Nathansen, Henri

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NATHANSEN, HENRI (1868–1944), Danish playwright and novelist. Born in Hjørring, Jutland, Nathansen practiced law before becoming a writer. He published some 20 works, nearly half of them plays, and in 1909 became stage director of Copenhagen's Royal Theater. Many of his plays dealt with contemporary Jewish problems. The drama Daniel Hertz (1908) was followed in 1912 by Indenfor murene ("Within the Walls") considered to be one of the finest plays in the Danish language. Nathansen here analyzes the position of the Jew in a non-Jewish environment and, in portraying the conflicts engendered by a Copenhagen Jewess' wish to marry a gentile, succeeds in airing the whole question of Jewish-Christian relations in a free society. Jewish themes also dominate Nathansen's comedy Affaeren (1913), the semi-autobiographical novel Af Hugo Davids liv (4 vols., 1917), and the last work published in his lifetime, the novel Mendel Philipsen og Sön (1932). His other outstanding publications include a biography of Georg *Brandes (1929) and Portraetstudier (1930), studies of eminent Scandinavian writers. In 1919 Nathansen issued a protest against the persecution of Polish Jewry, and in 1930 called for solidarity in the Copenhagen Jewish community to counteract the dangers of Nazi antisemitism. Together with the majority of Danish Jews, he fled to Sweden in October 1943. There, in a fit of depression, he took his own life.


Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, 16 (1939); Dansk Skönlitteraert Forfatterleksikon, 3 (1964).

[Torben Meyer]