Borgen, Johan

(1902-1979)
   A Norwegian short story writer, novelist, playwright, and cultural journalist, Borgen had a significant place in the intellectual and cultural life of his country for nearly 50 years. Born into an upper-middle-class family, he experienced the cultural upheaval associated with World War I, when the social and cultural hegemony, as well as the aristocratic values ofhis class, gave way to a relatively unbridled capitalism. Borgen reacted to these historical forces by becoming a social and economic radical; although he was unable to commit himselfto the cause ofcommunism, he had strong socialist sympathies throughout his life. But he was also occupied with the emotional consequences of rapid social change, and many of his best stories and novels focus on his characters' need to develop a durable sense of identity.
   After writing short stories for various magazines, Borgen published his first book, a collection of stories entitled Mot mørket (1925; Toward Darkness), to a rather lackluster reception. After working briefly for the conservative Morgenbladet (The Morning Paper), he went to work for the liberal Dagbladet (The Daily Paper), with which he remained associated for most of his working life. During the 1930s he published his first novel, Når alt kommer til alt (1934; When Everything Is Said and Done), as well as several plays, the most remarkable of which is Mens vi venter (1938; While We Are Waiting), which departs from the realistic style, inherited from Henrik Ibsen, that was the standard in Norwegian theater at the time. The short stories in Barnesinn (1937; Children's Minds) feature children who have difficulties adjusting to a world in flux.
   During World War II Borgen put his talents in the service of the resistance movement. Imprisoned by the Nazis for a while, he later fled to Sweden, where he tirelessly continued his resistance work, including journalism, plays, and a novel published in Swedish, Ingen sommar (1944; No Summer). He later published several plays as well as the novel Kjærlighetsstien (1946; Lovers' Lane), which satirizes the morals of the upper class and attacks residual Nazism. But his definitive breakthrough as a literary artist came with a series of three short story collections, Hvetebrødsdager (1948; Honeymoon), Noveller om kjærlighet (1952; Short Stories about Love), and Natt og dag (1954; Night and Day). Many of these stories focus on the search for personal identity. A story included in Natt og dag, "Elsk meg bort fra min bristende barndom" ("Love Me away from My Breaking Childhood") won him a shared first prize in the short story competition of the New York Herald Tribune in 1961 and shows how lovers may share each other's past through an almost uncanny intuition.
   Borgen's most significant work is a trilogy about Wilfred Sagen, consisting of Lillelord (1955; tr. 1982), De mørke kilder (1956; The Dark Fountains), and Vi har ham na (1957; We've Got Him Now). Strongly autobiographical, the trilogy follows Wilfred, nicknamed Lillelord, from his early childhood up to his suicide during World War II, as he struggles for a sense of who he really is, but spends most of his effort trying to perfect the roles that he believes he has been given by those around him. The Lillelord trilogy secured Borgen a major position in Norwegian literature, and he followed it up with several significant novels and short story collections. Jeg (1959; tr. The Scapegoat, 1993) is an experimental novel in which the protagonist is split into two personalities, one of which observes the actions of the other. Blatind (1964; Blue Peak) is yet another novel in which questions of identity play a major role. Such novels as Den røde taken (1967; tr. The Red Mist, 1973), Min arm, min tarm (1972; My Arm, My Intestine), and Eksempler (1974; Examples) all center on problems of personality and identity.
   Nye noveller (1965; New Stories) won Borgen the Nordic Literary Prize in 1967. Three other collections of short stories bear the titles Trær alene i skogen (1969; Trees Alone in the Woods), Lykke til (1974; Good Luck), and I dette rom (1975; In This Room). Barndommens rike (1965; The Kingdom Childhood), originally written for a weekly radio program, tells about his own childhood. Borgen also published other novels and plays as well as many collections of journalism, essays, and miscellaneous prose.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • borgen — ausleihen; pumpen (umgangssprachlich); leihen; entlehnen; ausborgen * * * bor|gen [ bɔrgn̩]: 1. <tr.; hat leihen (2): er muss mir Geld borgen. Syn.: ↑ …   Universal-Lexikon

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