator nation and prey, between the major powers and everyone else.

The advent of Neocolonialism, by papering over social tensions at home and by transferring great power rivalries to far flung reaches of the globe, had indeed served to forestall catastrophe, yet this perilously flimsy peace had of course been purchased at the expense of the newly colonized as well as the small nations of the European periphery:

In the new century there will be a new distinction between the states of Europe. The old division into great powers and powers of the second rank will be dissolved by that between the European (and perhaps Asiatic) world powers (Japan) and the merely local states of Europe, which will have lost all their political influence and any hope of expansion or growth. The smaller they are, the more miserable their political prospects seem. (Brandes 1902a:145)

It is evident from this that Brandes at the turn of the century does seem to privilege the unhappy fate of Europe’s lesser countries; the far greater suffering of the newly subjugated peoples of Africa and Asia – those whom the major powers “conquer by fire and sword” – is noted here only as prelude to the larger point about the European periphery. This preoccupation can to a large extent be explained with reference to the critic’s gradually evolving conception of oppressed peoples. As has been noted, the critic begins his rights advocacy in the mid 1890s in the national sphere, as a response to the ascendancy of Ernst Matthias von Köller (1841-1928), who after his appointment as Oberpräsident of Schleswig-Holstein began to introduce increasingly harsh Germanization measures against the 300,000 ethnic Danes under the rule of the German Reich. Yet the seemingly national “we” employed in “Thoughts at the Turn of the Century” is actually something much larger, for by the expansive logic of solidarism, Brandes would in the coming quarter century continuously extend his advocacy work outward, first largely (but not entirely) toward similar subject populations of Eurasia and later toward the colonized abroad.

“Thoughts at the Turn of the Century” functions as a kind of annunciation of the critic’s coming foray into international rights advocacy, which would kick off the following summer with the appearance in Politiken of his critique of Kaiser Wilhelm’s infamous “Hunnenrede,” delivered on the occasion of the embarkation of German forces for the punitive campaign against the Boxer rebels of China. That the critic’s long stint as international tribune of oppressed peoples begins with a defense of non-European people is of immense significance in that it demonstrates the essential universality of his conception of the rights of peoples, yet his initial burst of activity, as has been noted, is otherwise concerned almost exclusively with the subject populations of Eurasia, most prominently the partitioned Poles and the embattled Armenian community of the Ottoman Empire. It is really not until 1922, when Brandes delivered his monumental Christiania address on “Imperialism,” that the critic fully articulates a critique of the domination of the weak by the strong that is truly planetary in its scope.

The 1899 address is also, finally, of interest in that it so clearly demonstrates how the mature critic’s essentially aristocratic orientation can relatively comfortably coexist with continued political engagement, specifically in defense of the weaker against the stronger. The first two thirds of the speech, as described, amount to a vigorous defense of the rights of the weaker peoples of the globe; if anything “Thoughts at the Turn of Century” demonstrates that Brandes in no manner or form attempts to apply the Nietzschean critique of “slave morality” to the contest of nations. If in the domain of national culture ordinary people are called upon to follow the lead of the great individuals in their midst, the same does not at all apply to relations between “major” and “minor” countries; indeed, the “lesser” peoples of the globe are continuously enjoined to resist the predations of the “greater” powers. The essential incongruity of mature Brandes’ intellectual orientation is fully on display here, for the final third of the speech consists of a long inventory of the individual “great men” the critic has come to know during his travels across the continent, hovering over them all, of course, Nietzsche himself. For the mature Brandes, up to the end, “human greatness remains the goal [...] the measure of all things” (Brandes 1902a:156).

5. Continuity in the Evolution of the Critic: National sentiment

It should now be evident that Brandes’ general theoretical orientation changed significantly over time, and we have every reason to uphold the consensus division of his long career into early literary and mature aristocratic phases. Yet two essential aspects of the critic’s intellectual and spiritual core largely survived this transition, features of his thinking and praxis that serve to explain – in part, but not entirely – the seeming contradiction at the very center of his mature position. The first is a profound (but by no means unconditional) love of country, the second, which is evidenced by the names ascribed to his two distinct phases, is the critic’s radicalism. Each of these facets deserves special attention.

The famous appellation bestowed on Brandes by Nietzsche, that of “the good European and cultural mediator,” was by all means deserved, and yet we must be wary of making too much of it, of conceiving of the critic as a kind of rootless cosmopolitan. Despite his Jewish ancestry, Brandes was in all almost every important sense a thoroughly Danish figure, a self-understanding with which he was wholly comfortable, and he was a fervent patriot at that. As comprehensive and as damning as is the critique of Danish culture presented in the November 1871 lecture, Brandes in no manner or form endorses the rather obvious solution taken up by so many similarly placed ambitious young intellectuals, namely self-imposed exile in one of the European cultural metropoles. His one extended period of exile, the Berlin sojourn of 1877-1883, was the result of financial necessity, and at no point during this period did he ever seek to cut off contact with home. Denmark is to be transformed, it is not to be abandoned.

