Norway is a relatively young country, but Norwegian literature is over a thousand years old. At the turn of the first and second millennia, long before the advent of the best contemporary Norwegian writers, Ibsen and Hamsun, the Vikings created sagas about their lives and experiences.
Medieval Old Norwegian literature is divided into two groups: scald poetry and eddic poetry. The Skalds were Norwegian court poets in the 9th and 10th centuries. They created songs based on a loose rhyme pattern, using the technique of metaphorical description, called kenning, as well as complex alliterative structures. Their works, titled The Song of Harald and The Gold Shortage, they described and glorified the kings of Norway and their courts.
The name "Eddic Poetry” comes from Eddy, the most important collection of medieval Icelandic literature, which is culturally Norwegian. Edda, in which Christian elements are intertwined with pagan ones, is the most comprehensive source of information on Norse mythology. It was not written down until the 13th century. by Snorre Sturluson, long after the Christianization of Norway and Iceland. Edda is made up of origins, history and the end of the world, contains a set of rules for writing poetry, a series of separate aphorisms attributed to the god Odin, and an anthology of fairy tales similar to the Germanic Song of the Nibelungen.
Apart from Edda herself, there are three other types of eddic poetry: saga legendary, heroic sagas and didactic poetry. These include Hymiskvida (Hymir's song), telling about the legendary battle of the god Torah (Torah) with the serpent Midgard, The Volsung Saga, whose heroes perform acts similar to the Nibelungen, and Rutanal (Pieśń or runach), telling about Odin's sacrifice in the tree of the world yggrasil.
Around the mid-thirteenth century, when half of the inhabitants of Norway died during the great plague, the Old Norwegian literary tradition began to fade away. For several centuries after the union with Denmark, contained in 1380 r., the Norwegian language is no longer used officially, thus, literary and cultural traditions were abandoned. Indigenous Norwegian literature did not revive until the end of the 17th century. in the works of writers Petter Dass (1647-1707) i Dorothe Engelbretsdatter (1634-1716). That, son of a Danish-Norwegian couple (he also had Scottish ancestors) he immortalized northern Norway in the work of Nordlands Trompet (The trumpet of the North Country) his rhythmic poems spread throughout the country in the form of folk songs. The artistically refined baroque poetry of Engelbretsdatter was very popular during the poet's lifetime, but perhaps because of its passionate Christian content, it is largely ignored by modern anthologies and literary historians
A representative of Norwegian romanticism, Henrik Wergeland (1808-1845) during his short life, he wrote enormous amounts of ecstatic love poems, mystical religious works, short stories and divide documentaries. Wergeland was an advocate of his country's cultural independence from Denmark, and he fought for social justice for the lower classes, especially the peasants and the poor.
At the end of the 19th century. Norwegian literature entered the canon of world literature thanks to the works of the "big four."”: Henryk Ibsen (1828-1906), Bjornstjernego Bjornsona (1832-1910), Alexandra Kiellanda (1849-1916) i Jonasa Lie (1833-1908). Ibsen, an excellent Norwegian playwright, spent 30 years, traveling and living in Europe. The breakthrough in his work took place at the beginning of his writing and directing career at the theater in Bergen. Ibsen then wrote two dramas inspired by German and Italian drama: Doll house (1880) i Upiory (1881). Both plays caused a stir in Europe by the way it treated the role of women and by presenting the dramas of family life. In subsequent plays, m.in. The Wild Duck and Hedda Gabler (both of 1890 r.) the author's interest shifted from social issues to psychology. Ibsen created suspenseful dramas with interesting content, and abandoning a poem in favor of prose, started a new dramatic tradition.
