Theater of Cruelty

Ibsen code

Ibsen Year 2006 has shown that Ibsen is still best understood outside Norway.


[ibsen year] "What I fear is the men with the small tasks and the small thoughts .."

Wrote Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) in 1879. The Italian father knew that his world poetry was too big for the country of birth.

The celebration of the 100 anniversary of Ibsen's death has shown that his fears are just as current. The greatest media coverage was devoted to populist criticism of Bentein Baardson's Peer Gynt set up in front of the Giza Pyramids, a set in the poet's spirit. In 1866, just before Ibsen finished the drama, he wrote: "The act of life that stands out to me as the most important thing in Norway, is to awaken the people and make it think big."

Ibsen failed. Even Morgenbladet now writes that it was "completely wrong to spend so much money" on "the musical in Giza". Instead, one should rather focus on the "Ibsen measures in Norway". Death over Peer Gynt – he who called himself "world citizen of temper".

Egypt spent millions of dollars on the Ibsen celebration, without clenching. And the best criticism of Baardson's staging came from theater critic Nehad Selaiha, who in Al-Ahram pointed out the mistake of mixing Bøygen with the Sphinx. Still, she was thrilled. While in Norway, Egyptians kept the Ibsenic spirit alive by watching Ibsen live on television.

This year's most innovative interpretation came with American Steven F. Sage's book Ibsen and Hitler. While Indian director KP Kumaran is filming the anniversary of Ibsen's only movie: Builder Solness turns into "Akashagopuram" ("Air Castle").

It is in 2006 as in 1866: Ibsen is best understood outside of Norway

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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