(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Johan Bojer 1872-1959

Norwegian novelist, playwright, and short story writer.

Bojer was one of the most prominent Norwegian writers of his time. His works, which gained him an international reading audience, are especially praised for their insight into human nature and sensitive depiction of working class life.

Biographical Information

Bojer was born in Orkdalsoyra, Norway. The illegitimate son of a businessman and a servant, he was raised by foster parents in a Norwegian fishing town. Bojer's experiences and observations growing up in a rugged coastal region of Norway provided the background and subject matter for many of his works. With inheritance money from his biological father, Bojer was able to complete his education, which included instruction at a business school. After graduation, he briefly held a job at an export company while at the same time pursuing a career as a playwright and fiction writer. Soon after the successful production of one of his plays, Bojer devoted himself exclusively to writing. His subsequent literary career spanned more than six decades. Bojer died in 1959.

Major Works

Bojer explored various themes and subjects during his long and prolific career. His first major work, Etfolketog, centered on the corrupting influence of political power on a once-idealistic farmer, who manipulates and ultimately betrays the people of the town who placed him in office. Issues of public morality also figure in Troens magt (The Power of a Lie), wherein Bojer creates an effective psychological profile of a man who fashions a lie into an accepted truth. Bojer expressed a celebratory affirmation of life in such works as Den store hunger (The Great Hunger), Fangen som sang (The Prisoner Who Sang), and Liv (Life). Bojer's interest in what he considered a basic human need for spiritual nourishment was central to a number of his works. In The Great Hunger, for example, the protagonist, Peer Troen, achieves fulfillment as an individual only after he acknowledges the existence of a higher power and the importance of striving for a common good. In the nineteen twenties, when critics consider Bojer to have been at the peak of his literary power, he published Den siste Viking (The Last of the Vikings) and Vor egen stamme (The Emigrants). Together these works portrayed the vanishing way of life of Norway's farmers and fishermen, and the emigration of many of them to the United States.