Cover of Vol 50 No 1, 2011Vol 50 No 1, 2011

A Special Issue on Literature, Welfare and Well-Being

Articles

Peter Simonsen & Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen

(SDU & UCL)

Literature, Welfare & Well-Being: Towards a Poetics of the Scandinavian Welfare State

Abstract:

The essays in the present issue of Scandinavica were first presented at a conference held in November 2010 at University College London and organized by the editors. This publication marks an early step in the new field of literary welfare studies. Collectively the essays aim towards a formulation of ‘the poetics of the Scandinavian welfare state’ by considering a few of the multiple ways in which post World War II Scandinavian fiction is intertwined with the welfare state. This entails a double engagement with how post-War fiction has dealt thematically with the welfare state’s new types of people, milieux, mentalities, social formations, languages and conceptions of well-being and how this fiction in turn has been compelled towards formal renovation by the challenge of the welfare state. In thus offering its many different kinds of readers privileged opportunities to reflect upon and reach a better understanding of their living conditions under the welfare regime, this new ‘welfare literature’ has also in complex ways participated in inspiring, creating and developing the welfare state. One central claim which the seminar and the essays now published set out to test is that we cannot fully understand post-War-Scandinavian fiction without understanding its close and multifarious connections to the welfare state, even as we cannot fully understand the nature, history and future of the welfare state without considering the ways in which it is in part the product of literary and other works of art and the ideas and values they generate and put into circulation.

Lasse Horne Kjældgaard

(University of Copenhagen)

'An Open System with an Objective External to Itself': The Rapprochement Between Danish Politics and Literature in the Golden Age of the Welfare State, 1950-1980

Abstract:

The article suggests three phases and modes in Danish welfare literature, corresponding to three contemporaneous stages of the welfare state: a phase of formulation, from 1950 to 1958, expressed in Villy Sørensen’s abstract narrative art, questioning the ideals and ultimate ends of welfare society; a phase of formation, from 1958 to 1968, with new cultural landscapes, patterns of behaviour and psychological problems explored by a wave of welfare realism, represented by Anders Bodelsen’s welfare-realist short stories; and a stage of crisis from 1968 and into the 1970s, fostering a kind of welfare dystopianism, the epitome of which is Henrik Stangerup’s The Man Who Wanted to be Guilty.

Peter Simonsen

(University of Southern Denmark)

Per Petterson and Kirsten Thorup's Fictions of Old Age Well-Being in the Welfare State

Abstract:

The article presents findings from the social sciences which suggest that quality of life and subjective well-being is higher in universalist welfare states such as the Scandinavian because of the system’s generous supply of benefits and services for all citizens, not least the elderly, who report a very high degree of life satisfaction or happiness. This high degree of self-reported happiness is then contrasted with readings of novels by Per Petterson and Kirsten Thorup, which tell other more skeptical stories of old age well-being. The paper concludes that both kinds of sources (happiness statistics and fictional stories) contain valuable information about the nature of and our ideas about how to achieve the good life in the modern welfare state.

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Anne-Marie Mai

(University of Southern Denmark)

Literature as a Companion and Critic of the Welfare State

Abstract:

Through a re-reading of the genesis of modern literature in the Enlightenment and the modernisation of the public debate in eighteenth-century Denmark, this article argues that literature and art can be characterised as companions and critics of the Welfare State. It is suggested that the emphasis on the significance of language in Holberg and Sneedorff’s theses on education, society and literature was central to the formation of a modern literature in Danish. The obligation to form a central part of society ascribed to modern art and literature since the Enlightenment was revitalised during the second modernisation of Danish society in the course of the so-called modern breakthrough. Texts from the long history of modern Danish literature by Jeppe Aakjær, Martin A. Hansen, Klaus Rifbjerg, Per Højholt and Jens Martin Eriksen suggest that welfare literature emphasises dialogue as a basic democratic premise and value. Although not all literature in the welfare state is welfare literature, welfare literature is a literature that contributes to and challenges the dialogue between welfare state members.

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Nils Gunder Hansen

(University of Southern Denmark)

Adultery as a Symbol of the Welfare State in Anders Bodelsen's 'The Christmas Gathering'

Abstract:

The article poses that there is a hidden connection between the philosopher Villy Sørensen’s reading of the ritual of engagement in medieval ballads and his and Anders Bodelsen’s discussions and representations of the welfare state in the 1960s. The adultery which forms the central climax of the action in Bodelsen’s short story, ‘The Christmas Gathering’ is seen to be both a complex symbol in the text and for a new society, representing both its tempting and unknown aspects. In the Scandinavian welfare state the integrational force of the family is loosened. From the viewpoint of the family as the core of social integration, transition and potential chaos are thus made permanent. Bodelsen’s use of adultery as a theme and a symbol displays a very discrete defence of the family and of tradition, a certain moral conservatism that was not very common in the Danish debate of the 1960s and 1970s and especially not in the circles of young authors.

Anders Thyrring Andersen

(University of Southern Denmark)

Ivory Tower or Dialogue? Against the Myth concerning the Secluded Authors around Heretica

Abstract:

Contradicting the widespread belief that the modernist literature of the welfare state is solely of a secular nature and has a culturalradical foundation, the article aims to show how religious ways of understanding and of expression have been of crucial importance for the literary idiom and the theme of welfare. A great deal of the modernist literature in the Danish post-war period was centered around the literary magazine Heretica, often considered as representing an aloof and secluded form of late symbolism. Danish literary history has seen modernism as a never-ending series of clashes between generations. Instead it is here suggested that we should attend to lines of continuity and study the connections between the literary generations, and look for the simultaneously existing plurality of various forms of modernism, which are interwoven in unpredictable ways. Deeply inspired by Søren Kierkegaard, for the various authors around Heretica truth lies in intersubjectivity. The meeting between the literary work and the reader, between people engaged in dialogue, is where the collective creation of meaning takes place. It is based upon the ability to tell stories, to communicate, to identify with the worlds and viewpoints of others – and this takes place through language and literature. In focusing on the societal and aesthetic significance of the Heretica authors, the article poses a new definition of the welfare state as an organisation of society that is based upon and in every sense of the word has the means to provide interpersonal relationships that may bestow identity through acts of dialogue (or by a divine creation).

Helena Forsås-Scott

(University College London)

Narratives from the Margin? Welfare and Well-Being in Kerstin Ekman's Skraplotter

Abstract:

When Kerstin Ekman’s Skraplotter (Scratch Cards) appeared in 2003, the novel was read as representing an impoverished version of contemporary Sweden, viewed from the margin. This article questions such easy conclusions by reading the text in terms of narrative and narration, drawing especially on feminist narratology and Susan S. Lanser’s notion of narrative voice. The analysis demonstrates how the narration helps authorise three characters on the margin of the Swedish welfare state, one of them Saami, female and elderly, another elderly and male, and the third a middle-aged female minister in the Lutheran State Church. With the novel’s narrative voices approaching Lanser’s ‘communal voice’, the reader is prodded to reconsider the concepts of centre and margin and the relationships between them. Viewed in light of Rosi Braidotti’s notion of ‘nomadic becoming’, subjectivation in this novel extends into the rhizomic mode; in other words, it is ‘trans-personal [...], ultimately collective’. The text’s allegedly impoverished version of contemporary Sweden turns out to point boldly ahead, away from the welfare state as we have known it and towards more inclusive and sustainable communities.

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Reviews

Olof von Dalin, eds. Ingemar Carlsson and James Massengale

Samlade Skrifter: Dramatik, Text och Kommentar.

Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet, Stockholm 2008 (text) and 2009 (kommentar). xvii + 245.

