The ideal of Scandinavian living is in vogue. Today it is possible, though not advisable, to buy how-to guides on hygge, the Danish art of cozy living. The Swedes, who think that the Danes are coarse and hence only cozy in the way of pigs in slurry, have their own untranslatable word, mysig, for the correct degree of coziness.

Really, Scandinavian living has never been out of vogue since Strindberg and Ibsen first pulled the rug from under the Lutheran paterfamilias. Wilde and Shaw repeated this trick in translation, thus forging the Anglophone perception of Scandinavians as atomized moderns, anguished and plain-speaking pioneers of a miserable track from Lutheranism to Existentialism. The Scandinavian drama, or at least its consequences for the Scandinavian family, survives in debased form in the television format known as...


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