Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

THE LAUREATE: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was born in 1832. He was a journalist and drama critic, and ended up a member of the Nobel committee. He experimented with writing in the popular Norwegian dialect but gave up (Somewhat like Nikos Kazantzakis’ experiments with demotic Greek, only unsuccessful). He also looks like he could break you.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HIM?: Not a whole lot. He’s the reason I started this project when I did; I had a really old book of short stories from Scandinavia, and I read a few of the stories one night and the one I posted a while back was one of them. And I remembered that I was going to try to do this, so I should make sure I didn’t read too many stories at once before I was sure none of them would compromise the project.

WHAT ARE YOU READING: Whatever plays I dug up on Google Books. I don’t even remember right now, but I think there’s a book of them. This is going to be the first in a series of “This is free so I am reading it on my phone” entries.

REVIEW: I ended up reading two of the Three Comedies in the free ebook of the same name on the Kindle store: The Newly-Wedded Couple and Leonarda. They both struck me as very creative, but also very much tied to conventional dramatic tropes. So, in The Newly-Wedded Couple, for instance, the action of the play is summed up in an anonymously written book called The Newly-Wedded Couple. Astute audience members would be saying “Hey, that’s the same title as the play we’re watching!” There are problems in the household, and the maid (who the young husband was banging on the side and who set the marriage up) tells the husband to act like everything is cool, when it is not. Then the wife is all “le swoon!” And her mother says “you’re such a good storyteller, it’s like it’s happening before our eyes!” (Spoiler alert: it is). Then the maid says, “Peace, y’all. My next book will be better.” End scene, curtain and jaws drop all willy-nilly. What I am not saying very elegantly is that Bjørnson writes textbook plays where everything is arranged for a clever ending. This is pretty sweet. I would totally use his works in a drama or English class where you’ve got to talk about that kind of stuff.

RECOMMENDED?: Yeah. It’s fun late 19th century fiction. Bjørnson sort of anticipates Joyce’s use of the epiphany, but in Bjørnson the results are much more exaggerated. Still, fun stuff.

WHAT’S NEXT IN THE “FREE BOOKS YOU’RE READING ON YOUR PHONE” SERIES?: Probably some of Sully Prudhomme’s poems. Even though Amazon charged me a dollar for it. Jerks.

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