His fellow Danes, of course, consistently accused him of disloyalty to his homeland, as evidenced in a 1905 commentary by the American critic Albert Shaw, who reports that Brandes is viewed by his countrymen as “a traitor, a cosmopolite, an enemy of the nation.” (Shaw 1905:107). The critic’s foray into international rights advocacy after the turn of the century, his ever wider ranging engagement with the manifold of oppressed peoples across the globe, only served to strengthen these accusations that had plagued him from the very beginning, as Brandes was seen by Danes as neglecting issues much closer to home. The same, sadly enough, is also true of the critic’s relationship to the other half of his identity, as European Jewry, especially proponents of Zionism (which Brandes largely opposed) regularly accused him of neglect. Nowhere is this tension more apparent than in his work on behalf of the Poles, that single people whom he loved most dearly and on behalf of whom he expended the most energy. For fear of damaging the cause of Polish independence he had made his own, Brandes remained almost totally silent on the matter of Polish anti-Semitism; indeed, his regular appearances in partitioned Poland were occasionally boycotted by local Jewish communities. It would not be until the outbreak of the war, when undeniable reports of Polish led pogroms began to appear in the press, that the critic would finally speak out against his beloved Poles.

In spite of the efforts of his many enemies to paint him as a traitor, Brandes was, as has been suggested, deeply committed to the cause of his people. As Sune Berthelsen and Ditte Marie Egebjerg have carefully demonstrated, the critic was no rudderless cosmopolite; instead, his understanding of national identity is more properly qualified by what they call “national cosmopolitanism,” a form of love of country that by no means excludes an openness and a generosity toward the larger world, a kind of precursor to what Kwame Anthony Appiah has termed “rooted cosmopolitanism” (Berthelsen and Egebjerg 2004:99). As a radical thinker the critic is of course categorically opposed to the kind of belligerent nationalism characteristic of the major powers (and, it should be remembered, all too many small nations as well), what Thomas Nordby has aptly defined as “a nation’s aggressive self-assertion at the expense of other peoples and races” (Nordby 1973:142). Rejecting such nationalisme, Brandes instead endorses a love of country determined by what he calls nationalfølelse. This national sentiment is primary, yet wholly compatible with cosmopolitan generosity; indeed, the two sensibilities mutually reinforce one another:

A sense of world citizenship built upon a foundation of national sentiment is not only quite possible, it is indeed unnatural without such a basis. Just as conceiving of oneself as a Scandinavian does not in any manner preclude conceiving oneself first and foremost as a Dane, so it is unnatural to conceive of oneself as a Northerner without first identifying oneself according to one’s particular Nordic nationality — the same holds true with conceiving oneself as a European or a citizen of the world. First we are Danes! That is a matter of course. (Brandes 1902b:199)

Brandes delivered these remarks in another address before the Danish Student Union, “On National Sentiment,” in 1894, thirty years after catastrophic national defeat in the Dano-Prussian War, which had resulted not only in the loss of a large portion of the old homeland, but also, as the critic painfully articulates, Denmark’s very sense of self-confidence and national destiny. The Brandesian concept of national sentiment is thus framed much less in the sense of a right than of a duty, a duty especially to the long-suffering Danish minority of Sønderjylland:

And that effort, which has also been taken up by the Student Union, to establish connections between North Schleswig and the Kingdom in order to preserve the linguistic and cultural spheres of Denmark, is for us Danes a cultural task of the highest order. We have a national duty to protect our language and to resist the loss of even an inch of that territory. The Germans themselves would look on us with contempt if we failed our duty in this respect. (Brandes 1902b:200)

The nationalist typically seeks to flatter the national audience at every turn, to indulge each of its vanities, to insist that it is the rest of the world that must bow to the needs and the desires of the nation. National sentiment, in absolute contrast, places demands on the national community, it urges the citizen to seek continuously to close the gulf between lived reality and national ideality, and even more so, to constantly re-evaluate and revalue those ideals. As stirring as this call is in the 1894 address, the speech in no manner or form underestimates the challenges facing Denmark. Commenting on the meager reception of the Danish contribution to the 1878 Exposition Universelle, the critic reports with alarm that one single sentence was on the lips of the Parisian attendees: “le Danemark s’efface” (Brandes 1902b:191). It is thus incumbent upon every Dane, especially young writers, to resist what seemed at the time to be a perilous slide into national extinction. Brandes himself would take the lead in this most essential national project, not only continuing his efforts to promote Danish literature abroad, but even more so issuing a steady stream of essays and stumping tirelessly on behalf of his embattled countrymen and women, all the way up until the matter was largely resolved after the Great War. His major writings on the Sønderjylland Question were in fact republished in the volume Southern Jutland Under Prussian Pressure, issued the year before the 1920 plebiscite that resulted in the return of much of the old North Schleswig territory to the kingdom.

The critic’s activities during the 1890s effectively served as dry run for his later, internationally-oriented rights advocacy after the turn of the century, as a kind of national dress rehearsal for his eventual entry onto the world stage. And yet his commitment to Denmark and Danishness is of further significance here in that it demonstrates that the critic’s foray into international affairs of state remained throughout possessed of an equally important national component. That Brandes was sincerely dedicated to the cause of the Poles, the Armenians, the Finns, the Persians – all of the many oppressed peoples for whom he advocated – is beyond any measure of doubt. We need only look at how much his activism cost him; all the affection showered upon him by those whose cause he made his own was most certainly offset by the hostility it engendered in the major countries. This is most evident during the critic’s second phase of sustained activity, his principled and uncompromising opposition to the aims and the conduct of the belligerent powers in the Great War. From October of 1914 through the “resolution” of the conflict in the Versailles Treaty, Brandes consistently critiqued the allegedly high-minded ideals fueling the war from all sides. His impassioned defense of Danish neutrality, first against the repeated assaults of his longtime friend and ally, French premier Georges Clemenceau, and then against similar attacks from the Scottish translator and Scandinavianist William Archer, earned him the opprobrium of an entire generation of French and Englishmen; indeed, it is arguably the immense damage done to his international reputation by his wartime stance that has more than any other factor contributed to his diminishment in world literary memory.

