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The Visionary Pictures From Nordland   By: (1833-1908)

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Until a few years ago, Norway was an unknown country to most Englishmen. Occasionally a sportsman went there to kill salmon or to shoot reindeer, but the fjords, glaciers, mountains, and waterfalls were quite beyond the reach of any but the most venturesome travellers. Still less was it supposed that Norway possessed a modern school of poets and novelists. Wergeland, Welhaven, Munch, and Moe among the former, Björnson, Ibsen, Kjelland, and Lie among the latter, were, as far as Englishmen were concerned, "to fortune and to fame unknown." All this has been changed; sportsmen now complain that it becomes more difficult every year to hire rivers. Tourists swarm over the country from the Naze to the North Cape. Ibsen's dramas are played in London theatres, and his novels, and those of Björnson and Lie, are read in Germany and in France, as well as in England and America.

These three writers are of nearly the same age. Ibsen was born in 1828, at Skien on the south eastern coast of Norway; Björnson in the Dovrefjeld in 1832; and Lie at Eker, near Drammen, in 1833. Five years after his son's birth, Lie's father was appointed sheriff of Tromsö, which lies within the Arctic Circle, and young Jonas Lauritz Edemil Lie, to give him his full name, spent six of the most impressionable years of his life at that remote port. There he heard from the sailors many strange tales of romantic adventure and of hazardous escape from shipwreck, with the not uncommon result that he wished to be a sailor himself. He was, therefore, sent to the naval school at Fredriksværn; but his defective eyesight proved fatal to the realisation of his wish and the idea of a seafaring life had to be given up. He was removed from Fredriksværn to the Latin School at Bergen, and in 1851 entered the University of Christiania, where he made the acquaintance of Ibsen and Björnson. He graduated in law in 1857, and shortly afterwards began to practise at Konsvinger, a little town in Hamar's Stift between Lake Miosen and the frontier of Sweden. Clients were not numerous or profitable at Konsvinger; Lie found time to write for the newspapers and became a frequent contributor to some of the Christiania journals. Meantime, Ibsen and Björnson were becoming famous in Norway, and in 1865 Lie, perhaps in a spirit of emulation, decided to abandon law for literature. His first venture was a volume of poems which appeared in 1866 and was not successful. During the four following years he devoted himself almost exclusively to journalism, working hard and without much reward, but acquiring the pen of a ready writer and obtaining command of a style which has proved serviceable in his subsequent career. In 1870 he published "The Visionary," "Den Fremsynte" of which a translation is now, for the first time, offered to English readers. In the following year he revisited Nordland and travelled into Finmark. Having obtained a small travelling pension from the Government, immediately after his journey to Nordland, he sought the greatest contrast he could find in Europe to the scenes of his childhood and started for Rome. For a time he lived in North Germany, then he migrated to Bavaria, spending his winters in Paris. In 1882 he visited Norway for a time, but returned to the continent of Europe. His voluntary exile from his native land ended in the spring of 1893, when he settled at Holskogen, near Christiansund... Continue reading book >>

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