Jørgen Haugan

Why Henrik Ibsen is not understood in Norway

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My literary life - and my struggles - in the shared Danish-Norwegian culture

Why Henrik Ibsen was not understood in Norway is Jørgen Haugan's academic autobiography, in which he tells about the life he has lived, the books he has written and the battles he has fought, all within the framework of the cultural community between Denmark and Norway. As a born Norwegian, but living in Denmark, he himself is part of this common culture. But the book also contains perspectival interpretations of a number of the works that the book mentions.

Once upon a time - in 1966 - a Norwegian student came to the University of Copenhagen. Here he discovered that the Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen had deep roots in Danish intellectual life. In 1977, it became a doctoral thesis, which did not go down well in Norway, but rather the starting point for a fierce Norwegian-Danish cultural clash, a veritable thunderstorm that still continues.

The deeper background for the storm is the union that existed between Denmark and Norway from 1380-1814. In the Norwegian context, it is called the 400-year night. Haugan sees it as his task to convey knowledge about the literary union between Denmark and Norway, which has lasted until today, long after the political union disintegrated. The book thus focuses on the problem of Norwegian self-understanding.

But the book also deals with the Norwegian poet Knut Hamsun, also a product of the shared Danish-Norwegian culture, equally loved in both countries and with great influence, not least on Danish poets. Hamsun's Nazism still creates a problem in the Norwegian context, where artists should preferably be national role models. The work with Hamsun put Haugan on the trail of a Danish counterpart. While Hamsun ended up with Hitler, Martin Andersen Nexø ended up with Stalin. You will also be able to read about how this could happen here.

Jørgen Haugan's academic life begins and ends with works on Henrik Ibsen. But none of them have taken off in Norway as a result of pointing out Ibsen's roots in Danish romance and romanticism. The book also sheds light on Henrik Ibsen's love for the Danish-Norwegian poet Ludvig Holberg, whose fate it was to unfold his writing before the fateful year 1814. Holberg's importance to Ibsen has therefore been forgotten and repressed in the national intoxication after the dissolution of the union in 1814. The book's last third therefore constitutes an in-depth interpretation key to understanding Ibsen from Haugan's perspective.