Norwegian Sketches; 7
We invite you to join us for Norwegian sketches. A program of music and commentary produced from materials provided by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Heard on this program will be some like music and a commentary on the life of Knute Thompson. You know we joined symphonic band opens with the told hime Poca by talk to some arranged by Ralph Newton. Conducting is kept in the club or ripped off. Get. It.
The Norwegian symphonic band under the direction of Captain Jaco doll performing told hime polka. Now a commentary by a professor James MCC following on Thompson whose life and letters after the Second World War even the most optimistic the most tolerant of critics agreed that it was going to take a long time before him some found his rightful place in Bell literature. Now today it seems as though it's going to take even longer than people feared or suspected. In those immediate post-war days the complications were of course political. During the German occupation of Norway how some was by then an octogenarian had thrown his great influence onto the side of the Nazis had played the role of Hitler's apologist and to the end for himself thereby the contempt of a great number of his countrymen. People
throughout his collected works onto the rubbish dumps in the course of a talk given on the BBC by Thomas Mann in 1051. He referred to him some in an aside as a man broken by politics. It's now over 20 years since the end of the war and political passions in this sector have largely subsided and it's now that much easier to take a dispassionate view of how his son's brilliant literary invention and his immense technical skill his perceptive insight into human nature and his quite irresistible I don't he's. No the real difficulty today in the way of a proper appraisal of his contribution to the modern European novel is not political. It's not even ideological. It seems ironically to stem from the overwhelming success of one of his novels. The growth of the
soil at the expense of most of the rest of his work. All his novels have now been translated into English with the exception it is an exception that is of his last work called on overgrown paths where fact and fiction and fabrication are so inexplicably intermingled that it's difficult to know whether to call it a novel or not. But for every one reader who reads it to say the August trilogy or the women at the pump. Or mysteries there must be a hundred who have read growth of the soil. This was the work which it said one for Holmes and the award of the Nobel Prize in 120. It is a work which the unwary reader who takes things at their face value accepts as a simple tale simply told a chronicle of
man's attempt to live in harmony with the primitive nature a work in which the cat is Lee. Get away from it all in the service of The Good Earth. The overwhelming success of this book the one real commercial success in English translation which comes from if I had something which is in very strong contrast to the enormous sales of a wide range of his books in German translation This resulted in him some being so to speak typecast where he is known in the English speaking world. It's rather has a primitive as a romantic as one whose only solution to the problems and predicaments of the modern age is to turn one's back on them. This is a great pity and also greatly misleading. For it's this above all it seems to prevent any true appraisal of his quality as a
novelist being made in the English speaking world. Read instead for instance. His first short novel hunger which burst in 1890 with an explosive novelty upon the world of Scandinavian literature. Or read his rather longer novel mysteries of 1892 or the short political novel of 1894 called the translating of which into English if I may just at this point and said personal note I experienced as assisting and exquisite torment of delight. Read any of these alongside growth of the soil and whilst one is of course immediately aware of the many qualities they have in common. One is also amazed at the unexpected and unsuspected sophistications of style and technique which they reveal qualities which are hasty reading of growth of the soil in itself is
rather unlikely to call attention to. There's no doubt in my own mind that these early works of the 1890s represent a radically new departure and not merely within Scandinavian literature but also within European literature in general. They did for the European novel what Sternberg was doing for European drama at this time. And anyone who takes the trouble to compare Beggs dramatic policies as he outlined them in his quite influential preface to the drama. Ms generally with the policies which helps him set out about the same time. In an article which he entitled from the unconscious life of the mind he will be astonished at the degree of identification that emerges as between their two points of view. Sternberg for his part directs heaviest weapons against the
prevailing idea of character as something fixed in a mold something typed someone who always appears drunk or comic or pathetic. And to establish a home it's only necessary to trick out with some physical defect or some catch phrase and Sternberg then went on to say. My creations are agglomerations of past and present cultures scripts from books and newspapers fragments of humanity torn shreds of once fine clothing that has become rags in just the way that a human soul is patched together. Some fervently approved of what had written and his own article a year or two later was a further elaboration of the point. The bag was making from some rights of the strange and inexplicable moods and thoughts that
invade the mind things that are often too willing to be seized and held fast. They last a second a minute erode. They come and go like a moving winking light. But they have impressed their mark deposited some kind of sensation before they vanished. Indeed in this article of 1890 Yes also in the early novels themselves it is as though one were listening to an early rehearsal of many of the literary phrases and policies that were current in Europe some twenty five or thirty years later those that tale for instance of tracing the atoms as they fall upon the mind of the disconnected and incoherent patterns scored on the unconscious of the reveries between records of reality of the tangles of mental association. Let us give attention and then insisted. Not too bad in generalisations and tip if occasions but rather to these fleeting states of mind.
For this alone he felt at relevance to modern living. We would he then insisted we would get to know a little about the secret Stebbings that go unnoticed in the remote parts of the mind. The incalculable chaos of impressions the delicate life of the imagination seen under the magnifying glass. The random wonderings of those thoughts and feelings untrodden trackless journeyings by brain and hot strange workings of the nerves and whispered of the blood the entreaty of the bomb all the unconscious life of the mind. The working out of this policy in the three novels I've mentioned which are mysteries and power. And I think one might also associate with them. Another short novel of this decade Victoria written in 1898. These represented genuine innovation in the European novel. In some ways there was admittedly something reminiscent of Dostoyevsky.