ISBN: 9789172301436

Reviewed by Alan Swanson

Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet began its series of critical editions in 1910 with the first of three volumes devoted to a critical text and commentary of Olof Dalin’s Then Swänska Argus (re-issued in 1994). Attention has now finally turned to his considerable other work, and here we have his theatre pieces and a political poem. Theatre in Sweden did not begin in 1737, but there is no doubt that the performances of Den Swenska Comedien in that and successive years gave it a major push toward permanence and professionalisation. But a theatre company needs plays to perform and, having decided upon Swedish as the language of performance rather than French or Low-German, it needed Swedish playwrights or translators into Swedish. It got both, and its production in October 1737 of Carl Gyllenborg’s still-funny Swenska Sprätthöken has a certain pride of place as the first modern original Swedish comedy. An early contributor to this rush for new plays was Olof Dalin. Here are his two main pieces, a comedy, Den Afwundsjuke (of which there are two versions, both given here), and a tragedy, Brynilda. They were both written for the new, private, Swenska Comedien (17371754), both appeared in 1738, and both achieved some popularity in their day. The contribution of two successful plays early in that company’s short history makes it clear that this was a project Dalin was interested in, and these volumes show that there are more theatre pieces from his ceaseless pen. Away from the public stage, Dalin the courtier wrote a Herde-Spel (given in two versions here, one in one act and one – apparently the version actually performed – in three) in 1752, ostensibly to celebrate the return to Sweden of the relatively new king, Adolph Fredrik, from Finland. There is as well a fragment of a tragedy, Catos död, with a suggested date of 1738, a Scene med Marionetter wid Ulricsdal, tentatively dated 1750, translations of two scenes from opera libretti by Pietro Metastasio, from the 1750s, and a pastoral, Möte af Flora, Mälaren och en Zephire, from 1763. The plays are given in the first volume in exemplary fashion. The original Fraktur has been replaced with Roman type, and the linenumbers include all head material as well as the text itself. The plays are arranged chronologically with one exception. Den Afwundsjuke, with which the volume opens, is given there in its first printed edition, while Dalin’s manuscript version is given as an Appendix. In his study of Swenska Comedien (1981), Tryggve Byström reasonably suggested that the manuscript text is probably closer to what was actually performed on the stage than the printed version. Dalin was, after all, an inveterate tinkerer with his words, as the second edition of his Argus testifies.

Recent SVS editions (the blue series) have severely reduced the commentary to a note on the manuscript source and brief language remarks, with no discussion of the context. The volume of commentary here represents a return to the original SVS format, which placed that commentary in a volume by itself, allowing for a more elaborate presentation. This takes place under several standard headings: Föreställning (as a theatre piece), Grundtext, Utgivarens ändringar, Varianter (from print to print), and Anmärkningar till enskilda textställen. In addition, there are also comments about Litterära förlagor and Omdömen (from the contemporary on down to our day). This is the place where it is appropriate to declare an interest in these welcome volumes: the editors have given generous acknowledgement to my own writing on Dalin as a playwright.

In some cases, there is also an important note about the political tendency of a play, Den Afwundsjuke, for instance. In the case of Herde-Spel, there was an extended parliamentary debate about it in 1756-1757 which dribbled on as late as 1765. Carlsson gives detailed summaries of each of the various committee and estate debates. This is actually most interesting, as it provides further background to the dismissal of Dalin in 1756 as the Crown Prince’s tutor and his exile from court. Indeed, it reminds us that Dalin was no struggling independent artist but a central figure at court and, for some, far too close to the royal family. These debates also give us a real insight into just how some of these institutions – with names like Sekreta utskottet and, even, Mindre sekreta utskottet – actually worked in the ‘Age of Freedom’.

Of considerable interest, too, in this volume is the commentary by James Massengale on the music for these plays, as well as a transcription of that for Herde-Spel. This is most useful in itself, but it is as well a salutary reminder of the considerable presence of music (and dance) in all theatrical productions of the time, a presence mostly lost to us today.

What are not given here are the short untitled comedy of Fru Dumhet and her foster sons, Herr Sprätthök and Herr Gräl, which makes up most of Argus I:39 (1733), which was also published separately (though it is not clear this had Dalin’s approval), and the little ‘Italianate’ play (Dalin’s view of it), Johan och Johanna, which makes up most of ArgusII:50 (1734), probably because they had already been published in that journal (and, thus, appear in the SVS edition thereof) but also because their stage was the journal itself.

The first of the present volumes on his plays appeared in time for the 300th anniversary of Dalin’s birth in Halland. Both complement the view we have of him in the Argus, but also draw our attention to the impulse that set modern Swedish theatre in motion.

There is also, however, a considerable body of other belle-lettristic work, such as his many songs, attention to which has been drawn by James Massengale, political poems, such as Sagan om hästen, critical and satirical writing, such as April-Wärk and the ‘Calott-predikningar’, and now, Swenska Friheten. Its appearance suggests that the gap is about to be filled.

The 784 lines of Swenska Friheten are divided over a brief dedication, to ‘Sweriges Rikes Högloflige Ridderskap och Adel’, and four cantos. The Carlssons’ introduction notes that, unlike much of the Argus, there is no manuscript of it by Dalin. For this reason, they have based their edition on the first publication of it in 1742, though there are still a few fugitive copies of a slightly revised 1755 re-issue, ordered withdrawn. Interestingly, there is no record of its submission for censorship in Gustaf Benzelstjerna’s Censorsjournal for 1741 or 1742, though Dalin claimed he had the letter authorizing it from Benzelstjerna.

That so brief a text should call forth so much commentary is due to the Riksdag debate about it, minor at the time of the first edition, but intensely negative in 1755-1756 and again in 1765. Again, the Carlssons give a detailed summary of each occurrance of the question in the minutes of the various committees and the estates. Debate about Dalin’s Skalde-Dikt was pursued together with that concerning Herde-Spel and the Calott-predikningar. For obvious reasons, the anticlerical satire of the last of these was of great irritation in the Clerical Estate, while the first two were of more annoyance to the Noble Estate. Dalin’s legal difficulty was that in the eyes of the various committees, these three subjects could not be separated and attitudes toward one of them spilled over into consideration of the others. The chief political stumbling block to its reissue was line 464, where Ulrica Eleanora says, ‘Jag lägger för dig [Frihet] nögd min ärfda Krona ned’ (For you [Freedom] I gladly lay down my inherited crown). The argument was that technically the Swedish crown was elected, not inherited, and in 1755-56 this was a question of great moment for the Riksdag. In practical terms, Dalin was wedged between Benzelstjerna’s successor as censor, Niclas von Oelreich, various political parties, and an action by the King, about which he could have done nothing but for which he was the pawn who almost got put in jail. What becomes clear is that, though there seems to have been some agreement that Dalin was a good teacher to the Crown Prince, his perceived political and anticlerical tendencies were thought unreliable.

The Carlssons have done their best to separate the arguments about Herde-Spel from those concerning Swenska Friheten so that we can follow one at a time. I can promise the reader that following the debates about these issues makes a scary court-room drama. In both of these volumes the editors have done marvels of bringing coherence to the state of our knowledge about these plays and this poem.

It is, perhaps, a bibliographical note of interest only for those who must keep track of such things, that the numbering of these volumes pursues a rationale obvious only to SVS and I have not included it in the header. Dalin’s Argus received the first SVS Roman numeral ‘I’, and each of the three volumes got an added Roman numeral, thus: ‘I: I-III’. It must not be inferred from this, however, that all Dalin material will appear under ‘I’. The two volumes of the plays here have the general number ‘XXVI’ and the text is given the Roman sub-numeral ‘III’ and the commentary ‘IV’. The single volume with Swenska Friheten has ‘XXVI’, but the spine then gives as sub-numerals: ‘I:1’ and ‘II:1’. What the Arabic ‘1’ signifies is beyond the understanding of a mere reviewer. Comments by the Carlssons in XXVI:I:1, II:1 suggest that ‘XXVI’ will include at least eight (or VIII) volumes. May they come quickly, whatever their number.