Despite the intensity of his commitment to the various oppressed peoples of the globe, Brandes’ activity as international tribune was, as suggested, underpinned by a powerful national aspect, just as was the case with Main Currents. As Allen has demonstrated, the critic “believed that having the courage to protest injustice [in the larger world outside Denmark], even at great personal cost, was central to a grounded, enlightened Danish national identity as the development of the innovative literary culture to which his name had become so inextricably linked” (Allen 2012:91). His sincere hope is that enterprise of national cultural modernization he had set in motion in the Modern Breakthrough might grow into an equally progressive and humane international orientation within his native land. Brandes seems to have believed, somewhat idealistically, that the particular historical experience of the Danes, the long period of national decline and descent into abject powerlessness on the world stage following the defeat of 1864, ought naturally to inspire in its citizenry an inherent sympathy for all the similarly put upon nations of the globe. He would render this national ideal imaginary in the powerful “Address on Møn” in 1904, asserting that a genuine, modern form of love of country is far more than the praise of its people, the glorification of its past and present accomplishments:

It is also more important to develop a sense of freedom and justice among the people, not just for its own use . . . Thus it was my ideal that it should be known that, despite the small size of our country, men lived here who felt sympathy for with all wronged individuals or oppressed peoples across the world and who lifted their voices, spoke on their behalf. (Samlede Skrifter XV:443, translation by Allen 2012:101).

Denmark, Brandes dreams, ought to come to be viewed as a kind of beacon of humane and just values, in natural sympathy and solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the globe. That the Danes have historically failed to live up to this rather impossible standard is a matter of course. Indeed, and this would certainly be a source of immense sadness for the critic, Norway and Sweden, those “humanitarian superpowers” and “regimes of the good,” have most certainly come closer; for evidence of this we need only look to the dreadful images of a few years ago, when Danish state officials shamelessly harassed Syrian refugees simply transiting the country en route to safe harbor in Sweden. Yet the essentially Nordic idea that the national community might serve as beacon of hope for the world arguably begins here, in Brandes.

6. Continuity in the Evolution of the Critic: Radicalism

In addition to his rather curious form of love of country, Brandes remained, as has been noted, a fundamentally radical thinker throughout his long career. It must be stressed here that the noun radikalisme and the adjective radikal are possessed of a historical trajectory fundamentally distinct from the Anglophone world. As such, a substantial philological interlude is in order here.

The adjective “radical” first emerged in English in the Late Middle Ages within the domain of the natural sciences; clearly revealing its fidelity to the Latin root radix [root], the term connoted that which is “of, belonging to, or from the roots” (OED A.1.a). In its initial iteration it was wholly value neutral, as only in the later 18th century did it acquire a political and thus contested sense. It was first applied to politics in two related – but in fact distinct – usages. In the first, “radical” came to function as a descriptor for a minority faction within a larger political party that sought “thorough or far-reaching political or social reform,” that is change that “goes to the roots” of existing forms of social organization (OED A.7.b). In Britain the Radical wing of the Liberal party sought the abolition of the property requirement for voting, while the Radical Republicans in the United States agitated for the abolition of slavery. Certainly these “radical” demands must strike we contemporaries as relatively modest; indeed, even within their respective historical contexts they would hardly seem to qualify as outrageous, given that universal (male, white) suffrage hard largely been the norm in the U.S. since its founding, and that by the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, chattel slavery was a distant memory in the British Empire. Yet because these radical programs constituted an existential threat to established centers of power, the British and American radicals were of course denounced by their enemies in the second and deeply value-laden sense of the term, namely that of “representing or supporting an extreme section of a party.” The evolution of the term since the 19th century has largely resulted in the collapse of this distinction, that is between change that is “thorough and far-reaching” and “goes to the roots” and change that is in its essence “extreme.” In contemporary Anglophone political usage, “radical” is typically employed as pejorative against all those ideas deemed to be outside the domain of the permissible; in effect it is a weapon for the enforcement of ideological boundaries.

