Norway Literature Part IV

By | December 17, 2021

The ingenious, but partly shapeless improvisations of Wergeland soon found a critic and an opponent in Johan Sebastian Welhaven (1807-1873), who brought into poetry the need for an impeccably harmonious form, for a complete elaboration of matter and intimate experience. His first work was a small collection almost entirely of sonnets, Norges Dæmring (1834), constituting an attack on the rmzezza which he recognized in the writings of Wergeland and in Norwegian life. In later collections, Welhaven was able to express in melodious verses a delicate feeling of nature, an intimate emotion, a profound symbolism and concept, and with his national romances he gained wide popularity.

Between 1840 and 1850 a whole host of writers and poets immersed themselves in the study of national folk traditions: Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe collected Norwegian fairy tales in a collection that marks a fundamental date for the development of the Norwegian prose style and that it was judged by Jacob Grimm to be the best collection of fairy tales in the world; Asbjørnsen also published a collection of sagas, framed by delicate descriptions of nature and popular life, and Moe, who also composed lyric poems, began a collection of popular songs, which was then continued on a larger scale by the shepherd and religious poet MB Landstad, while LM Lindemann collected popular melodies. The peasant dialects were studied by the brilliant linguist Ivar Aasen, who was also a lyric poet, Landsmål, opposed by him to the official language (Riksmål), of Danish color. The great historian, linguist and mythologist PA Munch studied the medieval history of Norway, and was the first among Protestant scholars to gain access to the treasures of the Vatican archive. For Norway 1996, please check

Four of the most important personalities of Norwegian literature appear between 1850 and 1860. Camilla Collett (1813-1895) sister of Henrik Wergeland, was marked for her whole life by her unhappy love for Welhaven, her brother’s opponent, and since her youth, in letter and diarî, she had given a moving artistic expression to own pains. However, she appeared in public as an author only in 1855 with the novel Amtmandens Døtre, in which she poses the question of the position of women in marriage and in social life, inaugurating problematic realism in art.

AO Vinje (1818-70), ironist and lyricist full of surprises and contrasts, raised, in a series of poems of great merit and prose full of wit, as Ferdaminne fraa Sumaren (1800), the Landsmål with a lively literary language, flexible, and personal. He was a young friend of Vinje Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who in 1849 wrote his first play, Catiline, thus inaugurating an activity as a dramatic author that lasted half a century, which brought him world fame. However, his training period lasted for a long time: his first masterpiece, Kongsemnerne (The Pretenders to the Crown), dates back to 1863, and it was only during his stay in Rome that his genius reached full development, with the dramatic poems Brand (1866). and Peer Gynt (1867). In Italy Ibsen had the conception of his double universal historical drama Keizer og Galilæer (Emperor and Galileo, 1873), and the result of a second trip to Italy were the two modern dramas Et dukkehjem (Doll’s house, 1879) and Gengangere (Ghosts, 1881), with which his name resonated even outside Norway. After the Ghosts came the three masterpieces En folkefiende (The enemy of the people), Vildanden (The wild duck) and Rosmersholm ; of the later plays deserve special mention Hedda Gabler, Bygmester Solness (The builder S.), and the last of all, Nar vi døde vågner (When we dead wake up, 1899).

While Ibsen concentrated his forces on dramatic production, his great rival Biørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) was perpetually active in many and varied directions, as a playwright, lyricist, novelist, short story writer, theater director, politician, journalist, orator. etc. Ibsen, whose relations with Bjørnson oscillated between friendship and hostility, recognized after a reconciliation that he had “a truly royal big heart” and even created a lapidary formula, which could be affixed to the Biørnson monument: “His life was his best work.”

Biørnson did not always have the time and ease to give fully artistic form to his ideas; yet his poetic production is all pervaded by a fresh breath of life and remains as an admirable revelation of the most powerful and richest personality that Norway has ever produced. His own first work, the rural novella Synnøve Solbakke ṇ (1857) has remained one of the favorite books of the Norwegian people. After a series of short stories of the same genre, the major work of his youth appeared, the dramatic trilogy Sigurd Slembe (1862), written in the inspiring atmosphere of Rome around a theme from the saga of kings. Of his later dramas, E ṇ fallit should be noted(1875), the result of a new trip to Italy and introduction to Norway of the drama of social problems, also Over ævne, første stykke (Beyond our strength; first part, 1883), which marks the apogee of his production and then Paul Lange og Tora Parsberg (1898), a beautiful and profound tragedy of the dangers of political intolerance, and the gracious and attractive comedy Når den ny vin blomstrer (When the new vine blooms, 1909), his last theatrical production. Between one drama and another he composed novels and short stories (the book Kaptejn Mansana, with the subtitle “Italian sketch”, came out in 1879) and above all lyrics of various inspirations. Still on his deathbed half paralyzed by apoplexy, he wrote one of his most beautiful poems, a hymn to spring rain and the forces of life.

The historian Ernst Sars, author of a Udsigt over den norske Historie (An overview of Norwegian history), which had a great influence on national and political development, and the novelist Jonas Lie (1833-1908) belong to the same generation of Ibsen and Biørnson.), who with his sincere and profound descriptions of bourgeois family life and afflari (Familien paa Gilje, Kommanderens døtre, etc.) acquired the favor of a vast international audience, but who also knew how to give, with fairytale fantasy and legendary, evidence and substance to the mysticism of nature and to the dark, unconscious and evil forces operating in man (Den Fremsynte, Trold).

Norway Literature Part IV