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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, his works and political contribution, and the social conditions in Norway in the 19th century

Av Edvard Hoem, Norwegian author and Bjørnson biographer.

23.01.2013 19:41

Edvard Hoem is a Norwegian author and Bjørnson biographer. When he visited Shanghai in December 2009, he saw a Chinese production of The Newlyweds and gave a talk about Bjørnson’s life and letters.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the Norwegian playwright and writer, was born 8 December 1832 and published his first literary achievements in 1857, the peasant novel Synnøve Solbakken and the one-act play Between the Battles, when he was 25 years old. Bjørnson was the eldest son of a pastor, Peder Bjørnson, and he grew up in the countryside, in the county of Romsdal on Norway’s western coast. Eleven years old, he moved to the tiny little town of Molde, 300 km south of Trondheim, to be educated in the so-called middle school, which would enable him to take his examen artium at the University of Oslo.

In 1848, while still in Molde, the 15-year-old Bjørnson was strongly impressed and influenced by the historical events that took place in Europe at the time. The French February Revolution inspired revolutionary revolts against absolutistic governments in the German states, Austria, Italy, and Spain. Although the revolts were soon quashed by the military and the police, who were in effect instruments of the ruling classes, the ideals of the revolution impacted political events for decades to come, in Norway as well, where the so-called Thrane movement organized thousands of workers.

When Bjørnson came to Oslo, or Christiania, as it was called at the time, the Norwegian capital was a rather provincial city of approx. 50,000 inhabitants. He was much more interested in politics than university exams, and first and foremost he had become passionate about theatre. At the time, Christiania had only one theatre, the Christiania Theatre, and the language of the theatre was pure Danish. Even though the audience could easily understand it, as Danish had been the only written language in Norway for three hundred years, it was rather far from the spoken language of Norway. As a journalist and critic, Bjørnson continuously argued that the dramatic language of Norway should be Norwegian, and that young Norwegian actors should no longer be forced to speak a foreign language in their own homeland. He wrote hundreds of articles in Christiania newspapers, where he encouraged young Norwegian actors and criticized the Danish theatre manager, who would not give Norwegian actors attractive roles, but mainly let them play minor characters and forced them to speak with a Danish accent.

The young Bjørnson also had a fierce interest in politics. After a couple of years in Christiania, he openly admitted to his father that he did not intend to go on with his university studies, and from January 1854 he was on his own, without any financial support from his family. To make a living, he wrote frequently in the papers, and necessity forced him to write hundreds of articles where he criticized the Danish Theatre and the lack of a national dramatic tradition. This was the era of literary Romanticism, in Scandinavia as well as in other parts of Europe, and Bjørnson criticized the established generation of writers, as well as the Danish plays put up in Christiania. In 1856, he mobilized students and workers in Christiania to catcall in Christiania Theatre in protest of the recently arrived Danish actors. It almost came to blows, and they were thrown out, but from then on Bjørnson was a well-known figure in the Norwegian capital. Two years later, he took a position as artistic director at the theatre in Bergen. Here, he entered the Norwegian political scene, an arena where he would make remarkable efforts in the next fifty years.
But let us recapitulate the political situation of Norway as a backdrop for Bjørnson’s literary and theatrical activities. Since the sixteenth century, Norway had been a part of the Danish monarchy. In 1814, following the end of the Napoleon wars, Norway was bestowed upon the King of Sweden as a gift in gratitude for his support to the anti-Napoleon alliance of European powers. Norway tried to resist this humiliating procedure, and representatives from the whole country met at Eidsvoll in April of 1814 to declare Norwegian independence and establish a political constitution inspired by the French Constitution and the American Declaration of Independence. Although Norway was ultimately forced to join a royal union with Sweden, Norway retained the right to establish its own parliament. The Parliament met in Christiania every three years, and initially the representatives were primarily royal officials, members of Swedish bureaucracy, lawyers and pastors, although they formed a marginal minority of the population. However, Norway’s peasant class was allowed to take part in the elections, and little by little they gained a stronger foothold in the Norwegian Parliament. But Bjørnson and his radical contemporaries realized that no real political progress could be made without a radical party consolidated on a political minimum program, which could fight for political reform demands, primarily that the right to vote should be given to a greater share of the population, that jurisdiction should be based on a jury system, and that the members of government appointed by the Swedish king should meet in parliament to debate the political issues at stake.

