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About shitting culturally in your own nest


A couple of weeks ago, "The Film Magazine" on TV had one feature on Nordic film days in Lübeck, and the emailed employee, of course, took advantage of the effort to obtain some German statements about the quality of Norwegian films. Naturally? Yes, of course. For these Germans to be able to tell that Norwegian film is something crap, and should a cultural Norwegian let any chance go to obtain that kind of testimonials from abroad and inland? The German professionals did not directly use such a rude word as the one mentioned – on the contrary, they cultivated and almost graciously said that we are not good enough. There's a not insignificant point right there. Had they said shit, the television audience might have been a little upset in the chairs and if not raised bust, then at least asked themselves and others what this kind of words were strong judges, and how many they had actually seen of the approx. The 250 feature films made in Norway. But with its cultivated form, the German characteristic could slip freely into most Norwegians, because in this country a long-standing susceptibility to crushing judgments of Norwegian culture has long been developed.

This can be said shorter and clearer: In a country where critics and other cultural workers have made it a fun habit to skit in their own nests, we also tolerate occasional clatter from outside. Yes, bring them home.

When I bring out the little TV episode in "The Movie Magazine", it's because it falls into a bigger pattern. The origins of it really go back to the Danish era, and the tradition survived both in 1814 and 1905 and all kinds of national self-assertion. But hardly ever before has this peculiarity emerged as sharply and as negatively in its effects as in the time after World War II.

Characteristically, this applies above all to Norwegian inferiority in comparisons between one's own cultural life (if one dares to use such a word) and the conditions in Sweden and Denmark. Whether in literature, film, theater or other arts, we have for a quarter of a century been knocked into the notion that Norway is not only generally lagging behind, but is almost like a carjol on the Swedish and Danish cultural autostrada. It is our domestic cultural critics who have taken care of this task, tireless in their hammering year after year. What have we got to do! Against the lushness of Sweden, against the modernism of poetry, against the cinematic art from Ingmar Bergman to Bo Widerberg, towards the super-intelligent refinement of Swedish revival art, etc., etc. What do we have to stand against the lushness in Denmark! – against modernism in poetry, against Klaus Rifbjerg's playful genius in drama, poetry and prose, against the refreshing storms of pornography, etc. Just wait, now the autumn has come, the dark time when culture is cultivated in the Nordic countries. Now begins another round of self-despising comparisons with neighborly achievements! And should it be a problem, our emissaries will gladly take on some cultural personalities in Germany or Monaco for that matter, to be informed that the culture in Norway is in bad shape. ("Weren't you guys who once had Ibsen and Edvard Grieg?")

But isn't that true?

Yes, that we…?

Of course it is true that Sweden and Denmark have more to cope with in many cultural areas. This greater lushness is not only due to the fact that the resources are larger and that the roots go deeper and wider in the mold of history, while making contact with today's wide world better than Norway. Behind the growth is also another difference, and it should seem striking in this country, because it is in stark contrast to our domestic conditions. But relatively few Norwegians are aware of this difference.

Both Sweden and Denmark take care of their own, as well as a conscientious, flower-loving and qualified gardener with their garden. Although the picture doesn't quite cover: The cultural rumors in our neighboring countries are often to the degree of studying and fencing off their national talent's potential that they can sometimes overlook considerable amounts of weeds or in their enthusiasm for the burgeoning – even confusing weeds and lovable growths . But the tendency for excessive and sometimes naive self-admiration represents a small risk, while the enthusiasm of the smokers is an invaluable stimulant for cultural life, primarily for the young talents that emerge.

Our own cultural critics, belly flat in their admiration for Sweden and Denmark, are very little and very rarely reminiscent of gardeners. In their fashion-specific, provincial cult of currents in Sweden and Denmark, they can lay much waste, these peculiar cultural mediators who in recent years have gained a strong influence on public opinion through the daily press and in other ways. Their one-sidedness in taste and vision entails a growing danger of an actual unification in Norwegian cultural life: Talents that could have unfolded in other directions are stalled under pressure.

Aksel Sandemose's Jante was originally in Denmark, but at least we have conquered it from the Danes, if it was not Greenland.

Norway's cultural history is still short-lived, but this relationship does not provide a sufficient explanation for all the killer misunderstanding of those who would be gardeners in our home garden.

Their behavior year after year also has something to do with one of the bids in the Janteloven being immensely stronger in Norway than Sweden and Denmark, and with us plays a far greater role than Bondevik's overall efforts will ever do:

Don't think you are anything.


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