In Denmark the term first acquires a political sense in the 1870s and 1880s, always associated with Brandes and his circle, who were referred to as radical authors. These literary radicals were closely aligned with the political radicals, led by the critic’s brother Edvard (1847-1931) and the politician Viggo Hørup (1841-1902), who together founded the daily Politiken in 1884 as an organ for radical commentary; the majority of Georg Brandes’ political journalism, in fact, first appeared in the paper. While the radical movement did indeed seek change “at the roots” of existing social and political organization, they did not at all conceive of their program as “extremist” in nature. Certainly, their conservative enemies attempted to define them as such, but this largely came to nothing, as almost immediately the radicals were assimilated into mainstream politics, where they have remained ever since. In the domain of electoral politics, the Danish radicals, like their British and American namesakes, first emerged as a subset of larger party of a decidedly centrist orientation, namely the Venstre, the descendant of the old National Liberal party that had played the central role in the mid 19th century transition to constitutional rule. On the Right they were opposed by the Højre of J.B.S. Estrup (1825-1913), while the nascent Left was occupied by the small but growing Danish Social Democratic party, founded by the postal worker Louis Pio (1841-1894) just weeks before Brandes’ famous lecture of November 1871. The split within the Venstre that began to emerge in the 1880s should thus be viewed as a kind of “bourgeois intramural struggle,” a fissure between the more conservative “national wing” of the party and its emergent “radical wing,” who were also referred to as “the Europeans” for their generally internationalist orientation. This split would be formalized in 1905, after Denmark transitioned from limited to full parliamentary democracy, in the founding of the Radikale Venstre party, which despite its name has remained up to the present a fixture of the political Center, fully capable of forming governments with both the Center Left and the Center Right. While their platform has evolved over the years, the Radikaler have more or less consistently represented the core Brandesian values of the expansion of individual rights, vigorous internationalism and opposition to any form of militarism or belligerent nationalism; today they are one of the few Danish parties committed to protecting the rights of Denmark’s embattled immigrant communities. Their impact on Danish politics and culture has been immense; indeed the period between 1871 and the monumental elections of 2001, which brought the Right back into power and marked the emergence of the Far Right, anti-immigrant Danske Folkeparti [Danish People’s Party], can aptly be described as Denmark’s “Long Radical Century.” As Hans Hertel has noted, the DF framed the 2001 election as no less than the liberation of Denmark from “one hundred and thirty years of so-called cultural radical tyranny” (Hertel 2004:12).

The Danish radical movement was and is far more than the political party that bears its name; as the historian Leif Pjetursson has described, the original understanding of the term was largely identified with a particular tankegang, a manner of thinking that “takes things at their roots” and is “penetrating and thorough,” a “critical and analytic movement in which society is dissected (Pjetursson 1984:7). The roots of this radical manner of thinking rested firmly within the 18th century Enlightenment, as evidenced by Pjetursson’s metaphor of dissection; much as the 18th century illuminista staked a claim to scientific rationality, so did Brandes initially seek to bring literary praxis into greater accord with that of the natural sciences. As a political ideology, radicalism largely took its cues from the revolutionary and collectivist “humane” liberalism of Rousseau, which sought to “cement together the singular will of the individual with the common will of society,” in stark opposition to the strictly individualist “classical” liberalism of Smith and Ricardo, which claimed as its point of departure “the egoistic trait in human being” (Pjetursson 1984:13). As an essentially critical “ideal liberalism,” Brandesian radicalism was in its essence an oppositional movement, situated firmly against the hegemonic ideology of the age, that which Johan Fjord Jensen has aptly deemed the nationalliberale enhedskultur [national, or perhaps more properly, bourgeois culture of national unity]:

As culture it was hierarchical, built up on a series of institutions in which . [...] the patriarchal family was central and holiest. It rested upon a fixed moral system, which through written and unwritten rules of propriety placed an endless series of limitations on human development. In its essence it was static and self-protecting. It was pale and passionless in its understanding of life, except for when it was confronted with aberrant forms of culture that threatened it with rupture . [...] against such threats it reacted with a passionate urge for self-preservation. (Fjord Jensen 1966:13).

As has been suggested, Brandesian radicalism did not in essence question the fundamental ideals of bourgeois civilization; in contrast, these ideals, at least in their original French revolutionary iteration, constitute the very model of humane social organization. Radical critique thus seeks to expose the failure of the Danish bourgeoisie to live up to its own ideals, to peek beyond what Fjord Jensen terms its “façade morality.” The emphasis on getting to the roots beyond this façade reveals the both the Brandesianism of Ibsen and the Ibsenism of Brandes; as Franco Moretti has observed, Ibsen’s cycle of twelve amounts to, in essence, a strikingly similar twenty-year “settling of accounts” with the bourgeoisie (Moretti 2010:118).

At long last we have arrived at a serviceable definition of Brandesian radicalism: it is a socially critical movement characterized by a manner of thinking that, more or less in tune with scientific inquiry, investigates society at its roots, beneath the veil concealing the actually existing bourgeois civilization of the late 19th century, in the effort to hold it to the high and humane ideals expressed in its initial, revolutionary phase. The apparent failure of the movement to produce concrete change in Danish politics and culture did to a significant extent result in a certain measure of disillusionment in the critic, yet his reinvention as a Nietzschean “aristocratic radical” in the 1890s was by no means a rejection of his earlier method. In absolute contrast, the thinking and praxis of the mature Brandes constitutes a deepening of the project of radical critique, for at base the critic comes to an understanding that his earlier approach was no longer sufficient to meet the drastically changed political conditions of Europe and the larger world.