Before the parliamentary elections of Norway in 1859, Bjørnson mobilized hundreds of workers to support young and radial candidates for parliament in an effort to replace the more seasoned representatives who had grown accustomed to keeping their seats without any resistance - and he succeeded. This made his name known nationwide, and he went to Christiania in the fall the same year to become editor of the radical newspaper Aftenbladet. He would also become spokesman for the radical officials who, in association with the peasant representatives of the Nowegian Parliament, tried to establish a political party. They failed, and Bjørnson himself succeeded only in obtaining numerous political enemies and was at last forced to resign from his position as editor. The Norwegian Parliament granted him a scholarship so he was able to leave the country and study art and literature in Europe for three years. His prophesies on returning to Norway – that nothing would have happened in his absence – turned out to be rather accurate. Some things had changed, though. The last Danish director at Christiania Theatre resigned in 1863, and with him the last Danish actors also left Christiania Theatre, where a certain individual named Henrik Ibsen had been hired temporarily as artistic adviser of the theatre board. Ibsen held an advisory function to the merchants and industrial engineers who formed the management of the theatre, and he was not supposed to say anything to the actors, who were the ones who really needed artistic advice. It has been said that Henrik Ibsen was a bit of a heavy drinker in this period, and that he did not take care of himself.
When Bjørnson came back to Norway, he immediately went about helping Ibsen, as he felt that he himself had been favored with a state scholarship to go abroad, while Ibsen was left to starve in the provincial capital of Christiania. He visited the rich merchants and begged for money that would enable Ibsen to go abroad and get new impulses and new inspiration for his work from the classical arts and monuments in Europe. At last Ibsen was given a state scholarship, and in January 1864, after having staged his own new historical play: The King pretenders, he left Christiania in April 1864, first to stay in Copenhagen, then Rome, and other parts of Italy and Germany, where he stayed for almost 30 years.
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson missed Ibsen as a friend and wrote him a series of letters, wherein he begged him to come back to Norway so they could join forces and establish a Norwegian theatre on a real professional level. But Bjørnson eventually was forced to realize that he had to fight alone. He wrote polemic articles in the papers, in which he argued that the artistic manager should have full artistic, as well as financial, authority, not shared by the merchants on the board. He argued that only an artistic manager was able to stand up to all kinds of compromises and to fullfill all artistic intentions, with no side glance to the financial outcome and the possible popularity of the play among the audience. Bjørnson furthermore argued that the artistic manager should be given full confidence while in office, and that he alone should be responsible for the artistic outcome of the efforts at the theatre.