Anne Grete Holm-Olsen (ed.)

Jonas Lie, Breve 1851-1908, 1-3

Novus forlag, Oslo 2009. 2012 (3 vo.

ISBN: 9788270995134

Reviewed by Marie Wells

The ISBN shown above refers to the complete work.

When one has read all 2037 letters in this collection one feels one has read an autobiography of Jonas Lie, for he was a generous and communicative letter-writer. First and foremost one gets to know Lie the man from student to old age through his letters to friends, and friends mattered a great deal to him, and once made tended to last for life. Thus from his student days there is the warmth of his letters to his parents and to friends, such as Erik Lindseth and Christian Kahrs and friends made during his and Thomasine’s three-year stay in Rome (e.g the sculptor Christopher Borch and his wife Thora), and the many friends made during their long stay in Paris from 1882 when their home became the centre for Norwegian writers and painters who came to Paris for exhibitions at the salon, or because Paris was the centre of cultural activity in the 1880s. Fortunately for us, when these friends were out of town, contact was kept up by letter. Lie’s literary ambitions emerged early, and at the age of twentyfive he already felt that something was developing within him and he told his parents that he would consider his life wasted if he never wrote a word (p. 32). To begin with his literary ambitions took him in the direction of cultural and political journalism, and in 1861 he became the owner of Illustreret Nyhedsblad, a move that was part and parcel of his oft-expressed wish to serve and educate the young Norwegian nation. And this is where the first of one’s reservations about this collection needs to be expressed. It has no subject index, so one cannot look up Lie’s attitude to an issue, be it foreign politics on which he was quite an expert, or Norway’s relationship to Denmark, or Norway as a young and vigorous country in relation to older cultures, or the problems of writing for more than one country. And his ideas on these matters changed. Lie felt the itch to have his say about cultural and political issues all his life, but eventually realised he had to resist the urge in order to concentrate on his literary work. One feels sure that during his Paris years he discussed them with visiting Norwegian writers and painters, and it is particularly in his long letters to Erik Werenskiold and Arne Garborg that he continues the discussion. We know from literary histories how Jonas Lie was a senhøstes kar or late-developer and how he needed to let things grow and mature in his imagination before they could re-emerge as literature, (and here, as he often remarked, he differed greatly from Bjørnson who could strike while the iron was hot). Thus the inspiration for his early works such as Den Fremsynte, which launched his literary career, came from his boyhood experience of living in Nordland. Gradually, however, his inspiration came more from the issues of the day, and what is fascinating is to see how Lie always had to find his own approach to them, trying to be open to the new without losing the best of the old. In this one has to call him a liberal, for he was always aiming for culture, dannelse, (another concept for which one would have liked a subject index) and avoiding the perversions of both conservatism (narrow-mindedness) and radicalism (crudeness). A good example of this is his belief that co-education would go some way to solving the artificiality of the conventions governing the relationships between young men and women, as he describes with such tragic consequences in Kommandørens døtre (1886). Another is his attitude to the sexual morality debate of the mid-1880s. He sees it as a necessary debate because ‘der gives heller intet Punkt, hvor det aandelige og det materielle mødes saa at sige saa mystisk som netop i kjærligheden’ (there is no point at which the spiritual and the physical meet in what one might call such a mysterious way as in love; p.1025). He cannot agree with the extremism of Hans Jæger, though he does say that he is one of the very few Norwegian writers who can ‘tale om en Kvinde med Stemning, røre ved hende, saa man følte, det var kraft af Eros og Aand – ikke af Raahed og Kjød’ (speak emotionally of a woman and touch her, so one feels it is the power of Eros and of Spirit – not of coarseness and carnality; p.1117). Lie’s own approach to the sexual issue was to deal with it in relation to a marriage in Et samliv (1887) and to show ‘hvor vanskeligt det er at holde Eros varm i det, og hvor fint og offrende det maa plejes af begge’ (how difficult it is to keep Eros alive in it and how delicately and devotedly it must be fostered by both parties; p.1015). In addition to what we learn about Lie’s cultural opinions and his evolution as a writer – and there is far more than can be mentioned here – what makes these letters so heart-warming is the personality that shines through. We learn very little about Lie’s bankruptcy after his years as a lawyer in Kongsvinger when he became involved in timber speculation, and there is no self-pity, but from his frequent letters to his publisher, Frederik Hegel, asking for advances on forthcoming books we can see how much he lived hand-to-mouth. However, whereas the insecurity of this situation might have placed an intolerable burden on some other writers, Lie seems have felt confident that he had ideas for many books. Also, we only indirectly learn that after he received his annual state stipend as a writer in 1874, that money stayed in Norway and was used to pay off some of his debts. Living with financial difficulties himself he could understand Bjørnson’s financial problems and he was active among friends and contacts trying to raise money to help Bjørnson keep Aulestad, when it looked as if he could not make the final payments on it. All her life Thomasine was Lie’s invaluable support, writing out the final copy of all his works, so in 1880 it is hardly surprising that he writes to a Herr Brodtkorb saying, ‘Thomasine havde skrevet idag; men hendes Haand er ødelagt efterat have afskrevet Grabows Kat (sic) 3 Gange, saa hun nu maa skaane den,’ (Thomasine would have written today, but she has damaged her hand after having made three copies of Grabow’s Cat, so she has to rest it; p.511). The three copies were for three different theatres. Letters also tell of the Lie family’s holidays in the mountains, first in Italy and later in Berchtesgaden in Germany. Lie found the summer holidays in the mountains his best time for writing, but the family also found time for some fairly impressive mountain ascents. Much as this reader has enjoyed getting to know Jonas Lie through these letters, it has to be said that the collection is not user-friendly. For one thing each volume weighs over 3lbs and infuriatingly the notes to all the letters are in volume 3, so one has to have two volumes on the go if one wants to fill in sometimes vital information. There is an index of Lie’s literary works and an index of names and a separate one of names of recipients of letters but both the last two have significant gaps – and could they not have been combined, and the two categories of names simply indicated by different typefaces? However, it is the previously mentioned lack of a subject index that really limits the use of these letters as a resource. One cannot look up issues such as statsrådssaken or diktergasje or dozens of other matters where one might have wanted to trace Lie’s changing attitude. The reason for these lacks may lie in the long genesis of this collection. From the Introduction we learn that funding for preparatory work on the letters was first sought in 1953 and though the application for 1,000 NOK was not granted, Øyvind Anker started work on them. By 1964 he had collected 1,400 letters and had a selection of 700 ready for publication. Due to lack of funding this selection never saw the light of day and the project was postponed, to be taken up later by Anne Grete Holm-Olsen, who is responsible for the present edition of 2037 letters, and we have to be grateful to her for the work that has gone into it and to the organizations that supported the publication of the three volumes. But then we learn that the collection is not, after all, complete. The letters Lie exchanged with Georg Brandes having already been published in Volume 4 of Morten Borup’s Georg og Edv. Brandes : Brevveksling med nordiske Forfattere og Videnskabsmaend published in 1939, they were omitted from this collection. As it is only a matter of twenty-five letters, it seems a pity that they could not have been included in this volume too. In conclusion, the letters are a joy for anyone who has the time to read them, but so that they may be a resource that can be used, cannot funds be found to digitize them and put them online with the necessary search tools? And then perhaps one could have a (fat) onevolume paperback selection with the relevant notes accompanying each letter. That way many more people could enjoy them and gain an insight into Norwegian cultural life in the second half of the nineteenth century as viewed by an engaged and perceptive writer who lived abroad for longer than even Ibsen did.

Peter Sjølyst-Jackson

Troubling Legacies: Migration, Modernism and Fascism in the Case of Knut Hamsun

Continuum, London and New York 2010. Pp. 186.

