Norway Literature During and after the First World War

During and after the First World War, the currents of thought that still dominate contemporary cultural life emerge in Norway. But the picture of this here is far less complex and varied than in Sweden, where the antagonism between old and new is concretized in a veritable assault by the young generation on what it calls “Swedish Alexandria”. In Norway, while there are no primitivists or vitalists inspired by Whitman and Lawrence (except perhaps Waldemar Brøgger), there is a strong influence, on all the leading representatives of modern culture, of Freudian psychoanalytic thought, which is often combined with an attitude pro-communist politician and in any case a radical critique of society and bourgeois institutions. The dominant personality of this current is Sigurd Hoel: Mot Dag (Towards the day), director of the “yellow series” which collects translations of young writers from every country, an ironic and skeptical artist torn between his individualistic nature and his collectivist political faith. Alongside Hoel, another radical writer is Helge Krog (born in 1889) critic and playwright who has removed all pathos from the moralism of an Ibsen and a Heiberg, bringing it to a level of worldly, unscrupulous and indulgent social satire: Det store Vi (Us with a capital letter), 1919; Konkylien, 1929; Underveis (Per via, 1931); Blåpapiret (The copying paper, 1928); Treklang (Terzetto, 1933), but he too, like Hoel, only theorist of collectivism. Also anti-bourgeois, although from different points of view, are Cora Sandel (born in 1882) and I. Thrap Meyer (1898-1929). However, the only true revolutionary poet of modern Norway is A. Øverland (deported by the Germans to Poland during the Second World War and returned to Norway in 1946), who from the initial adherence to the ways and motifs of the neo-romantic lyric of 1890 passed to a very original tone of poetry of profound, virile interiority and at the same time of anarchic rebellion; poetry equally far from rhetorical emphasis as from musical aestheticism, frank and modest in its internal measure, highly sensitive despite Øverland’s skeptical radicalism to pain and the universal arcane.

According to itypejob, a group of writer-journalists also belongs to this radical political and religious current of thought, who have made E. Skavlan ‘s Dagbladet (born in 1882) a training ground for discussions on literature and modern art. The most notable are Chr. AR Christensen, G. Larsen, happy and personal disciple of Hemingway (I sommer, D’estate, 1932; Bull, 1938), P. Gjesdahl, H. Heiberg and others.

Conservative thought, on the other hand, is represented by a group of intellectuals who, while participating less actively in militant politics, form a solid front against any totalitarian orientation which, both in politics and in literature, threatens the freedom of the spirit understood in the humanistic sense. When the newspaper directed by R. Fangen, Vor Verden (Our World), came out in 1923, this group recognized Fangen as its leader, and in the conservative British liberalism, individualistic and humanistic he advocated, it recognized its definitive orientation. Critic of even more recent European literature (Streiftog i digtning og taenkning, Excursions in the world of poetry and thought, 1919; Tegn og gjaerninger, Symbols and facts, 1927, on the works of Kjaer and Wilde, Roger Martin du Gard and Thomas Mann), Romansiere and expressionist playwright, Fangen has perhaps established himself more as a refined and acute polemicist and moralist, than as a creative artist, because he is too dominated by his overbearing intellectualism.

Many modern writers, however, are outside every school and grouping. In lyricism, the rebellious and impetuous Norway Collett Vogt (1864-1927) soon abandoned the poetry of political tendency, to close himself in the quiet and serene interiority of sentiment (Det dyre Bred, Il pane che salamo, 1900; Septemberbrand, Settembrino incendio, 1907; Hjemkomst, Homecoming, 1917; Nedfra Bjerget, Down from the mountain, 1924; Vind og Belge, Wind and wave, 1927). H. Wildenvey (born in 1886), fine and exquisite epicurean spirit, sang the poetry of light and momentary joy and fleeting feelings in a humble and simple style, without however remaining insensitive to the new spiritual atmosphere created by the First World War (Hemmeligheter, Mysteries, 1919; Trold i ord, Magic words, 1920; Ildorkestret, Fire Orchestra, 1923); O. Bull (1887-1933) is like Wildenvey bohemian and solitary, far from political struggles and social interests, but the keynote of his lyric is very different from that of Wildenvey. In tones of virile resignation Bull confessed the disconsolate sadness, the loneliness of his nomadic spirit, restless, tormented by the very feeling of living which, due to its extreme intensity, is always a painful feeling (Alene, Solo; Stjernene, Le stelle; Metope ; Oinos og Eros). There is something decadent in this dark and closed lyric in the internal meditation, centered only on the theme of being born and perishing, of spring and autumn, of life understood as an omen of death (Foraar, Spring; On Vaaren, Of spring; Høst, Autumn; Clara Eugenie ; Avmagt, Exhaustion; Mit hjerte, My heart; Stjernegrinden, The gate of stars), of fantasy as the Morgana fairy of reality (Gobelin); but Bull can often draw accents of great and severe poetic beauty from the most desolate negativity (Samlade digte, 1934). T. Ørjasaeter (born in 1886) writes his lyric poems in Landsmål, in which he gives artistic expression to a romantic-religious sensibility not free from abstruse representations (Gudbrand Langleite, 1913; Elvesong, Song of Elves, 1932). And finally O. Aukrust (1883-1929), also a writer from Landsmål, interprets the struggle between good and evil in powerful symbolic and religious visions (Himmelvarden, Il beacon celeste, 1916; Sobrenning, Tramonto, 1930).

Literature in landsmål dominates the cultural picture of the last twenty years: Tarjei Vesaas, Inge Krokann and Ingeborg Refling-Hagen have established themselves as novelists with a personal accent; later, around 1930, the new names of the very young appeared: P. Munheim (b. 1891), J. Sande (b. 1906), Å. Sveen the most gifted of all (b.1910), A. Moren (b.1907) and HH Holm (b.1896) in which all the new nationalistic mentality is visible which since 1921 has also found official expression in acts of government (replacement for the capital of the Danish name of Christiania with the old one of Oslo; recognition of landsmål as a language equivalent to riksmål, annexation of Spitsbergen renamed in S valbard).

Among the writers in riksmål instead, S. Christiansen emerge, a conscientious and tormented psychologist of closed pietistic souls; Nordahl Grieg (b.1902-d. 1943), solitary in contemporary Norwegian literature, yet more than any other perhaps son of his time, who, as a traveler like Kipling and JV Jensen on all seas and for all continents, translates into short lyrical notes or in novels that have all the freshness of journalistic reportage and its impressionistic and dynamic vision of life; K. Gudmundsson (b. 1902), who became popular with his Icelandic novels written in Norwegian; the lyricists Charles Kent (b.1880), Alf Larsen (b.1885), G. Reiss-Andersen (b.1896), R. Hiorth-Schøyen (1887-1932); the novelists K. Elster the Younger (b.1881), F. Halvorsen (b.1893), M. Fönhus (b.1894), the Americanized Norwegian OE.

Norway Literature During and after the First World War

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