Exile and modernity. Herman Bang between decadence and vitalism

This article discusses Herman Bang as a writer preoccupied with the antagonism between decadence and vitalism. In Bang’s novel Haabløse Slægter, the protagonist, William Høg, may be characterized as a decadent, and many aspects of the text itself are typical of «decadent literature». Visibly, Bang is fascinated by the sophisticated sensibility and aesthetic refinement associated with decadence. Still, his critique of the decadent mentality is evident. This ambivalence is the central theme of Bang’s last novel De uden Fædreland, where there is, however, no solution. The author of this article therefore characterizes De uden Fædreland as a desperate book, an «end game», a novel without any hope for the future.

Keywords: Herman Bang, Haabløse Slægter, De uden Fædreland, decadence, vitalism, ambivalence, modernity