The actors at Christiania Theatre loved Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Fifteen years after the first polemics, where he encouraged the Norwegian actors to take their legitimate place in the main roles, this circle of still rather young actors became the nucleus of his ensemble at Christiania Theatre. He encouraged them through rehearsals and turned up when opening night was over, when the directors usually disappeared and left the actors to fend for themselves. The rehearsal period did not last more than five or six days, but in Bjørnson’s days, the theatre in Christiania had for the first time reached a real professional level. His own first plays were properly staged for the first time: Between the Battles was not put up during this period, but Limping Hulde premiered in November 1865, The Newlyweds premiered in the spring of 1866 and Mary Stuart of Scotland premiered in the autumn of 1866. At the same time The Newlyweds and Mary Stuart were staged in Copenhagen, the real centre of cultural life in Scandinavia in this period. The famous primadonna of Copenhagen, Johanne Luise Heiberg, who had been opposed to Bjørnson’s ideas about a spcecific national and historical drama during his first visit in the city in 1867, now recognized his work and supported his efforts to introduce it to the Danish audience.
Let us have a look at The Newlyweds!The play is a typical look into the daily life of a modern bourgeoisie family in regional Norway at Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s time. As you well know, the young and recently married Laura is in all respects more loyal to her parents than her husband, and she only reluctantly agrees to join him as he insists on moving to an other district to make his own fortune there. The house friend Mathilde also joins the young couple and lives with them for a year, but Laura still misses her parents, and her distant relation to her own husband becomes a threat to marital bliss. And then the husband and Mathilde plans a play within the play, through which Laura eventually realizes that she will have to make a new beginning in her marriage. The family situation of The Newlyweds is typical to the life of the bourgeois class in Scandinavia at that time. The females of the family are neither expected nor allowed to take employment, nor were they expected to have any education. They lived at home until a suitor turned up, and some of them could work temporarily as governesses/nannies or lady’s companions with relatives or friends of the family. The intimate relations between women and men were typical for the Victorian era. Young men of the bourgeois class very often had their first sexual experiences with women from the working class, maids and female servers and factory workers, while the women of the bourgeoisie were expected to stay chaste and innocent. Bjørnson criticized this hipocrisy and double standard early on in his career. In the late period of the 1860s, he became more and more radical – provoked by the provincial ideology of the ruling classes in Christiania.
In the spring of 1867, Bjørnson’s time at Christiania Theatre was over. Although he had succeded in raising the artistic level significantly, and the audience had been increasing in his years as a manager, there were two great conflicts concerning his financial dispositions. He did not have time to focus exclusively on theatrical work; from 1866 he was also the editor of a weekly paper in Norway that was intended as the voice for and source of new knowledge for people of all classes. The paper brought articles of all kinds and on a wide range of topics, covering practical life, science, and agricultural machinery, as well as astronomy, biology, and chemistry. The paper sought to present the best artists and the masterpieces of art from all countries. And no politics! Bjørnson said. Well, after a few weeks, politics became one of the main issues of the paper, and Bjørnson was fighing against the new Norwegian goverment established by the Swedish king, as he realized that this government would never be able to realize the political aims that he and the left-wing members of parliament fought for. He openly declared that either the Swedish monarchy and the nobility had to accept political reforms, or the union had to be split. This was an extremely provocative stance, and from now on he became very unpopular among the majority of the Christiania bourgeoisie, who wanted to maintain on friendly terms with the King and the Swedes in general. Bjørnson's wife Caroline fell ill from the stresses of the from the media campaign against her husband and the children were harrassed at school. The family lived in Copenhagen for a year, and then returned to Christiania, where the attacks on Bjørnson grew stronger than ever. He now tried to write the first national opera of Norway with the composer Edvard Grieg, but his efforts were interrupted by the political conflicts into which his energy brought him again and again. His political agenda gradually became more and more radical, and he not only became a spokesman for voting rights being extended to commoners, he argued for a general vote that in due time also would include women. And even more, he claimed that the ruling classes in Scandinavia should make what he called a sacrifice bring to equality to the people, that is: they should give of their abundance to secure and improve the living conditions of the people. At the age in which he lived, this was not only a radical, but a revolutionary agenda, and it is entertaining to see how his opponents argued aganist him: General vote! That would be totally irresponsible! Women, who neither had education nor paid taxes, should they have influence on the finances of the state! That was as dangerous as to give your money away to small children, or as we say in Norway: drunken sailors. And moreover: The professors of theology and philosophy at the University of Oslo warned against these thoughts, as the Bible stated that the social conditions of every society was created by God and that a social uproar also was an uproar against his will.
From his early days as a student, Bjørnson had been a strong spokesman for the Scandinavist movement, which sought to join Norway, Sweden and Denmark in a union of states, which in the end also should have a common parliament. In 1864, when Prussia conquered the southern part of Denmark in a brief war, Bjørnson strongly sympatized with the Danish side, and wanted troops of Norwegian soldiers to join the Danish army. But when the reality of war took over, the Scandinavist dreams withered, and Bjørnson came into conflict with his Scandinavist friends, who after all never had any interest in his socially radical agenda. When the war between Prussia/Austria and France broke out 1871, Bjørnson made an adventurous plan to create an army of peasant soldiers in Norway, which would fight shoulder by shoulder with the Danes to liberate the southern parts of Denmark from German rule and return them to the motherland. And when war was over, Bjørnson fabled that the peasant army would turn against Copenhagen and topple the monarchy and state bureaucracy in Norway, Sweden and Denmark at the same time. Well, these visions were never to realize. Germany, or Prussia, won the war after a few months, and the German troops stood in the vicinity of Paris. The Third Republic was crushed. But the inhabitants of Paris refused to turn in their weapons and capitulate, and for a few spring weeks they formed the Paris Commune, the world’s first socialist experiment, which was drenched in blood in May of 1872, when the communalists in their hundreds were put up against the wall and shot. Bjørnson later bought a copy of the model for the memorial of the Paris communalists and gave it a central place in his home.
The year 1872 was an annus horribilies for the Bjørnson family. The new year’s bells had hardly stopped ringing, before a Finnish journalist came to Bjørnson’s home in Christiania to interview him about his literary works, but instead of doing so, he painted a portrait of malicious of the famous poet as a boasting and loud-mouthed personality without any self-esteem, a man who walked to and fro while talking about all he had done for Norway, what he was going to do right now, and what he should accomplish in the future. This portrait was not only printed in Finland, but also in Norwegian papers and his political enemies tried to harm him wherever he turned up. In February of 1872, his two–year-old daughter Dagny died, and Bjørnson and his wife made an anouncement in the Norwegian papers, where they stated that their beuatiful little daughter Dagny died yesterday. Following this, they received anonymus letters where ill-natured people asked if little Dagny was a ballet dancer, since it was so important for her parents to emphasize her beauty. They never forgot the cruelty, and Bjørnson understood that he had to take his family away from Christiania and he really longed desperately to find a place where they could live in peace. In September that same year, the legendary pastor and poet Grundtvig from Denmark died, and Bjørnson went to the funeral, maybe hoping that he should now obtain the position of Grundtvig as the inspiring spritual leader of the peasant movement in the Nordic countries. But if this was his secret goal, he failed. Giving a speech at a dinner the day after the funeral he shocked all the guests by calling for new political tactics in the relation to Germany. The outcome of the French-German war had showed the world that the Danes never could expect to win back their lost landscapes Schlesvig and Holstein in armed battle, and that it therefore was urgent to seek reconciliation with the German people, who, after all, were the closest relatives of the Scandinavians, with the same religion to a great extent, and that we should change the signals and let hatred and humiliation be forgotten.