As has been previously noted, what had changed was the advent of Neocolonialism; the dialectical interplay between revolution and reaction that had served to structure Main Currents had been effectively undermined by the triumph of empire. It should be emphasized that both the theoretical models of the young critic, the Hegelian conception of history as under the guidance of abstract Absolute Spirit as well as the Nietzschean insistence on the singular great individual, were firmly within the tradition of philosophical Idealism. In both views it is spirit, whether in the form of the abstract Idea or in the concrete heroic actions of the single individual, that moves history. Neither approach, as Olav Harsløf has illuminated, was sufficient to the changed circumstances of Europe at the turn of the 20th century, for “the critical work could only continue through the analysis of the elements that make up the reactionary unity – racism, militarism, nationalism –, as well as their ultimate source, imperialism” (Harsløf 1973:136). In order to get at the roots of the imperial impulse, Brandes must gesture in a direction fundamentally alien to his nature, namely the materialist (although, of course, non-Marxist) analysis of the economic conditions of the Belle Epoque. It was for Brandes a complete reorientation of his critical perspective, from the “horizontal” ideologikritik of his early phase to the “vertical” understanding of the economic determinants of social organization and culture, from “cultural politics” to a “more economically grounded social critique” (Harsløf 1973:137-138). As the new century dawns, Brandes is seized by a new and powerful sense of urgency; the old radical methodologies will no longer do, he must make the fateful leap into direct intervention in affairs of state, he must lend his name and his formidable reputation to the cause of the manifold of oppressed peoples around the world.

7. Brandes as International Tribune of the Rights of Peoples: 1900-1925

As has been argued, the general ideological framework of the mature Brandes was riven with internal tensions, especially that between the seemingly unforgiving and anti-democratic leanings of his “aristocratic” proclivities and the much more generous spirit that characterizes his rights advocacy. With respect to the former, the political journalism of his final quarter century is replete with appeals to “the leading men” (as well as, occasionally, women) of one country or another, revealing his continued belief in the capacity of “men of influence” to produce real change. His 1904 call for a Pan-European movement in defense of the university in Helsinki, which after the turn of the century was subjected to increasingly harsh measures of Russification, is a telling example:

The student youth of the three Nordic countries, together with their university teachers, ought to express their sympathy with students and teachers at the university in Helsingfors and register their protest against the violence and abuse that is inflicted on them. We dare hope that the movement then spreads further, so that other countries’ universities, first and foremost England’s and Germany’s, perhaps also France’s, surely Italy’s, attach themselves to the protest, and that it therefore rolls over the Earth, steadily more polyphonic. [Russian Interior Minister] Plehve should be made to understand that he cannot take lightly such a pronouncement from Europe’s most enlightened class of men. [...] It is our purpose to bring the Russian government to perceive itself isolated, an isolation it more steadily begins to feel. [...] A similar sense of isolation ought to be instilled among Russia’s leading men, the sense that they are set apart from European civilization by Europe’s intellectual aristocracy. This government has expelled Finland’s best men from their fatherland. In return Europe must expel Russia from its culture. (Brandes 1906b:63-64).

While collective civil disobedience is a critical component of this strategy, it is strictly limited to the educated classes; Brandes effectively hopes that pressure from Western Europe’s university communities might provoke Russia’s intelligentsia to apply similar pressure to the Czarist state, which would then lead to an easing of its repressive policies.

Yet the other side of Brandes, the critic as impassioned defender of the rights of whole peoples, is also capable of speaking directly to those very same masses elsewhere written off as “the mob.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in his 1916 “An Appeal,” a call for peace talks distributed in the millions in French and German (but not in England, thanks to the efforts of the propaganda bureau):

In the war-making countries the armies naturally desire first and foremost victory, but most strongly they desire peace. The civilian population everywhere groans for peace. The governments who sit high in the saddle kick the spurs into the weary horse’s flanks. [...] The cries for peace that soon shall arise in all states are called cowardly. But if the people keep silent then the stones will speak. Everywhere the ruins scream for peace, not for revenge. And where the stones remain silent, the fields and the meadows, drenched in blood and strewn with corpses, cry out. (Brandes 1916:256-257).

The “great men” of the 20th century, if the perpetrators of the war could be called such, have failed entirely in their duty; indeed, it was one such “most enlightened man,” the aforementioned William Archer, who had been primarily responsible for suppressing the appeal in the United Kingdom. In the absence of extraordinary individuals, it is only the people themselves who might put an end to this “singular tragedy.”

The general theoretical conception of the rights of peoples underpinning the critic’s praxis as international tribune is of immense complexity, and is further characterized by a strong measure of internal consistency. While an overview of its basic features is outside the scope of this essay, a detailed analysis of Brandes’ thinking about rights – including a treatment of the essential question of whether the critic’s peculiar form of rights advocacy ought to be considered a precursor of the specifically human rights advocacy that would catch fire in the decades after the Second World War – is provided in my forthcoming volume, Georg Brandes. Human Rights and Oppresses Peoples. Essays and Speeches, which is briefly discussed below in section VIa.

