Solstad, Dag


Solstad, Dag
(1941-)
   A Norwegian novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Solstad is recognized as one of the foremost Norwegian writers of his generation. A chronicler of life in the Norwegian welfare state, he started out as an exponent of literary modernism but soon turned to a kind of socialist realism that was intended to help bring about a Marxist revolution in Norway. When the failures of that literary program became impossible to ignore, Solstad's writing style changed to a rather traditional psychological realism, albeit with significiant postmodernist elements. Solstad had his literary debut with the short story collection Spiraler (1965; Spirals) and then published Svingstol (1967; Swivel Chair), a volume of prose texts of varying lengths. Taken together, these stories and texts portray the meaninglessness and rootlessness of modern society. This is also the general theme of the novel Irr! Grønt! (1968; Patina! Green!), a book about role-playing as both a cause and a consequence of a person's sense of meaninglessness and absurdity.
   While a student at the University of Oslo, Solstad associated with the Profil group, young intellectuals who published the student journal Profil (Profile). Around the time of the student revolt of 1968, many members of this group, including Solstad, Tor Obrestad, and Espen Haavardsholm, affiliated with the Socialist Youth Alliance, the youth organization of the Socialist People's Party. In 1973 the Socialist Youth Alliance became part of the Maoist-inspired, Marxist-Leninist Workers Communist Party, which became Solstad's ideological home for the rest of the decade. Solstad's transition from late modernist to committed Marxist is chronicled in his second novel, Arild Asnes, 1970 (1971), at the end of which the first-person protagonist goes door to door to sell the socialist newspaper Klassekampen (The Class Struggle). His next book, the novel 25. september-plassen (1974; The 25th of September Square), explicates social democracy in postwar Norway from a thoroughgoing Marxist perspective, arguing that the Norwegian working class was betrayed by the leaders of the Labor Party, who collaborated with American capitalism and steered Norway toward membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
   A similar perspective governs the play Kamerat Stalin eller familien Nordby (1975; Comrade Stalin, or the Nordby Family), which defends Stalin's political vision, and a trilogy consisting of Svik: Førkrigsår (1977; Betrayal: Prewar Years), Krig: 1940 (1978; War: 1940), and Brød og vapen (1980; Bread and Weapons). A realistic story about working-class life, the trilogy is set against the background of political events in the late 1930s and during World War II. Again Solstad wants to show that social democracy is incompatible with the needs of the workers.
   By 1980 it became increasingly difficult to maintain any hope for a Marxist revolution in Norway, and the shining example of Mao Zedong's China had also lost some of its luster. Solstad began a process of self-examination with the novel Gymn slærer Pedersens beretning om den store politiske vekkelsen som har hjemsøkt vart land (1982; High School Teacher Pedersen's Account of the Great Political Revival That Has Visited Our Country). Commonly referred to as Gymnaslærer Pedersen, this tragicomic novel is the story of a young idealistic intellectual who takes a working-class job in order to become one with the people. There is more pessimism in Forsøk pa aa beskrive det ugjennomtrengelige (1984; An Attempt to Describe the Impenetrable), in which Norwegian society is depicted as materially affluent but spiritually shallow.
   The protagonist in Roman 1987 (1987; Novel 1987), for which Solstad was awarded the Nordic Literary Prize in 1989, is similar to the high school teacher Pedersen in that he abandons a promising career as a university teacher and researcher in order to take a job at a cardboard factory. He achieves no real unity with the people but still believes that the experience was worth the effort. Disillusionment and pessimism return in Ellevte roman, bok atten (1992; The Eleventh Novel, Book Eighteen), in which the protagonist is a failure in every role he plays, and Genanse og verdighet (1994; Shyness and Dignity), in which another high school teacher experiences his lack of significance. Professor Andersens natt (1996; Professor Andersen's Night) features a literature professor who finds his life to be so empty of meaning that he fails to report a murder he has witnessed because keeping it a secret gives him something to live for. T. Singer (1999) offers yet another portrait of life in Norway's welfare state, which in Solstad's eyes continues to be characterized by material affluence coupled with spiritual and emotional poverty. The book 16.07.41 (2002; 16 July 1941), the title of which may be read as gesturing at Solstad's own birthday, appears to be a first-person account of the author's life, including his relationship with his father, who died when Solstad was 11. Solstad has insisted that the book is a novel, but it is difficult to distinguish between the author and the narrator-protagonist. Highly self-reflective about its genre and narrative form, it is one of the most interesting examples of postmodernism in Norwegian literature. Solstad has also published several volumes of essays, talks, and articles.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Nordic Council's Literature Prize — Nordic Council Literature Prize Awarded for a work of imaginative literature written in one of the Nordic languages Presented by Nordic Council Date Annual, winner announced in the spring Country Nordic countries …   Wikipedia


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