Bjørnson’s speech sent waves of shock through the audience. Many of the guests present started to cry, some were shouting to the Norwegian poet, who was like a wild animal, not willing to listen to anyone, the hostess later said. A new press campaign was launched against Bjørnson, where he was accused of being a traitor, standing in alliance with general Otto von Bismarck of Germany, trampling on Denmark’s heart. Henrik Ibsen even wrote poems filled with malice towards his former friend and benefactor, calling him a weathervane on a roof, changing his signals according to the blowing wind. In Norway, as well as in Denmark, numerous contributors in the paper columns harassed Bjørnson, who defended himself and his position against the whole world and against Caroline who strongly disagreed with him.

He then decided to go to Italy for the second time – leaving Norway through Sweden and Gemany. He went to Florence, where a new stage of his literary career began. From historical drama and peasant tales Bjørnson turned to realism, and in fact, introduced the realistic drama to Scandinavia. Over the next two years, he wrote The Editor and A Bankrupt He was still hoping to finish the national opera he was working on with Edvard Grieg, but the truth was that he was on the verge of losing interest in Norwegian national history and desperately longed to face the problems of modern society. He had now been an active participant in the political struggle of Norway for more than twenty years, and he wanted to write plays that could serve as direct commentaries on the political events of his time. In The Editor he dealt with the lack of morals in the modern press of Western Europe, portraiting the editor of the Morning Post of Christiania, who now for many years had been his hardest adversary. In The Bankruptcy he demonstrated how a big sales company is brought to collapse because of the manager’s inability to face reality and to understand the competing forces of modern industrial society, where workers, too, demand political influence. This was a natural consequence of the historical development of all the Scandinavian countries, which in a few decades shifted from being primarily agricultural to being industrial states with a fast-increasing working class. Mines were opened, factories were built, shipyards produced ships that before the end of the nineteenth century would have put the Norwegian trade fleet in a leading role on the world’s oceans. It was Bjørnson’s desperate wish to comment on this world and to challenge the heroes of the time to show responsibility and gain a philanthropic perspective on their financial and industrial enterprises. But in doing so, Bjørnson, in my opinion, abandoned the radical, if not revolutionary agenda, of the first thirty years of his career and began to predict a sort of collaboration and reconciliation between the classes.
Bjørnson’s two first realist plays were a success in Germany, as well as in Italy and France – opening the door for a new tradition of realistic drama in Scandinavia; a tradition later perfected by Henrik Ibsen and his Swedish colleague August Strindberg. In this period, Scandinavian drama played a leading role on the European scene, addressing the problems of the day, discussing the personal and familiar relationships of the bourgeousie, the rights of the individual and the conflicts between the individual and the society, the uneven postition of women and men, and above all the conflict between the Christian Church and the modern sciences and the theory of evolution. On the European continent, Bjørnson could see how science inevitably came into conflict with religious authorities, which ferociously attacked women’s, as well as the working class’, liberation attempts, until the liberation movements, socialist movements, science and church eventually went their separate ways and became enemies.
Bjørnson later returned home from Italy and settled on a farm in the inland of Norway close to Lillehammer, where the Olympic games were arranged in 1994.