With respect to the critic’s practice as rights advocate, as mentioned above, his production was generally divided into two periods of sustained activity, the first beginning in the summer of 1900 and stretching forward through 1905, after which his activity tapers off until resuming in earnest with the outbreak of the Great War. As described, Brandes’ 25 years of advocacy work is characterized by its steadily expanding scope, although also as noted he in fact begins with a vigorous critique of the punitive campaign of the Eight Nation Alliance against the Boxer Rebels of China. For the most part, however, his first period is dominated by his concern for the subject peoples of Eurasia. Most prominent among them are of course the long-suffering Poles, with whom the critic had maintained close relations since his long journey through the old homeland in the 1880s, which he had chronicled in his 1888 volume Impressions of Poland. The appearance of this long ignored book in German translation in 1898 invoked both the enduring love of the people of Poland as well as the considerable ire of the Germans, and thus it was only natural that he would come to take the lead in presenting the Polish civil struggles against both Germanization and Russification efforts to Western Europe. Also of great significance to the critic during this period was the fate of Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, of which he had become aware through his contact with the Armenian exile activists Avetis Nazarbekian (1866-1939) and Mariam Vardanian (1864-1941). His chilling accounts of the mid-1890s “Hamidian” massacres, the October 1900 essay “Armenia” and the February 1903 Berlin address “Armenia and Europe,” are among the first West European treatments of the initial outbreak of mass killing in Eastern Anatolia that, despite the actions of the critic and his Pro-Armenia allies, did not awaken the continent to coming even greater catastrophe of 1915-1917. In addition to a miscellany of other European subject peoples for whom he advocated during this period, Brandes also addressed the rising specter of anti-Semitism in addition to, as previously noted, the growing Zionist movement, with which he maintained difficult relations.

The eruption of the Guns of August in 1914 summoned the critic back to advocacy in earnest, as he quickly emerged, along with the French author Romain Rolland (1866-1944), as a leader of the tiny anti-war movement. While his aforementioned feuds with Clemenceau in France and Archer in Britain amounted to a direct confrontation with the allegedly high-minded war aims of the Allies, his wartime journalism is in general preoccupied with the fate of the neutral peoples caught up in the conflict, the Poles and the Armenians, of course, but also the Belgians and the Persians. As previously noted, it was this second period of activity, his principled opposition to the war aims and conduct of all sides, that cost Brandes most dearly; for a generation of Frenchmen and Englishmen, he would always remain “Mr. Facing-Both-Ways.”

After the war Brandes’ activity as political journalist subsided again, although one effort, his 1922 Christiania address “Imperialism,” deserves special mention here, as it sheds a great deal of light on the evolution of his thinking about the rights of peoples as well as, importantly, the relationship between his political activity and his better remembered literary work. It can often seem, as has been stressed throughout this essay, that these two aspects of the mature critic’s production are in at least some sense in tension with one another. Yet in one critical sense they are indeed mutually reinforcing. They key text here is Brandes’ long under-appreciated 1899 essay “World Literature,” which because of the new interest in the concept of Weltliteratur in recent decades has finally begun to receive the attention it deserves. When Goethe first began to use the term in the late 1820s, he seemed to have had in mind something like convergence. Because of the long period of peace following the Napoleonic Wars as well as, even more importantly, increased global exchange – not just of material goods but also of ideas and of literary works – the old form “of National literature means little now, the age of Weltliteratur has begun” (cited in D’haen et al. 2013:11). From Brandes’ perspective at the conclusion of the 19th century, much of this is taken for granted, although the critic, revealing his inherent sympathy for all small languages and literatures, places all of the emphasis on the fundamental unfairness of the world literary system, in which “an author of the sixth rank in a widespread language, a world language, can with ease become more known than an author of the second rank in a language spoken by only a few million” (cited in D’haen et al. 2013:25). And further demonstrating his essential national cosmopolitanism, Brandes proceeds to attack those who, seduced by the prospect of world renown, “have begun to write for a general and unspecified public,” those who – the specific target here is Zola – write “as Sarah Bernhardt acts when she performs in Peru or Chicago. In contrast to this new phenomenon of “writing for the world,” the critic insists that the writer must “work in the land in which he was born and write for his countrymen” that the work might carry “the scent of the earth.”

It is likely no coincidence that “World Literature” and “Thoughts at the Turn of the Century” were produced in the very same year. Both are underpinned by a conception of the world system as an unequal struggle between major and minor powers, between colonizer and colonized, whether in the literary realm or in the domain of power politics. He seems to have grasped intuitively what Benedict Anderson would later make explicit, that the fate of oppressed peoples the world over is intimately bound to language, to national literature. He would make this clear in what is arguably the most stirring of his political works, the 1905 letter “To the Schoolchildren of Russian Poland,” who had recently declared a national strike in protest against the banning of the Polish language in the school system:

You have acted out of your best and surest natural instincts; out of enthusiasm for the most undeniable of human rights, that to speak and read one’s language; out of enthusiasm for that language itself, in which immortal works are written; out of enthusiastic love of your people, your country and its history, but especially its future. (Brandes 1906c:43-44)

In some sense, then, Brandes’ activity as international tribune for the rights of peoples can be seen as a complement to, perhaps even an outgrowth of, his work as international advocate for the literatures of (small) peoples. This is evident over and over again in his political journalism, as the critic constantly invokes the literary accomplishments of a given people as an argument in its defense. Julie Allen has astutely identified this uniquely Brandesian form of “cultural defense,” noting that his work on behalf of Armenia:

does not invoke sympathy as the sole or even the primary rise for coming to the aid of the Armenians, but rather culture, both admiration for the cultural wealth created by Armenians over the past four thousand years and fear of the destructive effect of tacit complicity on European culture. (Allen 2012:110).

At times, indeed, this overwhelming preoccupation with literature can strike the contemporary reader as at least somewhat strange, even after all Anderson has taught us. In his May 1917 essay “The Armenians,” written after the mass murder of hundreds of thousands, the critic is still, for example, at pains to remind the reader that “in our time the Armenians have upheld their old reputation as poets and artists,” and that no less a Brandesian luminary than Lord Byron had been motivated to study their language and literature (Brandes 1917b:365).