And in other ways something of nature. Shortly after Hum Salut won his Nobel Prizes Thomas Mann went on record as saying that he felt that neither nature nor dust Esky had left behind in their own countries. The disciple of this stature. And under a sheet who at the time it had appeared had been completely taken by storm. I am son's first novel hunger referred to it in later life as a work of powerful originality profoundly personal and individual in style. And suggested not only that not only was a dusty esque in its execution. But that that it had perhaps an even greater subtlety than the work of the Russian master himself. And yet as one follows the course of hansoms authorship past the turn of the century. Through the European calamities of the First World War. And into the fateful 1930s one becomes aware of a rather
unexpected train. The earliest novels had their origin in an impatient revolt against what home some regarded as outworn conventions in the novel. Yet the novels of the last period of his own authorship articulate an impatient disregard for the very tradition that he himself in his early days had helped to inaugurate the scrutiny of the novels of his middle and later life. And in this connection one thinking now primarily of works written in the second and third decades of this century. Where like look back on happiness of 111. Children of the 1913. Single Fosse town of 1915 and chapter the last of 1923 as well of course as the growth of the soil and the august trilogy. The scrutiny of these works in particular
shows a steady withdrawal from the extreme position he contested in his early work. There's no longer the same passionate and a little interest in a motive as a much greater preoccupation with external incident. And his narrative style which was once so very highly idiosyncratic. Begins to approximate more and more to the Orthodox and traditional narrative mode although at this point one hastens to add that it manages nevertheless to sustain its own highly personal quality. Accompanying this trend. And perhaps even underwriting it to some extent. Is the matter where the author himself stands within the fictional world he has created. In the early novels in which I examined the inner lives of a series of ultra sensitive young men. There's a
very large measure of self identification between the author and his heroes. Through them the author is committed to the game of life and is content for the purposes of his fiction to share their passion all of their fictional vision. In the novels of his middle age there is admittedly no lack of occasion when the author invites one to identify him with his own invented creations. But the role that he and they now play is predominantly that of passive observer rather than active participant. The negative perspective of these later works is middle aged even elderly. And the mood is one of detachment. Then finally completing this trend and in the novels after the First World War the withdrawal of the author from his own fictional biog is
complete. He's now there only as a kind of unseen presence as a climate of opinion. Now he has extricated himself from the dull embers of his characters. Now he observes them with some detachment unobserved sometimes sympathetically. And sometimes I don't agree. At the same time his own personal convictions which of course and inevitably inform his novels. Have hardened. Whereas the early works so to speak novels about opinionated people. In the later wex It's the opinions of the author which are the obtrusive things. However ironically and ambiguously they seem to be communicated. In step with the changing many of his books more over. There also went to
change in the man of his life. Life for him in the early days was an essentially rootless thing. After a childhood spent very largely in a remote part of northern Norway. After a succession of different jobs different occupations. After a couple of spells in America. Then returned in 1888 to Copenhagen. Intent on a career. As an author. There was it seems at this point. No desire to settle down. Life was hectic. And accepted to such and as such with its own range of satisfactions. At other times of course it seemed to present a struggle for sheer physical survival. But with the withdrawal of the author from his books in middle life. There also went the withdrawal of the man himself from this social
competitiveness. He once more retreated to northern Norway devoted himself to his estate. And very consciously indeed self-consciously stood apart from things. When he now intervened as he often did in the debates of the day. It was not to argue or to debate. It was to pronounce. He smiled and smiled pityingly at the foibles of those who were simply misled by the blandishments of modern living. No account of how his son's career would however be complete without some reference to his last work on overgrown paths. This purports to be in its outer framework at least autobiographical. When in 1045. Life and the Norwegian authorities reached out and drew him some down
from his Olympian detachment arraigned him before a tribunal of the people. Countered this by turning life itself into a fiction. He invented a character which first he played in real life terms in the hospitals and wards and hospitals of his confinement. And as a result of this at the end of a protected investigation he was messy fully and officially declared to be suffering from permanently enfeebled mental powers. To this extent. Fiction had triumphed over effect. Then as a triumphant and scornful demonstration of the success of his stratagem. He committed this fiction to paper. Painfully in thick black pencil blown him with shaking hands he wrote at the age of 89. This last week. On overgrown
paths it has been said is perhaps no novel. But it is magnificent fiction. What will it all matter. 100 years from now how some is reported to have said at the time. The question is of course ingenuous. Doubtless many of the things of this age will not matter in mid 21st century. But he will. And he knew it. Professor James McFarlane talking about Homs and the commentary produced by Radio Norway. To conclude this edition of Norwegian sketches the Norwegian broadcasting orchestra performs three waltzes by writer Thomas I'm conducting is even better.
- Norwegian Sketches
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- University of Michigan
- Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Norwegian Sketches is a National Educational Radio Network program prepared by the University of Michigan . Each episode features a unique selection of music and commentary from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Musical selections are performed by the Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra, and commentaries include documentaries, lectures, and readings from Radio Norway.
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Host: Hindley, Fred
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
Producing Organization: Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
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Identifier: 69-27-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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