Bjørnson – who for a long time hoped that it would be possible to unite a unique form of Nordic Christianity, Grundtvigianism, with the modern ideas of science and art, experienced a severe religious crisis and eventually lost his belief in the fundamental Christian dogmas; that Jesus is the son of the Almighty God and that those who believe in him may be saved for an eternal life in heaven. He was now living on his farm in Norway, but all the time publishing articles in the Scandinavian press. In the novel Magnhild he attacked the lie which was the fundament of arranged marriages, in Beyond Human Power – I(1881) he attacked the belief in supernatural miracles, and in A Gauntlet he repeatedly attacked the double standards of male and female sexual morals. In the winter of 1880-81 he went to the US to give lectures for Norwegian settlers, where he attacked the church leaders, the divinity of Christ, and all the other Christian dogmas. In 1884, all this turned into a great battle on the topic of sexuality and morality. Bjørnson had in these fights been greatly inspired by the Danish professor of literature Georg Brandes. But as often was the case for Bjørnson, he yearned friendship and reconciliation, but his energy and temperament drove him toward conflict and discord with his closest comrades in arms. In 1884, he had a friendly meeting with Henrik Ibsen for the first time in twenty years, but on the other hand, he slashed with Brandes and August Strindberg, as the latter was accused of blasphemy for his novel To be married.

Throughout all these stormy years, the 1870s and 1880s, he also played a leading part in Norwegian politics. The Norwegian flag had a small Swedish flag in the upper left quadrant to represent the royal union between the two states, and the Norwegians found it humi-liating. A movement working to eliminate this symbol of the union was underway. In the beginning, this movement did not work to end the union, but sought equality for Norwegians and Swedes within the union. In 1882, Bjørnson’s popularity as a speaker before the elections reached new heights. He may not have been the most eloquent thinker, but he was a master of giving a pregnant and striking form to the important slogans of his time. His adversaries frequently mobilized blowers to drown out his voice, but he traveled all around the country to agitate for the Parliament candidates who would vote for a clean Norwegian flag and the other important issues of the left wing movement. In a vast gathering at the national holy site of Stiklestad in 1882, Bjørnson formulated the sloganHonour in independence” In order to be able to continue his writing, he went to Paris for two years. By the time he came back, the conservative ministry had collapsed and parliamentarism was a reality in Norway. Bjørnson was hailed as the people’s hero in his return to Christiania.

In the following years, Bjørnson’s position in Norwegian society was formidable. He was accused of having insulted the Swedish king, accused of being a traitor to his motherland as he proposed that the Russians should get access to an ice-free Norwegian harbour for their exports, and he was attacked in the papers daily and greeted with enthusiasm by his supporters at political debates. He met Henrik Ibsen in Paris, as the latter was met with condemnation because of his drama Hedda Gabler.

But the most prominent topic of the last decade of the nineteenth century was the union with Sweden. Since 1872, Bjørnson had become more and more sceptical of the union, because he realized that the Bernadotte Dynasty and the Swedish nobility could never accept the radical political demands for which he fought.