As has been suggested, Brandes’ employment of his form of “cultural defense” and the pronounced bias for literary culture it reveals raises a critical question regarding his theoretical conception of the rights of peoples, namely that of whether the critic is possessed of some measure of civilizational bias. The absence in his political journalism of the untold millions of indigenous peoples who came under the European thumb during his lifetime is indeed conspicuous, although it can at least in part be explained by the fact that, since so many of the newly colonized were preliterate, he simply lacked his best means of defending them. The two non-European peoples for whom he did advocate extensively, the Chinese and the Persians, were furthermore possessed of ancient cultural traditions far older than those of Europe; just as importantly, the efforts of European Orientalists have of course led to a profound appreciation of their cultural achievements, if indeed they were seen as located in the distant past rather than the present. Whatever doubts might persist regarding the universality of Brandes’ conception of the rights of peoples, however, are dispelled entirely by the aforementioned 1922 address “Imperialism,” delivered in Christiania rather than in Copenhagen, likely an acknowledgement of Denmark’s colonial entanglements that continue to this day. He begins by recalling a previous visit to the Norwegian capital, shortly before the outbreak of the war he had long foreseen. At that time, in a distant echo of Nietzsche, the critic had concluded by asserting that the coming catastrophe would necessitate a revaluation of all values. Eight years and millions of deaths later, the critic laments, little has changed:

The wish I had expressed in my final sentence, that “the old ideals must be replaced with new ones,” has by no means come true. The old ideal, imperialism as the expression of nationalism, is at the moment dominate in all the countries whose attitude means something for the population of the world, the unfortunate mass of humanity. (Brandes 1932:158)

What follows is an impassioned and scathing indictment of persistent European imperialism, planetary in its scope and breathtaking in its indignation. Most importantly, the old practice of “cultural defense” of oppressed peoples is entirely absent, as the critic forcefully and without reservation asserts the right of all peoples, regardless of the “level of civilizational accomplishment,” to self-determination and to dignity. Even at the age of eighty, it seems, Brandes remained fully capable of self-reinvention and renewal.

8A. Bibliography: Brandes' Political Journalism

Relative to his literary work, Brandes’ rights advocacy journalism was as noted characterized by a greater sense of urgency; indeed, a great many of the speeches and articles were produced on request, from representatives of the various oppressed peoples he encountered during his European travels and through his extensive correspondence. Since the critic served as his own editor for his Samlede Skrifter (as well as the additional collections published after the completion of the SS in 1910 and before his death in 1927), he typically produced revised versions of the original newspaper and journal articles, intended as authoritative editions for purposes of future scholarship. In preparing my volume, Georg Brandes. Human Rights and Oppresses Peoples. Essays and Speeches. (Wisconsin, forthcoming in 2020), I have therefore chosen to honor’s the critic’s wishes by using these “posterity versions” as the source texts for my English translations.

The forthcoming critical edition includes all of Brandes’ major works on oppressed peoples, in total 35 essays and addresses, produced between 1900 and 1925. The following list includes titles (in English), original publication dates (for the Danish versions; many of these appeared simultaneously abroad in other languages), original venues of publication, and the locations of the posterity versions used as source texts.

Title Date Venue Source
The Hun Speech 7/28/1900 POL SS17
Armenia 10/8/1900 POL SS17
Missionaries 8/12&15/1900 POL SS17
A Chinese Letter About the War 8/19/1901 POL SS17
Chinese Letters 8/26/1901 POL SS17
Contemporary Civilization 12/16/1901 POL SS17
The Women of Poland 12/30/1901 POL SS17
Macedonia 10/27/1902 POL SS17
The Agony of a People and Utopias 1/26/1903 POL SS17
Armenia and Europe 2/2/1903 TIL SS17
Mano Negra 2/16/1903 POL SS17
The Georgian People 6/29/1903 POL SS17
Transvaal 10/26/1903 POL SS17
The Ruthenians 3/14/1904 POL SS17
Finland 10/1/1904 POL SS17
To the Students of Germany 10/1904 FADS SS17
The Rights and the Duties of the Weaker 5/16&17/1905 POL SS17
The Rights and the Duties of the Weaker 5/16&17/1905 POL SS17
The Aryan Race 6/25/1905 POL SS18
To the Schoolchildren in Russian Poland 8/15/1905 POL SS17
The Future of Russian Poland 12/5/1905 POL SS18
Zionism 12/12/1905 POL SS18
The Jews in Finland 6/14/1908 POL SS18
The Fourth Partition of Poland 8/18/1909 POL SS18
Race Theories 2/19/1912 POL FP
Conditions in Russian Poland 10/25&26/1914 POL VK
2/28/1915 POL VK
The Great Era 5/1915 VV VK
The Great Nations’ Concern for the Small 10/1915 TIL VK
Poland 11/23/1915 POL VK
Introductory Words for the Polish Evening 3/13/1916 POL VK
An Appeal 5/17/1916 POL VK
A Response to Mr. William Archer 6/28&29/1916 POL VK
Persia 11/29&12/1/1916 POL VK
The Armenians 5/17/1917 POL VK
Imperialism 11/29/1922 SAM KB
Europe Now 2/1925 TIL US9

Original Venues:
POL = Politiken
TIL = Tilskueren
FADS = Freier Almanach deutscher Studenten
VV = Verden og Vi
SAM = Samtiden (NO)

