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Masterful biography of André Bjerke

André Bjerke: In the joy of the fight
Forfatter: Peter Normann Waage
Forlag: Aschehoug (Norge)
The polemic who goes crazy, but who never fails verbally, the competitor and the energetic poet. And above all, a golden humor shines.


Finally, the great biography of André Bjerke is out! It is an event many people will enjoy. Bjerke has a secure place as an outstanding cultural communicator and cultural creator in the Norwegian post-war period, and in Waage's biography he is very much able to speak for himself. That's a good grip: Bjerke kept a diary throughout much of his life. The book is steeped in great respect and love for Bjerk's art and personality. His poems and renditions are well known to most, but how many have read his essayism, his criticism of Newtonian optics or his introduction to Goethe's color theory? Also this side of Bjerkes production allows his cinema to get to know us.

The party of adults. The first, long chapter, "The Feast of the Adults," is devoted to the parents, and it definitely has a strong side taste, the chaotic intercourse party between Ejlert Bjerke and Karin Kristine Svensson. Their messy and chaotic existence seems to have had an opposite effect on the son, who, especially in money matters, was so neat that it could approach the pathological (that is, when he was sober). However, Waage rejects the idea that he may have suffered from obsessive-compulsive or other neuroses: Bjerke would forms his life, and he would raise itself. This puts his appearance in full in a frightening and contrasting light: André Bjerke was displaced by a furious monster.

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Judged by colleagues. The many entries from the diary are enjoyable reading, but it should also be said that there were many heavy days in Bjerkes life. Only the humor kept him afloat during all the stormy periods. As a reader, I am particularly upset by the hard process the Writers' Association initiated against both him and his father after the war. I am hardly the only reader who associates with a Norwegian edition of the Inquisition when I read about how zealous father and son were persecuted after they re-authored the epic poem of Johan Ludvig Runeberg in Finland, Sweden. Fenrik Stål's singer and had it published at G. Stenersens Forlag. (The publisher was Nazi-friendly during the war, and Finland fought on the same side as Germany during the war against Russia in the period 1941 – 1944.) The poem was intended to serve as a moral support to the Norwegian people during the occupation period, and in accordance with the departmental regulations of the time was not the names of the gendarmes. But then peace came. In the so-called honorary court – The Writer's Association's "court", set up in May 1945 to examine members with presumptively brown sympathies during the war – both magazines Bjerke were sentenced to pay back the total fee for the publication, and they were refused to publish anything on one year. The worst was probably the mental strain. And that's where André Bjerkes alcohol problems began.

The biography shows a man who goes into his time and who never goes out of it again.

Versatile, clear and easy to understand. The chapter on the judgment and the time that followed is the darkest in Waage's book, which is otherwise steeped in golden humor and very lively to read. The work must have been demanding, as it must have been necessary to review all the material Bjerke left behind at the National Library, but the sorting is exemplary. Surely one should have a good overview of one's life in order to be able to write as clearly as Waage does, without it being either chronologically and boring or just messy. I guess that especially the chapter on Goethe's color theory has been challenging to write, but this material is also easily explained. It is a good choice to start from a personal experience with the cinema, namely that Bjerke lies in bed early in the morning and observes a so-called colored shadow on his own thumb. From there we are brought into his deep fascination for the colors. And with his attention to colors, his scientific criticism, his critique of Galileo Galilei's theory of natural science is also developed: the one to measure everything, and to make everything measurable that is not. Waage writes: "In his most comprehensive work on color theory, New contributions to Goethe's color theory, (1961), Bjerke found it necessary to settle that theory. ”Using Hjalmar Hegges A contribution to criticism of the theory of the subjectivity of the senses (1957) he got concentrated on the topic.

Theory = reality. One of the most captivating things about this biography is that it shows a man who goes into his time and who never goes out of it again. This applies to theory as well as to reality, which in André Bjerkes artist's mind becomes one and the same. Reality is already theory, and the theory is not separate from reality. André Bjerke is not the only one to read a little Goethe on the bed; he will show that Goethe's natural science er the reality itself.

I can only congratulate Peter Normann Waage for his outstanding, inspiring and exemplary work in every way. One impression, by the way, is particularly deep after the end of the reading: Bjerke som competitor. The spirit of competition is perhaps the explanation for his enormous productivity.

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Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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