ISBN: 9780826438157

Reviewed by Martin Humpal

Book-length studies on Hamsun have traditionally fallen into two categories: literary analyses and biographically oriented texts, although there have been exceptions to this pattern now and then. In recent years, however, one can observe an increase in the number of books that are anchored in what has been termed as cultural studies. The authors try to cross the line between the writer’s life on the one hand, and his texts on the other, two areas which the traditional Hamsun scholarship has kept relatively separate. This crossing is also the case with Peter Sjølyst-Jackson’s Troubling Legacies: Migration, Modernism and Fascism in the Case of Knut Hamsun. Looking at the subtitle, the reader might wonder what the focus of the book is. Indeed, it is difficult to say that the study has one clear focus. It does a little bit of everything: literary analysis, biographical research and cultural history. Yet the theme of migration runs like a red thread throughout the text. The author makes an observation which is, in my opinion, correct: Hamsun’s own experience of migration left him with the feelings of uprootedness and displacement, and this sentiment, together with an (often unspoken) underlying desire for a permanent home, permeates his entire oeuvre as well as his nonfictional writings and public statements. Sjølyst-Jackson thus sees the theme of migration as the connecting link between Hamsun’s life and art: what manifests itself in both is the mind of a migrant (in more than one sense of the word). This model is used as an explanation for various Hamsun topics discussed in the book, from the writer’s literary representations of the fragmented human mind to his support of Nazi Germany. The chosen template seems to be well-suited to clarify some of the paradoxes that have haunted Hamsun reception. Sjølyst-Jackson formulates eloquently one such basic paradox: ‘How was it possible for an author, who founded his writing career upon the rejection of reductive ‘character psychology’ and simplistic ‘types’ in European literature, to commit himself and his writing to a political movement, Nazism, that promoted only the most violently reductive schemas of ‘types’ in the twentieth century, through its racism, anti-Semitism and totalitarianism?’ (pp. 2-3). As one can expect, Sjølyst-Jackson does not provide a single definitive answer to this question, but he certainly manages to offer several partial answers within the individual chapters. The author states clearly in the Introduction to which schools of criticism his work is most indebted: ‘The critical orientation of this book combines deconstruction and psychoanalysis, especially the works of Derrida and Freud’ (p. 7). The book is, indeed, informed by their methods; yet at the same time, these methods are not used as a straitjacket into which everything should fit. Predominantly, the author’s conclusions arise from close readings of texts and historical facts. Both in its orientation toward deconstruction and psychoanalysis and in its basic view of Hamsun’s fictional writings, Troubling Legacies reminds one of Atle Kittang’s classic Hamsun study Luft, vind, ingenting (1984). Sjølyst-Jackson maintains – and several times convincingly demonstrates – that ‘the literary discourse of Hamsun […] is split and ambivalent’, and therefore cannot be ‘reduced to univocal ideological doctrines’ (p. 104), a formulation which distinctly echoes Kittang’s statements on the subject. A few words of criticism should be mentioned. Some scholarly publications can be called ‘rigorously researched’, but such a designation would not really be appropriate in the case of the present book. I will limit myself to two examples. The observation that the image of Christiania as a modern metropolis in Hunger is ahistorical and imported (Chapter 1) has been made before, notably by Mark B. Sandberg (Scandinavian Studies 3/1999), a critic who is absent from the author’s bibliography. One may also wonder why Sjølyst-Jackson does not refer to some well-known contributions on the question of Hamsun’s alleged anti-Semitism in what is otherwise an illuminating and balanced analysis of the topic of Jews in Hamsun’s life and works (see Chapters 4, 5 and 6). What I have in mind here are, for example, the articles by Allen Simpson and Dolores Buttry in Edda (5/1977 and 2/1986, respectively). Still, I do not think that this absence and similar other cases are so grave as to mar the book seriously. An even more minor complaint concerns the way Sjølyst-Jackson formulates some of his sentences. They are occasionally worded on such a high level of abstraction that they obfuscate the meaning. At times the Derridean subtleties truly lead to a significant refocusing of how one has so far viewed certain Hamsun topics; at other times, however, one cannot help thinking that the same thought could have been expressed in a less abstract and therefore more comprehensible fashion. As indicated above, Troubling Legacies is not a book with one central thematic focus, but rather a series of essays that would otherwise stand well on their own. Therefore one can expect that different scholars will find different topics of interest in the individual chapters. For some, it may be the manner in which Sjølyst-Jackson redefines the dichotomy between centre and periphery in Hamsun’s travelogue In Wonderland (Chapter 4); for others, it may be the ‘rhetoric of deafness’ the author discusses in a chapter which concerns On Overgrown Paths (Chapter 7). Personally, what I find fascinating is the analysis of ‘Hamsunian laughter’ (Chapter 3) and, in particular, the symbolic connection Sjølyst-Jackson makes (p. 65 ff.) between the name Nagel (the main character of Mysteries) and the words ‘Nag’ and ‘Nagmoral’ in Georg Brandes’s well-known text on Nietzsche, “Aristokratisk Radikalisme” (1889). Should I point out just one quality of Troubling Legacies as a whole, I would praise the author for the undogmatic way he handles the difficult question of the relationship between Hamsun’s life and his works. Where Hamsun studies by critics like Leo Löwenthal and Aasmund Brynildsen were biased and reductive, Sjølyst-Jackson’s is cautious and nuanced.

Lisbeth Stenberg

I kärlekens namn - Om människosynen, den nya kvinnan och framtidens samhälle i fem littteraturdebatter 1881-1909

Normal förlag, Stockholm 2009. Pp. 418.

ISBN: 9789185505746

Reviewed by Helena Forsås-Scott

Reviewed with Petra Broomans, ed.: From Darwin to Weil: Women as Transmitters of Ideas