Translation Source Texts:
SS = Samlede Skrifter
FP = Fugleperspektiv
VK = Verdenskrigen
KB = Kulturbilleder
US = Udvalgte Skrifter

Because the forthcoming volume is limited to the critic’s writings on international political affairs, it does not include Brandes’ extensive advocacy journalism in the national sphere. These essays on the Sønderjylland Question, produced between the mid 1890s through the resolution of the conflict, are as noted collected in Danish in the volume Sønderjylland under Prøjsisk Tryk (Gyldendal, 1919). The forthcoming volume also excludes much of the critic’s writings on the Great War, which after first appearing in newspapers and journals around the world were collected in the volume Verdenskrigen (4 eds., Gyldendal, 1916-1917), as well as the whole of the critic’s commentaries on the peace, Tragediens anden Del: Fredslutningen [The Tragedy’s Second Act: The Peace Settlement] (Gyldendal, 1919). I have included only those essays from Verdenskrigen (marked VK above) that have direct bearing on the general theme of the volume, that is Brandes’ advocacy work on behalf of oppressed peoples, in this context the neutral nations (Poland, Belgium, Persia etc.) caught up in the maelstrom of the conflict. The entirety of the first edition of Verdenskrigen, however, was superbly translated by the American peace activist Catherine Groth, appearing in the U.S. (but not Britain) as The World at War (Macmillan, 1917).

8B. Bibliography: Works Cited

  • Allen, Julie K. (2012): Icons of Danish Modernity. Georg Brandes and Asta Nielsen. Seattle: University of Washington.
  • Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2005): The Ethics of Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.
  • Berthelsen, Sune and Egebjerg, Ditte Marie (2004): “Europa i Danmark, Danmark i Europa. Georg Brandes som national kosmopolit” in Hans Hertel, ed., Det stadig moderne gennmbrud. Copenhagen: Gyldendal: 99-122.
  • Brandes, Georg (1875): Hovedstrømninger i det 19de Aarhundredes Litteratur. Naturalismen i England. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1883): Det moderne Gjennembruds Mænd. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1887): “Et Brev fra Dr. G. Brandes.” Politiken, July 4 1887
  • Brandes, Georg (1888): Indtryk fra Polen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1889): “Aristokratisk Radikalisme.” Tilskueren, September 1889: 565-613.
  • Brandes, Georg (1890): “Det store Menneske. Kulturens Kilde.” Tilskueren, January 1890: 1-25.
  • Brandes, Georg (1895-1896): William Shakespeare, 3 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1898): Henrik Ibsen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1902a): “Tanker ved Aarhundredeskiftet” in Samlede Skrifter XII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 142-162.
  • Brandes, Georg (1902b): “Om Nationalfølelse” in Samlede Skrifter XII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 187-204.
  • Brandes, Georg (1905): “Tale paa Møen” in Samlede Skrifter XV. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 440- 445.
  • Brandes, Georg (1906a): “Hunnertalen” in Samlede Skrifter XVII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 74- 77.
  • Brandes, Georg (1906b): “Finland” in Samlede Skrifter XVII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 60-64.
  • Brandes, Georg (1906c): “Til Skoleungdommen i russisk Polen” in Samlede Skrifter XVII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 42-47.
  • Brandes, Georg (1910): “Zionism” in Samlede Skrifter XVIII. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 407-412.
  • Brandes, Georg (1915): Wolfgang Goethe, 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1916): “En Appel” in Verdenskrigen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 254-261.
  • Brandes, Georg (1916-1917): Françoise de Voltaire, 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1917a): Napoleon og Garibaldi. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1917b): Verdenskrigen, 4th ed. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1918): Cajus Julius Caesar, 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1919): Sønderjylland under prøjsisk Tryk. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1921): Michelangelo Buonarotti. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Brandes, Georg (1932): “Imperialisme” in Kulturbilleder: Studien og strejftog. Copenhagen: Hage & Clausen: 156-174.
  • Dahl, Per (2019): “The Textual History of Main Currents.”
  • D’haen, Theo, Domínguez, César and Thomsen, Mads Rosendahl (2013): World Literature: A Reader. London: Routledge.
  • Engberg-Pedersen, Anders (2019), "The Reaction i France",
  • Fjord Jensen, Johan (1966): Homo Manipulatus: Essays omkring Radikalismen. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Harsløf, Olav. “Fra kulturpolitik til politikal journalistik” in Hans Hertel and Sven Møller Kristensen, eds., Den politisk Georg Brandes. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzel: 135-138.
  • Hertel, Hans (2004) “Det stadig moderne gennembrud?” in Hans Hertel, ed., Det stadig moderne gennmbrud. Copenhagen: Gyldendal: 7-16.
  • Høffding, Harald (1889): “Demokratisk Radikalisme. En Indsigelse.” Tilskueren November- December 1889: 849-872.
  • Knudsen, Jørgen (2004): Georg Brandes: Uovervindelig taber, 1914-1927. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  • Moretti, Franco (2010): “The Grey Area: Ibsen and the Spirit of Capitalism.” New Left Review 61, January-February 2010: 117-131.
  • Nordby, Thomas (1973): “Georg Brandes og imperialismen” in Hans Hertel and Sven Møller Kristensen, eds., Den politisk Georg Brandes. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzel: 139-156.
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