The less known Bjornson has gained immense popularity in the 1857 r. thanks to the story Trust and Trial. Following the example of Ibsen's work in Bergen, Bjornson began writing short stories, dramas and took up journalism. He also wrote numerous letters – about 30 thousand! Initially, he focused on the description of rural life in contemporary Norway, thus, he was wrongly accused of adding a romantic ambience to the rural people. Later he dealt with social issues, desiring to promote industrialization in Norway. W 1903 he was the first Norwegian writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Kielland, realistic writer and satirist, author of a novel, stories and plays, he was the hero of one of Norway's greatest literary controversies. W 1885 r. Parliament rejected the writer's candidacy, applying for a government scholarship, on charges of immoral conduct. In the Dar trilogy, consisting of parts Garman and Worse (1880), Kapitan Worse (1882) and Dar (1883), Kjelland described a patrician family, which is gradually transforming into modern capitalist entrepreneurs.
Writers of the next generation, Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) i Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) received the Nobel Prizes - respectively 1928 r. i 1920 r. Undset, often referred to as the greatest female writer in Norwegian literature, began her career with a series of books about the fate of women from the poor and middle class. In years 1920-1922 published the Krystyna trilogy, Lavran's daughter, historical novel, the action of which takes place in the fourteenth-century Scandinavia. Although the novel was more optimistic than the writer's earlier works, Undset constantly criticized the fact, that women must bend their will and sexuality to social and religious standards. After Krystyna, to Lavrans' daughter, the writer created the series Master of Hestviken, also tells about medieval times.
Hamsun's works can be divided into three periods. Most of the early work, which include the famous Famine (1890) and Mysteries (1892), it's novels, in which romantic heroes appeared, as well as tragic love stories and psychological studies. Hamsun later wrote several social novels, praising rural life and criticizing industrial development and urbanization. It was during this period that the Blessing of the Earth was born (1917), for which Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize. The hero of his last work, Trilogy of the Vagabond (1927-1934) he is less romantic, but more human. Fact, that Hamsun stood up for fascism during World War II, doesn't seem so strange, given his views on the elite phenomenon, admiration for Germanic values and support for rural life. Unfortunately, controversial political views have negatively influenced the contemporary evaluation of Hamsun's literary works, which live up to the traditions of Dostoevsky
i Joyce’a i stanowią znaczący wkład do literatury współczesnej.
Contemporary Norwegian literature is characterized by a variety of forms and genres, but few books have been translated into other languages. The works of Dag Solstad are characterized by ironic social realism, on documentary topics, and a critique of capitalism. Kept in a similar tone, but the book by Kjartan Flogstad The Dollar Road, marked by the Latin American magic realism of Vargas Lloissa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Knud Faldbakke's novel The City at Dusk and its continuation, Sweet Water, are maintained in a more traditional trend.. The action of the novel takes place in an unnamed country in the near future, in which there has been a collapse of society, and the heroes struggle to cope in the face of apocalyptic chaos. Sleeping Prince Faldbakken is modeled on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, told from the perspective of a woman, and deals with male-female relationships and sexuality.
Herrbjorg Wassmo, one of the most respected contemporary writers, w 1987 r. received the Nordic Literary Award. In her books, she describes the situation of women in Norwegian society. Dina's book tells the story of the title character, living in the 1840s., while the plot of the novel Dom z żaluziami takes place during and after World War II.
The most famous contemporary Norwegian author is Jostein Gaarder. This writer's first bestseller, a typical book for him Zofia's World, it touches upon many serious philosophical and religious questions as seen through the eyes of a young man. The author used a box-like narrative technique: a story woven into a story. In Zofia's World, a young heroine who studies the history of Western philosophy on a correspondence course, which she never started, learns, that she is just a character from the novel. A deck of cards is an analogous literary instrument in The Mystery of Solitude, and in the Mystery of Christmas it is calendar adventurous. In both cases, the child who is the protagonist of the character must solve a riddle or puzzle, which will affect its destiny. Hello, Is anyone here! deals with the problem of the appearance of younger siblings, using the alien character. Gaarder's last book, Same flower, it seems a bit different. It is a fictitious translation of a letter from Floria Żmilia to her lover, Saint Augustine. In such a feminist disguise, which makes, that Augustine's asceticism and ideals take on extraordinary, perverse pronunciation, Gaarder takes up perennial issues, such as the existence of God and the meaning of human life.