In her thought-provoking book, the product of much painstaking research, Lisbeth Stenberg argues that the writing of the history of Swedish literature around the turn of the twentieth century needs to be more open and thus more effective than it currently is. Her approach has been inspired by Mario J. Valdés who, in a volume co-edited with Linda Hutcheon, Rethinking Literary History: A Dialogue on Theory (2002), advocates the replacement of the type of literary history that is closed with a literary history that is ‘an open process of investigation’. In Stenberg’s view, the established version of the history of Swedish literature around 1900 is a neat example of the former. In particular, her study challenges the standard accounts and roles of what have traditionally been perceived as two key elements of the history of Swedish literature around this time: the Modern Breakthrough, here limited to the period 1880-87, and the Strindberg ‘feud’ in 1910-12. Stenberg tackles this task by undertaking detailed examinations of five major debates between 1881 and 1909, all of them revolving around the representation of ‘the New Woman’ in Swedish literature and so consistently highlighting gender along with perspectives on the role of literature and the interface between literature and politics. Reinhart Koselleck’s The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts (2002) underpins some of Stenberg’s detailed analyses, as do several of the works of George L. Mosse. During the relevant period literary value, Stenberg argues, was assigned on the basis of structures of power that were directly related to those thwarting women’s struggle for equality. At a time when more women in Sweden were beginning to emerge as authors, the notion of an autonomous literary field, prevalent in Sweden from around 1890 but existing in France from as early as 1850, could be used to marginalise women writers. A well-known Swedish example is Alfhild Agrell, who enjoyed considerable success with her dramas in the 1880s, but whose subsequent work failed to win acclaim. Stenberg persuasively demonstrates why it is necessary to go back to the sources for a history of Swedish literature between 1881 and 1909 that is rather more balanced than the one the standard textbooks provide. Unfortunately, however, Stenberg has chosen not to sketch in any information about the version provided by the standard textbooks, thus missing the opportunity to profile her findings more emphatically and also leaving the reader to supply a fair amount of information herself/himself. The five debates selected are (1) the debate arising from the publication of Amanda Kerfstedt’s short story ‘Synd’ (Sin) in 1881; (2) the debate on morality that was an important dimension of the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough, chiefly in the 1880s; (3) the debate about naturalism in 1893 involving Ellen Key and some of her critics; (4) Ibsenfejden (the Ibsen controversy) of 1898; (5) the debate caused by Annie Åkerhielm’s publication of a series of articles on ‘Den nya kvinnan i litteraturen’ (The new woman in literature) in 1909. Georg Brandes’s emphasis on the importance of subjecting contemporary issues to debate made him a pivotal figure in the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough. Stenberg, however, highlights the role of a critic such as Sophie Adlersparre (1823-1895). With Rosalie Olivecrona she founded in 1859 Tidskrift för hemmet, the first women’s journal to appear in any Nordic country; she was instrumental in founding Fredrika Bremer-förbundet in 1884; and in the 1880s she, too, played a decisive role in encouraging and supporting a number of women writers who were exploring aspects of contemporary society in their texts. Like Adlersparre, Eva Fryxell (1829-1920) was prominently engaged in the early phase of the women’s movement in Sweden. Both Adlersparre and Fryxell perceived literature as a means towards solving social issues, and consequently their reviews and other texts on contemporary literature tended to have a markedly prescriptive dimension. When Kerfstedt published her controversial short story ‘Synd’ in 1881, Adlersparre defended her against those claiming that the text, about masculine double moral standards, could not be regarded as literature, preferring instead to highlight the innovative dimensions of the work which, she argued, had the potential to initiate social change. Fryxell played a prominent role in the Swedish branch of The Federation for the Abolition of Regulated Prostitution that Josephine Butler had founded in Britain in 1875. Stenberg makes the plausible suggestion that the formation of the Swedish Federationen in 1878 played an important role in foregrounding the issues about sexual morality that were to become so prominent in Scandinavian literature up to 1887. Brandes translated John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women into Danish, and Stenberg reads his distancing, in the preface to the second edition (1885), from the notion that the high moral standards expected from women should also be expected from men, in the context of the campaign against regulated prostitution run by the Swedish Federation at the time. Ellen Key (1849-1926) played a central role both in the debate on naturalism in 1893 and in the Ibsen controversy five years later. Stenberg profiles Key in recurring conflicts with representatives of the women’s movement in Sweden, with Key’s gradual embracing of a Nietzschean individualism causing much controversy. Drawing on Koselleck, Stenberg demonstrates how slippages in Key’s language, with shifts in the connotations of familiar words, made the task of countering her arguments a difficult one. Key, for example, had abandoned Christianity in 1880 but continued to use a Christian vocabulary, a complex problem for a women’s movement that still, around 1900, included prominent Christian elements and so was strongly opposed to Key’s notion of Eros. Like Key, Annie Åkerhielm (1869-1956), author of a series of controversial articles on the New Woman in literature published in Stockholms Dagblad in 1909 as well as prose fiction and other texts, is difficult to categorise in the context of modern political parties and affiliations, and Stenberg’s study of her series of articles is a welcome addition to our understanding of this undoubtedly influential writer. One of the most interesting sections in Stenberg’s book is her background chapter on women in popular education and the left-wing / workers’ movements, a study of the nexus of literature and popular education for women as debated and reflected in Folkbiblioteksbladet (1903-1911) and Morgonbris, the latter published by the Social Democratic women’s organisation from 1904. The chapter is a persuasive illustration of the role of alternative history writing, and so is the chapter on the Strindberg ‘feud’ and the role of the construction of Strindberg as a national hero in suppressing the contributions of women. But here as elsewhere Stenberg ought to have been more generous with summaries and pointers to the development of arguments so far. Moreover, the organisation of the chapters of her book, which all have a range of subsections merely distinguished by headings in different-sized fonts, makes for unnecessary confusion about the overall structure. The chapters should also have been labelled as such. If the use of a stylised flower on the left-hand page to signal a new chapter on the right-hand page is a means of flagging up the innovative dimensions of this counter-history, the device is simply so impractical as to be counter-productive. The volume edited by Petra Broomans studies women as transmitters of ideas, the focus being on the Dutch-speaking region and Scandinavia in the period 1880-1950. The book has emerged from a workshop held in October 2006 as part of the project ‘Scandinavian literature in Europe: The influence of language politics, gender and aesthetics’, which is based at the University of Groningen. In Broomans’s definitions, cultural transfer is a one-way activity, i.e. when a text is translated from one language into another, while cultural transmission is a reciprocal process, with cultural and literary information being shared. As translators and in due course also reviewers, journalists, editors of journals, publishers and literary agents, women have played – and are playing – key roles as cultural transmitters, yet relatively little research has been done in this field. As Broomans points out, a ‘transnational cultural transfer and transmission history has not yet been written’, but as this volume indicates, such a project would have the potential to be both fascinating and important. . As the title indicates, From Darwin to Weil ranges widely. Janke Klok explores Camilla Collett’s role as a cultural transmitter; Liselotte Vandenbussche, Griet Vandermassen, Marysa Demoor and Johan Braeckman study the work of the Flemish writer Virginie Loveling (1836-1923); Ebba Witt-Brattström writes on Laura Marholm (18541927); Ester Jiresch investigates the contribution made by Margaretha Meyboom (1856-1927) who translated, among others, Selma Lagerlöf into Dutch; Geraldine Reymenants focuses on the contribution by women to the Flemish Catholic periodical Dietsche Warande en Belfort; and Marta Ronne considers the role of the critic Margit Abenius (18991970) in introducing the work of Simone Weil (1909-1943) in Sweden. Obviously the contributions of these women were important, and often also bold and innovative. But to highlight the complexity of their work, and also for the sake of onward cultural transmission, quotations should have been given in the original languages throughout, followed by translation into English. Unfortunately the texts are in no way consistent in this respect, nor is the name of the translator into English always given. But these are minor quibbles. From Darwin to Weil presents itself as the first in a series. I for one am very much looking forward to the next volume.

Petra Broomans, ed

From Darwin to Weil: Women as Transmitters of Ideas

Barkhuis, Groningen 2009. Pp. 185.

ISBN: 9789077922644

Reviewed by Helena Forsås-Scott

Reviewed with Lisbeth Stenberg, I kärlekens namn - Om människosynen, den nya kvinnan och framtidens samhälle i fem litteraturdebatter 1881-1909