But while the long-standing friction between the union partners turned into conflict in the 1890s, Bjørnson advocated negotiations and advised that a national government consisting of conservatives as well as radicals should be established in Norway. But the political situation was heated and Bjørnson was accused of being too conciliatory towards the Swedes when he in 1903 for the last time supported the Liberal Party in the election campaign. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature from the Swedish Academy in 1903, and was met with aggression from his former companions. The Norwegian press wrote that it was unbelievable that Norwegian hearts should turn so cold now, observing the royal flattery of the former republican as he received the Nobel Prize. Bjørnson was deeply hurt by the commentaries and advised his fellow countrymen to look forward. In 1905, the conflict between Norway and Sweden came to a head. Even the Christiania bourgoisie were now in uproar against the union. Although Norway was the absolute leading power on the world’s oceans, a Norwegian could never become the head of a Norwegian-Swedish consulate, and such consulates were established in harbour cities all over the world. This was the situation here in Shanghai, for example, where the Norwegian businessman Axel Heiberg was the second in command for many years. He could never become the leader, although he proved that his skills in the duty were far above those of his competitors and rivals. This inequality between the brother countries became more and more intolerable. The Norwegian Parliament adopted laws that the Swedish king refused to sanction. The new Norwegian government claimed the constitutional right for Norway to establish its own consulates. Bjørnson was at this time rather isolated from Norwegian politics. He was in Paris and did not really understand the situation in Norway. He had become an old man. But on his way to his estate near Lillehammer, he was invited to dinner by the Norwegian prime minister, Christian Michelsen, in Christiania. He carefully avoided giving Bjørnson any information of the situation in the Norwegian Parliament, where on 7 June 1905 a resolution was made, that in fact concluded the long process that Bjørnson had advocated for fifty years: Norway left the union and became an independent country.
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was a famous man in all major European countries and he was even quite well-known in Asia and America. During the last twenty years of his life he wrote hundreds of articles in major European papers. He attacked the French justice in the Dreyfus Affair, he supported the Italian woman Linda Murri in Italy, who was wrongly accused of having killed her husband, he fought for the rights of children i Slovakia to learn their own mother tongue. And for many years, he took part in the struggle for peace treaties between the main European powers. Time does not permit me to go into detail about all of his vast efforts to realize the political ideals he had held since his youth. But Bjørnson was created by Norway and himself created Norway, as said his Danish colleague Herman Bang when Bjørnson died in 1910 in Paris.

His reasoning in all matters was emotional, and he managed to envoke emotion in all his listeners. He used astonishing metaphors and agitated in a personal way like no personality in Scandinavia before him or after him. In the years following his death, his estate, Aulestad, in central Norway, where Bjørnson resided, became almost a sacred national site for Nowegians. To Norwegians, he was their greatest patriot, not their greatest writer, but in his time as well, his literary works were hailed by thousands of people who found their own fundamental and existential questions embodied in his works. The Newly Married isthe introductory part of Bjørnson’s description of the dilemmas of family life in a modern society. His last works also dealt with the problems of family life, young people and their parents, his sceptisism towards religious fundamentalism and the right of the oppressed to become free.

Bjørnson died in Hotel Walgram in Paris on 26 April 1910. He was embalmed and laid in a black coffin, which was transported to the railway station. Hundreds of Scandinavians had come to the station in Paris. A bridge draped in black led to the royal railway carriage of the Norwegian King. Above the entrance door, the letter B in silver was placed. The Norwegian ambassador in Paris held a speech which he almost could not complete because of the emotional situation. A Scandinavian choir sang the national anthem of Norway, written by Bjørnson, and the train left the station. Arriving in Copenhagen, Bjørnson’s coffin was placed on an open carriage and brought across the square in front of City Hall, where thousands greeted the dead Norwegian writer. They solemnly sang the national anthem and the bells of the City Hall broke the silence. Prime Minister Zahle of Denmark thanked Bjørnson, the spring messenger who came to Denmark in his youth. The coffin was taken onboard the armoured military vessel Norway. In Christiania, the arrival of the ship was greeted by 21 gunshots from Akershus fortress.

The funeral was held in Christiania’s greatest cathedral on 5 May 1910. No hymns were sung. But a pastor blamed the church for having separated Bjørnson from his fellow nationals with their fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. The doors of the church were then opened, and the coffin was carried out under the open skies, where it was met by thousands and thou-sands of people in grave silence. An endless procession of tens of thousands of people started towards Our Saviour’s graveyard, students sang softly, and hundreds of banners were lowered towards the enormous coffin, which was covered by the flag that Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson had cleaned for all humiliating signs and made the symbol of pride of the people.

But something was lacking, as Bjørnson-biographer Aldo Keel reminds us: here were no female voices, there were no workers speaking, there were no peasant representatives speaking, but close to the grave the children stood in line with small flags and eyes full of tears. And eventually – there they were, the people of Norway, with all their banners, and at last even the banners of the women, and they stood there, singing silently the anthem of Norway while the coffin was lowered.


Bjørnson i media