Ray Burnett delivers on ‘Pelle the Conqueror: Reflections on History, the Arts and Small Islands’

Ray Burnett, SCIS Hon. Research Fellow,  will deliver a plenary session paper at the ISISA 2010 conference at the Bornholm Art Museum. The paper entitled “Commemorating Pelle the Conqueror: Reflections on History, the Arts and Small Islands” is part of the wider programme of delivery of this years conference. For details of all papers and sessions click here: http://www.conferencemanager.dk/ISISA/program.html

The abstract for Ray’s paper can be read here:

Commemorating Pelle the Conqueror: Reflections on History, the Arts and Small Islands

Ray Burnett

Isle of Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Scottish Centre for Island Studies, University of the West of Scotland

ray@diis.ac.uk

The life and times of the writer Martin Andersen Nexø is most often presented and discussed either in the context of his literary career as a major Scandinavian novelist of the twentieth century or his political career as a prominent cultural figure in Europe’s anti-fascist struggles, a committed member of the Danish Communist Party and a resolute defender of the Soviet Union. In each of these overlapping contexts his significance for Danish, Scandinavian and European literature, culture and politics is enduringly associated with his classic novel, Pelle the Conqueror. Published over 1906-1910, it vividly drew on Martin Andersen Nexø’s deep memories of his childhood and formative years on Bornholm and the island town of Nexø which he later took as his adopted name. This paper commemorates the centenary of the publication of the final volume of Pelle the Conqueror by approaching Martin Andersen Nexø from a specifically island studies perspective to raise the question: in what way might his portrayal of island life be of relevance to issues of culture, history and the arts in small islands beyond Bornholm, the Baltic and Scandinavia?

It offers some tentative reflections on this question by identifying some of the themes in Nexo’s portrayal of Baltic island life and tracing their applicability to comparable themes and issues in the small island communities of Scotland through a specific focus on history and the arts, reality and representations, in the Hebrides. The paper seeks to confirm the importance of Martin Andersen Nexø as a writer and observer of small island life and to raise awareness of the wider comparative significance of other writers and artists from within Scotland’s small island communities. It concludes with the reflection that there are several aspects of comparative small island research in relation to history and the arts, both within a specific Scottish-Nordic-Baltic arc and beyond, that would benefit from further collaborative engagement.

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