In her thought-provoking book, the product of much painstaking research, Lisbeth Stenberg argues that the writing of the history of Swedish literature around the turn of the twentieth century needs to be more open and thus more effective than it currently is. Her approach has been inspired by Mario J. Valdés who, in a volume co-edited with Linda Hutcheon, Rethinking Literary History: A Dialogue on Theory (2002), advocates the replacement of the type of literary history that is closed with a literary history that is ‘an open process of investigation’. In Stenberg’s view, the established version of the history of Swedish literature around 1900 is a neat example of the former. In particular, her study challenges the standard accounts and roles of what have traditionally been perceived as two key elements of the history of Swedish literature around this time: the Modern Breakthrough, here limited to the period 1880-87, and the Strindberg ‘feud’ in 1910-12. Stenberg tackles this task by undertaking detailed examinations of five major debates between 1881 and 1909, all of them revolving around the representation of ‘the New Woman’ in Swedish literature and so consistently highlighting gender along with perspectives on the role of literature and the interface between literature and politics. Reinhart Koselleck’s The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts (2002) underpins some of Stenberg’s detailed analyses, as do several of the works of George L. Mosse. During the relevant period literary value, Stenberg argues, was assigned on the basis of structures of power that were directly related to those thwarting women’s struggle for equality. At a time when more women in Sweden were beginning to emerge as authors, the notion of an autonomous literary field, prevalent in Sweden from around 1890 but existing in France from as early as 1850, could be used to marginalise women writers. A well-known Swedish example is Alfhild Agrell, who enjoyed considerable success with her dramas in the 1880s, but whose subsequent work failed to win acclaim. Stenberg persuasively demonstrates why it is necessary to go back to the sources for a history of Swedish literature between 1881 and 1909 that is rather more balanced than the one the standard textbooks provide. Unfortunately, however, Stenberg has chosen not to sketch in any information about the version provided by the standard textbooks, thus missing the opportunity to profile her findings more emphatically and also leaving the reader to supply a fair amount of information herself/himself. The five debates selected are (1) the debate arising from the publication of Amanda Kerfstedt’s short story ‘Synd’ (Sin) in 1881; (2) the debate on morality that was an important dimension of the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough, chiefly in the 1880s; (3) the debate about naturalism in 1893 involving Ellen Key and some of her critics; (4) Ibsenfejden (the Ibsen controversy) of 1898; (5) the debate caused by Annie Åkerhielm’s publication of a series of articles on ‘Den nya kvinnan i litteraturen’ (The new woman in literature) in 1909. Georg Brandes’s emphasis on the importance of subjecting contemporary issues to debate made him a pivotal figure in the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough. Stenberg, however, highlights the role of a critic such as Sophie Adlersparre (1823-1895). With Rosalie Olivecrona she founded in 1859 Tidskrift för hemmet, the first women’s journal to appear in any Nordic country; she was instrumental in founding Fredrika Bremer-förbundet in 1884; and in the 1880s she, too, played a decisive role in encouraging and supporting a number of women writers who were exploring aspects of contemporary society in their texts. Like Adlersparre, Eva Fryxell (1829-1920) was prominently engaged in the early phase of the women’s movement in Sweden. Both Adlersparre and Fryxell perceived literature as a means towards solving social issues, and consequently their reviews and other texts on contemporary literature tended to have a markedly prescriptive dimension. When Kerfstedt published her controversial short story ‘Synd’ in 1881, Adlersparre defended her against those claiming that the text, about masculine double moral standards, could not be regarded as literature, preferring instead to highlight the innovative dimensions of the work which, she argued, had the potential to initiate social change. Fryxell played a prominent role in the Swedish branch of The Federation for the Abolition of Regulated Prostitution that Josephine Butler had founded in Britain in 1875. Stenberg makes the plausible suggestion that the formation of the Swedish Federationen in 1878 played an important role in foregrounding the issues about sexual morality that were to become so prominent in Scandinavian literature up to 1887. Brandes translated John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women into Danish, and Stenberg reads his distancing, in the preface to the second edition (1885), from the notion that the high moral standards expected from women should also be expected from men, in the context of the campaign against regulated prostitution run by the Swedish Federation at the time. Ellen Key (1849-1926) played a central role both in the debate on naturalism in 1893 and in the Ibsen controversy five years later. Stenberg profiles Key in recurring conflicts with representatives of the women’s movement in Sweden, with Key’s gradual embracing of a Nietzschean individualism causing much controversy. Drawing on Koselleck, Stenberg demonstrates how slippages in Key’s language, with shifts in the connotations of familiar words, made the task of countering her arguments a difficult one. Key, for example, had abandoned Christianity in 1880 but continued to use a Christian vocabulary, a complex problem for a women’s movement that still, around 1900, included prominent Christian elements and so was strongly opposed to Key’s notion of Eros. Like Key, Annie Åkerhielm (1869-1956), author of a series of controversial articles on the New Woman in literature published in Stockholms Dagblad in 1909 as well as prose fiction and other texts, is difficult to categorise in the context of modern political parties and affiliations, and Stenberg’s study of her series of articles is a welcome addition to our understanding of this undoubtedly influential writer. One of the most interesting sections in Stenberg’s book is her background chapter on women in popular education and the left-wing / workers’ movements, a study of the nexus of literature and popular education for women as debated and reflected in Folkbiblioteksbladet (1903-1911) and Morgonbris, the latter published by the Social Democratic women’s organisation from 1904. The chapter is a persuasive illustration of the role of alternative history writing, and so is the chapter on the Strindberg ‘feud’ and the role of the construction of Strindberg as a national hero in suppressing the contributions of women. But here as elsewhere Stenberg ought to have been more generous with summaries and pointers to the development of arguments so far. Moreover, the organisation of the chapters of her book, which all have a range of subsections merely distinguished by headings in different-sized fonts, makes for unnecessary confusion about the overall structure. The chapters should also have been labelled as such. If the use of a stylised flower on the left-hand page to signal a new chapter on the right-hand page is a means of flagging up the innovative dimensions of this counter-history, the device is simply so impractical as to be counter-productive. The volume edited by Petra Broomans studies women as transmitters of ideas, the focus being on the Dutch-speaking region and Scandinavia in the period 1880-1950. The book has emerged from a workshop held in October 2006 as part of the project ‘Scandinavian literature in Europe: The influence of language politics, gender and aesthetics’, which is based at the University of Groningen. In Broomans’s definitions, cultural transfer is a one-way activity, i.e. when a text is translated from one language into another, while cultural transmission is a reciprocal process, with cultural and literary information being shared. As translators and in due course also reviewers, journalists, editors of journals, publishers and literary agents, women have played – and are playing – key roles as cultural transmitters, yet relatively little research has been done in this field. As Broomans points out, a ‘transnational cultural transfer and transmission history has not yet been written’, but as this volume indicates, such a project would have the potential to be both fascinating and important. . As the title indicates, From Darwin to Weil ranges widely. Janke Klok explores Camilla Collett’s role as a cultural transmitter; Liselotte Vandenbussche, Griet Vandermassen, Marysa Demoor and Johan Braeckman study the work of the Flemish writer Virginie Loveling (1836-1923); Ebba Witt-Brattström writes on Laura Marholm (18541927); Ester Jiresch investigates the contribution made by Margaretha Meyboom (1856-1927) who translated, among others, Selma Lagerlöf into Dutch; Geraldine Reymenants focuses on the contribution by women to the Flemish Catholic periodical Dietsche Warande en Belfort; and Marta Ronne considers the role of the critic Margit Abenius (18991970) in introducing the work of Simone Weil (1909-1943) in Sweden. Obviously the contributions of these women were important, and often also bold and innovative. But to highlight the complexity of their work, and also for the sake of onward cultural transmission, quotations should have been given in the original languages throughout, followed by translation into English. Unfortunately the texts are in no way consistent in this respect, nor is the name of the translator into English always given. But these are minor quibbles. From Darwin to Weil presents itself as the first in a series. I for one am very much looking forward to the next volume.

Ellen Rees

Figurative Space in the Novels of Cora Sandel

Alvheim & Eide Akademisk Forlag, Bergen 2010. Pp. 196.

