Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne

Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne byörnˈstyĕrnə byörnˈsōn [key], 1832–1910, Norwegian writer and political leader, one of the major figures of Norwegian literature. He was an influential journalist, who sought to revive Norwegian as a literary language and championed the rights of the oppressed. His celebrated Synnøve Solbakken (1857; first tr. 1881; Sunny Hill, 1932) was one of the first Norwegian novels. Bjørnson succeeded his friend Ibsen as director of the Ole Bull Theater in Bergen (1857–59) and then became involved in politics, fighting against Norwegian amalgamation with Sweden and championing parliamentary democracy. Bjørnson became national poet of Norway—one of his poems became the national anthem—and reached his pinnacle as a lyric poet while abroad in Europe (1860–63). He returned to Oslo in 1863 and directed the Oslo Theater until 1867; his literary output over the next decade was prodigious. After enduring a religious crisis (1878–79) Bjørnson accepted Darwinian evolution in a religious context, rejecting traditional religion. From this time his writings urged the liberation of the human spirit from dogma and prejudice. See, for example, the story Dust (1882, tr. 1884), the play A Gauntlet (1883, tr. 1890), and the drama Beyond Our Power (2 parts, 1883–95; tr. of 1st part, Pastor Sang, 1893; tr. of 2d part, Beyond Human Might, 1914). Bjørnson received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature.

See biography by H. Larson (1944).

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