Norway

Tagged: International

Norway, along with the other Scandinavian countries, has always been somewhat isolated from the main roads of European cultural development, and never more so than during the eighteenth century, when the Age of Enlightenment swept across the rest of Europe. Outside the mainly French-speaking courts, Scandinavia was poor and starving, mainly agricultural, and crushed by repeated, ruinous wars. It is perhaps not surprising that excursions into fantastic literature were few: Scandinavia had nothing to compare with the French Voyages imaginaires, a 36-volume series published from 1787 and running from Lucian to Cyrano de Bergerac to Jonathan Swift. The first noted Norwegian example of fantastic literature was the early Time-Travel play Anno 7603 (1781) – a Satire of gender role-reversal – by Johan Hermann Wessel (1742-1785), born in Norway though also claimed by Denmark since he spent most of his life in Copenhagen; but this was an isolated case. Fantastic literature was popular, but most of it was what we would today call Heroic Fantasy, with sword-toting heroes, maidens in distress, sentient dragons (see Supernatural Creatures), etc. The first Norwegian author of works that can be considered as modern sf, with everything that description implies, operated in the early twentieth century: Øvre Richter-Frich (1872-1945) issued more than 20 popular novels from 1911 which detailed the adventures of the super-Scientist Jonas Fjeld. Not until after World War Two did Norway have its own regular SF Magazine, Tempo-Magazinet (November 1953-March 1954), one of several foreign-language editions of Galaxy.

Unlike the case in the English-speaking countries, fantastic literature in Scandinavia – and, indeed, in mainland Europe as a whole – was never trapped in the sf ghetto; one is tempted to suggest that this was because Europe succeeded in exporting Hugo Gernsback, so that he created the sf ghetto elsewhere. Thus Norway (though always on a lesser scale than Sweden) is much like the rest of continental Europe in having little in the way specialized sf industry but instead a lively world of fantastic literature in the old European tradition, drawing its succour from E T A Hoffmann, Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838), the German Sturm und Drang, the French 'pataphysics invented by Alfred Jarry (see Imaginary Science) and Italian and Russian Futurism, rather than from the world of English-language sf. Where Genre SF existed, it was long confined to fans and Fandom and published by specialist houses. One very popular and eminently readable Norwegian author who worked in this tradition is Øyvind Myhre.

Other Norwegian sf authors left genre sf or were never part of it, their books usually being published by mainstream houses and without the "sf" label; they include Jon Bing – whose international reputation led to a guest-of-honour appearance at the 1997 UK Eastercon – and Tor Åge Bringsværd. Bringsvaerd, in particular, is highly respected in the Scandinavian literary world as a writer of extraordinary merits, while his compatriot Knut Faldbakken achieved international bestsellerdom with his Sweetwater novels Aftenlandet ["The Evening Land"] (1972; trans as Twilight Country 1993) and Sweetwater (1974; trans as Sweetwater 1994). Slightly external to the sf field are a number of Mainstream Writers who occasionally write sf, and then almost inevitably to bestselling effect. A Norwegian author of note in this context is Axel Jensen (whom see), who with compatriot artist Hariton Pushwagner created the remarkable Graphic Novel Pushwagners Soft City (graph 2008).

Further authors born and working in Norway who have separate entries in this encyclopedia are Frøis Frøisland, author of Fortaellinger fra fronten: Solidt halvlaeder (coll 1928; trans as The Man With X-Ray Eyes and Other Stories from the Front 1930), and Gerd Brantenberg, author of Egalias Dotre (1977; trans as Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes 1985). Further Norway-related entries cover the musician Biosphere (Geir Jenssen) and the Television series Occupied (2015; original title Occupert). [SJL/J-HH/DRL]

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