ISBN: 9788290359831

Reviewed by Tone Selboe

During the last few years we have seen an increasing scholarly interest in works by the Norwegian writer Cora Sandel as well as in the question of literary space. In her new book, Figurative Space in the Novels of Cora Sandel, Ellen Rees, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo, combines the two. Rees is no newcomer to Sandel research, she wrote her doctoral dissertation in Scandinavian literature on Sandel, and she has published several articles on the Alberta trilogy as well as on Sandel’s other novels. The book is informed by close acquaintance with both Sandel and the various criticial works and positions within the field. One of its many virtues is that Rees gives a thorough and fair account of earlier research, and pays due respect to other scholars when her arguments are in dialogue with theirs. Hence, she does not overlook the turn towards psychoanalysis and a more theoretcial approach in Sandel research which came with Kjersti Bale’s Friheten som utopi (1989), and she is in constant dialogue with this work as well as with later contributions which deal more specifically with the question of Sandel and space. Her aim is ‘to “enter” spaces that other scholars have overlooked’ (10), more precisely, to distinguish between different types of spaces which occur in Sandel’s work. Rees thus enters the question of figurative space through readings of interior as well as exterior spaces; hotel rooms and wharves being among them. The book consists of six main chapters (plus an introduction and a conclusion), five of them investigating the question of space from a different perspective, such as ‘the uncanny’, ‘the penetrable’, and ‘the oneiric’. The main part of the book concerns the Alberta trilogy, and it is primarily in these chapters that Rees succeeds in bringing to light new aspects of Sandel’s spatial sensitivity, drawing on various theoretical approaches. The works of Anthony Vidler on the architectural uncanny, Victoria Rosner on the relationship between architecture and literature, Gaston Bachelard on domestic space, and many others are important sources. Theory is primarily used as a tool to open up various perspectives on the texts, without in any way overruling the detailed and original readings of different spaces. Rees pays attention to gender as well as class, and fulfils her introductory promise of entering spaces other scholars have overlooked; I particularly welcome her chapter on oneiric houses. I don’t contest any of her subtle observations, and would instead have liked her to have gone even further, especially when it comes to the notion of home. There is still much to be said about the intriguing and complicated relationship between physical locations like rooms and houses and Alberta’s or Katinka’s perception of what constitues a home – as I am sure Rees is aware. The last two chapters, on Kranes konditori and Kjøp ikke Dondi, have previously been published as articles. This might be the reason why they seem to function more as an appendix than integrated in the main argument. The chapter on Kranes konditori is less about space than about narrative and dramaturgical devices, and the same may be said for Sandel’s last novel Kjøp ikke Dondi. Rees has for a long time defended the novel vis à vis the established view that the novel, contrary to Sandel’s own opinion, is not up to the standard of her earlier works. Her arguments about rhythm, composition and modernity being inextricably bound to the role of jazz music are valid and convincing, but don’t address the question of figurative space in the same direct way as is the case with her analysis of the trilogy. Besides, her argument on ‘late style’ drawing on Edward Said, claiming that ‘Sandel’s late style calls into question the twentieth-century with progress, youth and artifice’ (179) is an interesting and original one, but not sufficiently developed to be relevant for the overall time-space question. It is true, as we are told in the blurb, that Rees’s study is the first major work on Sandel in English. It is also true that Sandel is little known outside Norway, and the lack of good translations does not help matters. This book is therefore a valuable contribution to the knowledge on Sandel, but I wonder whether a reader without previous knowledge of the works will really grasp their overall structure, not to say their quality. Here I am thinking of the Alberta trilogy in particular. Rees gives a thorough account of the reception, and more surprisingly in view of the book’s overall focus, a chapter on biographical writings on Sandel, but I miss a short introduction – on style, plot, and characters – to the trilogy. Figurative Space in the Novels of Cora Sandel is not an introductory work, nor is it meant to be, but it is a question whether the book will not to a certain extent exclude readers with no previous knowledge of the novels. If that is the case, then who is this book really intended for? It seems a question well worth asking about a work written in English on a Norwegian writer who is little known outside Norway. These objections do not, however, alter the impression of a thorough and original contribution to Sandel research.

Tore Rem

Sin egen herre. En biografi om Jens Bjørneboe

Cappelen Damm, Oslo 2009. Pp. 620.

ISBN: 9788202256555

Reviewed with Født til frihet. En biografi om Jens Bjørneboe.

Many readers, states Tore Rem in his introduction to this two-volume biography, can remember their discovery of Jens Bjørneboe’s writings as a life-changing experience. A bold claim, one might argue, but one which this reviewer is happy to endorse. My meeting with the power and passion of Bjørneboe’s writings as a young postgraduate led to a fascination with his work which could ultimately only be exorcized by writing a book about him. He is an author who confronts difficult issues with unwavering insistence, who provokes sympathy and indignation, occasionally even disgust, but never indifference. These two bulky volumes represent what must surely be the definitive biography of this author. The first volume covers the years 1920-1959, tracing Jens Bjørneboe’s development from his birth in Kristiansand as the son of a shipowner, through his turbulent adolescence, his wartime experiences in Oslo and Stockholm, his first marriage to a German Jewish refugee, his absorption in the works of Rudolf Steiner and his work at the Steiner School in Oslo – to his first published poems and novels from 1951 onwards. The second volume covers a much shorter period, the seventeen years from 1959 to 1976; but it is the period in which Bjørneboe made his lasting and controversial impact on Norwegian cultural life. It tells the story of a man who wrote furiously in many different genres, whilst attempting to create a harmonious family life with his second wife, the actress Tone Tveteraas, and their three daughters, but who was continually undermined by his own restless spirit and by the constant clashes with authority into which his iconoclastic urges led him. And it tells finally of a man whose health was destroyed by recurring bouts of alcoholism and depression, who sought refuge in isolation but could not run from his own demons. He hanged himself on 9 May 1976, at the age of 55. Tore Rem’s stated aim in these two volumes is to narrate the whole th story of Jens Bjørneboe, not to emphasize certain aspects in order to create a coherent picture of the man and the author, but to include also those details which seem contradictory, those trails which lead nowhere - ‘som en påminnelse om alt det i et menneskeliv som ikke går opp’ (as a reminder of everything in a human life which does not fit neatly together) (I, p. xvi). That is quite an undertaking with a subject who had so many false starts and so many internal contradictions. One can only be impressed by the biographer’s thoroughness; there is, it seems, not a childhood friend he has not interviewed, not an exchange of letters he has not studied. At times the sheer bulk of information can be a little overwhelming; this is not a biography with which to while away a sleepy afternoon. Yet it does succeed splendidly in conveying not only a nuanced picture of a complicated individual but also the whole social context of his life and work. Norwegian cultural debate, from the small-town conservatism of the 1920s to the fierce polemics of the second World War and the Cold War to the Marxist-Leninism of the late 1960s and 1970s, provides an essential framework for the understanding of Bjørneboe’s iconoclasm. He was often accused of being too radical, occasionally of not being radical enough, but he was rarely in the mainstream. He was the archetypal outsider. Tore Rem’s discussion of Bjørneboe’s involvement with the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and with anthroposophy I found particularly illuminating. It helps to explain his passion for education and his unusually long commitment to the Steiner School in Oslo – the only time in his life he can be said to have had an ‘ordinary’ job for an extended period. His departure from the brotherhood is also the clearest example of his antipathy towards joining any movement, of his drive to follow his own convictions without compromise. Despite his often extreme penury and antisocial behaviour, Tore Rem shows how Bjørneboe remained throughout his life the privileged son of the upper classes. His assured and confident manner gained him access where many would be denied, and he was equally at home with international celebrities and with down-and-outs. He was an antiauthoritarian with great authority – a paradox in this way as in so many others. He makes frequent reference in his writings to his elegant father, a man of the world who was puzzled by his unstable son and died when Jens was only nineteen. His mother, on the other hand, does not figure in her son’s writings at all – most likely, argues Tore Rem, because she was all too present in his life. Maja Bjørneboe became the family matriarch, taking over the shipping business and attempting to take over the lives of her three unsatisfactory children. She was upset, often scandalized, by the behaviour of her youngest son, but continued to provide essential financial support for almost the whole of his life and outlived him by many years. It is a dramatic life which is presented in these volumes, that of a gifted maverick who both lived and worked ferociously and burnt himself out at far too young an age. Yet what will survive of Jens Bjørneboe is his books. His plays, with their Brechtian influence and cabaret-like mixture of political satire, pantomime and song, represented a renewal of Norwegian theatre in the 1960s and are still fresh and arresting. Many of his novels combine a gift for story-telling with pointed social and political comment. Jonas (The Least of These, 1955) is the story of a sensitive young child whose life is nearly destroyed because his dyslexia is mis-diagnosed as backwardness – and at the same time a savage satire of an education system which rejects those who do not conform to rigid patterns of normality. Haiene (The Sharks, 1974) is a thrilling tale of life on board a sailing ship, storm and shipwreck – and a study of a hierarchical society at war with itself, set against the alternative of a community based on co-operation, not power. Bjørneboe’s major achievement must however remain his trilogy, Frihetens øyeblikk (Moment of Freedom, 1966), Kruttårnet (Powderhouse, 1969) and Stillheten (The Silence, 1973). These novels are innovative in their form – a combination of documentary, autobiography and fiction – and urgent in their ambition. In them the author undertakes to study ‘Det ondes problem’, the problem of evil. How is it possible, the narrator asks despairingly, for human beings to inflict such suffering on each other? The focus is at first on the second World War and the Holocaust, but widens to explore historical outrages such as witch trials and the butchery of native inhabitants of the Third World under colonialism. The weight of human evil threatens to overwhelm the investigator, but he finds solace in the simple kindness of his associates and in the discovery that human goodness is just as unfathomable and as ubiquitous as evil. Tore Rem’s analysis of these works adds much to our understanding of how they came to be written and of their composition and reception. Jens Bjørneboe is one of those Scandinavian writers of whom one can state with confidence that had he written in a world language, his work would be far better known today. All of the novels mentioned above have been translated into English, but suffer the fate of much translated literature in that they have not received the critical attention which would have been accorded to original works. If it were possible to publish a slimmer version of this biography in English, it might help to place this disturbing writer where he belongs, as a pivotal twentiethcentury European intellectual.

