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Arne; A Sketch of Norwegian Country Life   By: (1832-1910)

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A Sketch of Norwegian Country Life




SEVER, FRANCIS, & CO Boston and Cambridge 1869



The story which is here first presented in an English form, is one of Herr Björnson's best works. In the original, it has already attained a very wide circulation throughout Northern Europe, and is there generally recognized as one of the truest and most beautiful representations of Norwegian life. At the present time, when there is among us a constantly increasing interest in all things pertaining to the Scandinavian nations, this work possesses great claims to attention, not only through its intrinsic merits, but also from the fact that it is one of the very few works which can, in the fullest sense, be termed Norwegian. During the long political union of Norway with Denmark, Norwegian literature was so deeply imbued by Danish thought and feeling, that it could not be considered national. After those political changes in 1814, which placed Norway among the free nations, she strove to take an independent position; and she produced several gifted writers who endeavored to create a national literature; but she had for many years no great works unimpressed with the old Danish stamp. Not till 1857, when a young and comparatively unknown writer published a book called "Synnove Solbakken," can the distinct literary life of Norway be considered to have commenced. That young writer was Björnstjerne Björnson. Since the appearance of "Synnove Solbakken," he has produced the present story, a few other short sketches, and several dramatic works. All these productions are, both in subject and style, thoroughly representative of the grand old nation whence they sprang; and they are, moreover, so full of original poetic beauty and descriptive power, that they have stamped their author as one of the greatest writers in Northern Europe.

While presenting this work from one who so well deserves to be known and honored by all, we very much wish we could also present a sketch of his history. But, so far as we have been able to ascertain, there is very little material; for, happily, Herr Björnson is yet young, and in the midst of his literary career; and therefore only a small part of his life story can yet be told. We have, however, obtained a few interesting details, principally from a little sketch in the Danish of Herr Clemens Petersen.

Herr Björnson is the son of a clergyman; and was born in 1832, at Kvikne, a lonely parish on the Dovre Fjeld. In his earliest years, he was so far from being marked by any unusual degree of mental development, that he was even regarded as "stupid:" he seems to have been at that time merely a strong limbed, happy, playful little fellow. Whenever he was at home, he constantly made the quiet parsonage a scene of confusion and uproar through his wild play. "Things," says Herr Petersen, "which had within the memory of man never been moved, were flung down; chairs and tables spun round; and all the girls and boys in the place ran about with him in noisy play; while his mother used to clasp her hands in fright, and declare he must soon be sent off to sea." When, in his twelfth year, he went to school, he appears to have been just as little characterized by any unusual mental development, and just as much by physical activity. He was placed on the lowest form to learn with the little boys. But when he got out doors into the playground, he was at once among the leaders, and feared nobody: on one occasion he soundly thrashed the strongest boy in the whole school. Although, however, no one else at this time saw any promise of his future greatness, he had himself a presentiment of it: deep in the heart of the rough Norwegian school boy, who seemed to think of little but play, was hidden a purpose to become an author, and even the greatest of all authors... Continue reading book >>

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