A History of Norwegian Literature

By Harald Beyer | Go to book overview

Olav Duun

A writer of whom it was hoped in many quarters that he also would achieve the Nobel Prize was Olav Duun ( 1876-1939). While Sigrid Undset had given the Norwegian Middle Ages universal significance by her descriptions, Olav Duun did the same for Norwegian peasant life. He exemplifies some of the best qualities of Norwegian literature, the folk wisdom of Aasen, the skepticism of Vinje and Ibsen, the profundity of Kinck, the humor of Hamsun. To all of these he adds a deep sympathy with his characters, which causes one to experience his world as one in which art and reality, life and ideal are harmonized into a larger whole. His matchless style causes form and contents to fuse so perfectly in his best books that he stands as a remarkable synthesis of the Norwegian folk spirit and the European cultural form.

Olav Duun was born on November 21, 1876, on an island in the Namsen Fjord, where his parents farmed and fished. He himself spent a boyhood and youth like that of other youngsters in the community, herding cattle, fishing, and absorbing the proverbial lore of his ancestors. When he was twenty-five years old, he left to attend the teachers seminary at Levanger. A few years later, after he had started his work as a rural school teacher, he published his first book, a collection of short stories ( 1907).

Duun wrote a whole series of novels and stories before his masterpiece about the Juvik people. While these have been overshadowed, many of them are interesting even if they are in a minor format. There are lines of thought that lead forward from each of them to his later production. As early as in Marjane ( 1908) we glimpse the type he calls Lauris in his masterpiece, the man of malice and deception, and his counterpart, the Odin type. Among the other books of this period one should mention particularly Good Conscience ( Det gode samvitet, 1916),1

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1
Tr. E. Björkman ( New York, 1928).

-310-

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A History of Norwegian Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Translator's Preface vii
  • Contents x
  • Norway and Her Literature 1
  • From Antiquity to the Vikings 6
  • The Poetic Edda 12
  • Poetry of the Skalds 31
  • The Sagas 43
  • Foreign Culture and Norse Tradition 58
  • Ballads and Folk Tales 67
  • Reformation and Humanism 76
  • Petter Dass and the Baroque Age 85
  • Ludvig Holberg 91
  • Holberg's Successors 105
  • A Young State and an Old Kingdom 113
  • The Age of Wergeland 117
  • Discovery of a National Culture 141
  • Dreams and Reality 154
  • From National to World Literature 167
  • Ibsen's Early Plays 171
  • The Young Bjørnson 185
  • Realism Comes to Literature 196
  • Ibsen's Social and Psychological Plays 204
  • Bjørnson and the Problems of Realism 218
  • Novelists of Realism 228
  • The Neoromantic Reaction 251
  • Critics and Storytellers 265
  • Hamsun and Kinck 271
  • Regional Writing 284
  • The New Realism 290
  • Sigrid Undset 304
  • Olav Duun 310
  • New Trends Between the Wars 314
  • Additional Readings 339
  • On Pronouncing Norwegian Names 345
  • Index of Names 346
  • Index of Tides 356
  • COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATIONS THE AMERICAN-SCANDINAVIAN FOUNDATION 371
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