Tore Rem

Født til frihet. En biografi om Jens Bjørneboe

Cappelen Damm, Oslo 2010. Pp. 685.

ISBN: 9788202310059

Reviewed by Janet Garton

Reviewed with Sin egen herre. En biografi om Jens Bjørneboe

Many readers, states Tore Rem in his introduction to this two-volume biography, can remember their discovery of Jens Bjørneboe’s writings as a life-changing experience. A bold claim, one might argue, but one which this reviewer is happy to endorse. My meeting with the power and passion of Bjørneboe’s writings as a young postgraduate led to a fascination with his work which could ultimately only be exorcized by writing a book about him. He is an author who confronts difficult issues with unwavering insistence, who provokes sympathy and indignation, occasionally even disgust, but never indifference. These two bulky volumes represent what must surely be the definitive biography of this author. The first volume covers the years 1920-1959, tracing Jens Bjørneboe’s development from his birth in Kristiansand as the son of a shipowner, through his turbulent adolescence, his wartime experiences in Oslo and Stockholm, his first marriage to a German Jewish refugee, his absorption in the works of Rudolf Steiner and his work at the Steiner School in Oslo – to his first published poems and novels from 1951 onwards. The second volume covers a much shorter period, the seventeen years from 1959 to 1976; but it is the period in which Bjørneboe made his lasting and controversial impact on Norwegian cultural life. It tells the story of a man who wrote furiously in many different genres, whilst attempting to create a harmonious family life with his second wife, the actress Tone Tveteraas, and their three daughters, but who was continually undermined by his own restless spirit and by the constant clashes with authority into which his iconoclastic urges led him. And it tells finally of a man whose health was destroyed by recurring bouts of alcoholism and depression, who sought refuge in isolation but could not run from his own demons. He hanged himself on 9 May 1976, at the age of 55. Tore Rem’s stated aim in these two volumes is to narrate the whole th story of Jens Bjørneboe, not to emphasize certain aspects in order to create a coherent picture of the man and the author, but to include also those details which seem contradictory, those trails which lead nowhere - ‘som en påminnelse om alt det i et menneskeliv som ikke går opp’ (as a reminder of everything in a human life which does not fit neatly together) (I, p. xvi). That is quite an undertaking with a subject who had so many false starts and so many internal contradictions. One can only be impressed by the biographer’s thoroughness; there is, it seems, not a childhood friend he has not interviewed, not an exchange of letters he has not studied. At times the sheer bulk of information can be a little overwhelming; this is not a biography with which to while away a sleepy afternoon. Yet it does succeed splendidly in conveying not only a nuanced picture of a complicated individual but also the whole social context of his life and work. Norwegian cultural debate, from the small-town conservatism of the 1920s to the fierce polemics of the second World War and the Cold War to the Marxist-Leninism of the late 1960s and 1970s, provides an essential framework for the understanding of Bjørneboe’s iconoclasm. He was often accused of being too radical, occasionally of not being radical enough, but he was rarely in the mainstream. He was the archetypal outsider. Tore Rem’s discussion of Bjørneboe’s involvement with the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and with anthroposophy I found particularly illuminating. It helps to explain his passion for education and his unusually long commitment to the Steiner School in Oslo – the only time in his life he can be said to have had an ‘ordinary’ job for an extended period. His departure from the brotherhood is also the clearest example of his antipathy towards joining any movement, of his drive to follow his own convictions without compromise. Despite his often extreme penury and antisocial behaviour, Tore Rem shows how Bjørneboe remained throughout his life the privileged son of the upper classes. His assured and confident manner gained him access where many would be denied, and he was equally at home with international celebrities and with down-and-outs. He was an antiauthoritarian with great authority – a paradox in this way as in so many others. He makes frequent reference in his writings to his elegant father, a man of the world who was puzzled by his unstable son and died when Jens was only nineteen. His mother, on the other hand, does not figure in her son’s writings at all – most likely, argues Tore Rem, because she was all too present in his life. Maja Bjørneboe became the family matriarch, taking over the shipping business and attempting to take over the lives of her three unsatisfactory children. She was upset, often scandalized, by the behaviour of her youngest son, but continued to provide essential financial support for almost the whole of his life and outlived him by many years. It is a dramatic life which is presented in these volumes, that of a gifted maverick who both lived and worked ferociously and burnt himself out at far too young an age. Yet what will survive of Jens Bjørneboe is his books. His plays, with their Brechtian influence and cabaret-like mixture of political satire, pantomime and song, represented a renewal of Norwegian theatre in the 1960s and are still fresh and arresting. Many of his novels combine a gift for story-telling with pointed social and political comment. Jonas (The Least of These, 1955) is the story of a sensitive young child whose life is nearly destroyed because his dyslexia is mis-diagnosed as backwardness – and at the same time a savage satire of an education system which rejects those who do not conform to rigid patterns of normality. Haiene (The Sharks, 1974) is a thrilling tale of life on board a sailing ship, storm and shipwreck – and a study of a hierarchical society at war with itself, set against the alternative of a community based on co-operation, not power. Bjørneboe’s major achievement must however remain his trilogy, Frihetens øyeblikk (Moment of Freedom, 1966), Kruttårnet (Powderhouse, 1969) and Stillheten (The Silence, 1973). These novels are innovative in their form – a combination of documentary, autobiography and fiction – and urgent in their ambition. In them the author undertakes to study ‘Det ondes problem’, the problem of evil. How is it possible, the narrator asks despairingly, for human beings to inflict such suffering on each other? The focus is at first on the second World War and the Holocaust, but widens to explore historical outrages such as witch trials and the butchery of native inhabitants of the Third World under colonialism. The weight of human evil threatens to overwhelm the investigator, but he finds solace in the simple kindness of his associates and in the discovery that human goodness is just as unfathomable and as ubiquitous as evil. Tore Rem’s analysis of these works adds much to our understanding of how they came to be written and of their composition and reception. Jens Bjørneboe is one of those Scandinavian writers of whom one can state with confidence that had he written in a world language, his work would be far better known today. All of the novels mentioned above have been translated into English, but suffer the fate of much translated literature in that they have not received the critical attention which would have been accorded to original works. If it were possible to publish a slimmer version of this biography in English, it might help to place this disturbing writer where he belongs, as a pivotal twentiethcentury European intellectual.

Photo Credits

Detail from 'Fika (coffee break)' (Rosendal, Stockholm, 2011), Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

Photograph used on cover of 2011-1 issue