Hansen, Maurits Christopher

   A Norwegian novelist and short story writer, Maurits Hansen is one of Norway's earliest prose writers in modern times, and an extremely prolific one. Often forced to write under pressure in order to supplement his income as a teacher, however, he produced few works of lasting value, even though he was much admired in his day. Influenced by German Rauberromantik, some of his stories are reminiscent of the gothic novel, with highly complicated plots and incredible story lines. His first novel, Othar af Bretagne (1819; Othar of Brittany), is about a knight's battles against evil powers. His best longer work is the novel Keadan eller Klosterruinen (1825; Keadan, or, the Monestary Ruin), which, while reasonably well constructed, relies on letters and various documents and has a narrator who frequently addresses explanatory comments to the reader.
   Hansen's short stories are of greater interest. "Luren" (1819; The Shepherd's Horn) inaugurated the peasant tale, later popularized by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, into Norwegian literature. "Luren" tells the story of a young couple, Ragnhild and Guttorm, who are prevented from marrying by Ragnhild's proud father, the farmer Tord. They have a baby out of wedlock, and are finally reconciled with Tord through the good offices of the story's narrator, Carl Møhlmann, whose powers of persuasion are no match for the farmer. But persuasion also operates on many other levels ofthe text, including the relationship between Guttorm and Ragnhild, which subverts the story's happy ending. "Novellen" (1827; The Short Story) is of interest because of what it reveals about Hansen's theory of literary meaning; interesting narratives are the result of the imaginative reworking of striking memories.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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