[Paleopsych] Esther Greenleaf Mürer: Jens Bjorneboe

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Jens Bjo/rneboe
Also known as: Jens Bjorneboe

[He was among the Norwegian authors enthusiastically recommended to me by 
an absolutely delightful and insightful Norwegian immigrant, Lene 
Johansen, at last September's meeting of the Association for Politics and 
the Life Sciences. (I don't think Knut Hamsen. Funny.) See her site, 
lenejohansen.com. She is as broadly read as I am, and has a degree 
bachelor's degree from the University of Olso with a degree emphasis in 
comparative religion, law, and intellectual history and an upcoming MA in 
journalism from the University of Missouri. She was thinking next of 
either a doctorate at the Kennedy School of Government at Ha'va'd (please 
no! There are too many of them where I work and are merely perfect 
bureaucrats) or one in economics (George Mason has by far the most 
innovative and varied curriculum in the world, having replaced U.Va. as 
the headquarters for Public Choice, having picked up neuroeconomics, 
Austrian school, hermeneutical theory and no doubt more, as well.

[She is most definitely my kind of person, in other words, except that she 
is not a big fan of classical music, like my current wife is. She also 
wears make-up.

[I have as yet to read any of his books and would like a recommendation 
from those who know me well enough in person or online.]

By Esther Greenleaf Mürer
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 297: Twentieth-Century Norwegian 
Writers. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Tanya Thresher, 
University of Wisconsin. Gale, 2004. pp. 11-26.

Source Database:  Dictionary of Literary Biography

[Norwegian o slash (ø or ø in HTML) replaced by o/, and small 
a ring (å or å in HTML) replace with ao throughout.]

Dates 1920-1976



* Dikt (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1951).
* Fo/r hanen galer (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1952).
* Ariadne (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1953).
* Jonas: roman (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1955); translated by Bernt Jebsen and 
Douglas K. Stafford as
The Least of These: A Novel (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959).
* Under en haordere himmel (Oslo: Cappelen, 1957).
* Den store by (Oslo: Cappelen, 1958).
* Vinter i Bellapalma: av forfatteren Hans Berlows efterlatte papirer 
(Oslo: Cappelen, 1958).
* Blaomann (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1959).
* Den onde hyrde: roman (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1960).
* Dro/mmen og hjulet: roman (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1964).
* Til lykke med dagen (Oslo: Pax, 1965).
* Fugleelskerne (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1966); translated by Frederick Wasser as 
The Bird Lovers (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1994).
* Frihetens o/yeblikk: heiligenberg-manuskriptet (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1966); 
translated by Esther Greenleaf Mürer as Moment of Freedom: The 
Heiligenberg Manuscript (New York: Norton, 1975; Norwich, U.K.: Norvik 
Press, 1999).
* Uten en traod, anonymous (Oslo: Scala, 1966); translated by Walter 
Barthold as Without a Stitch (New York: Grove, 1969).
* Norge, mitt Norge: essays on formyndermennesket (Oslo: Pax, 
1968)--includes "Hans Jæger," translated by Mürer as "Hans Jæger," Jens 
Bjo/rneboe in English (29 December 1999) 
* Semmelweis: et anti-autoritært skuespill (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968); 
translated by Joe Martin as Semmelweis: An Anti-authoritarian Play (Los 
Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1999).
* Uden en trævl II (Copenhagen: Stig Vendelkaers, 1968); translated by H. 
H. Bridge as Without a Stitch 2 (New York: Grove, 1971).
* Aske, vind og jord: sanger, viser, og dikt (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968).
* Kruttaornet (La Poudrière): vitenskapelig efterord og siste protokoll 
(Oslo: Gyldendal, 1969); translated by Mürer as Powderhouse: Scientific 
Postscript and Last Protocol (Norwich, U.K.: Norvik Press, 2000; Chester 
Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 2000).
* Vi som elsket Amerika: essays om stormaktsgalskap, straffelyst, kunst og 
moral (Oslo: Pax, 1970).
* Amputasjon: arenaspill i én akt (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1970); translated by 
Solrun Hoaas as Amputation, in Amputation: Texts for an Extraordinary 
Spectacle, translated by Hoaas and Mürer, edited by Karl Kvitko (Los 
Angeles: Xenos, 2003), pp. 55-124.
* Politi og anarki: essays om katter, domstoler og mennesker (Oslo: Pax, 
1972)--includes "Litteratur og virkelighet," translated by Mürer as 
"Literature and Reality," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (28 March 2000) 
<http://emurer.home.att.net/texts/lit-real.htm>; "Hemingway og dyrene," 
translated by Mürer as "Hemingway and the Beasts," Jens Bjo/rneboe in 
English (18 June 1999) <http://emurer.home.att.net/texts/hemingwy.htm>.
* Hertug Hans: en novelle (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1972).
* Stillheten: en anti-roman og absolutt aller siste protokoll (Oslo: 
Gyldendal, 1973); translated by Mürer as The Silence: An Anti-novel and 
Absolutely the Very Last Protocol (Norwich, U.K.: Norvik Press, 2000; 
Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 2000).
* Tilfellet Torgersen: rekonstruert av aktstykker. Scénario (Oslo: Pax, 
* Haiene: historien om et mannskap og et forlis (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1974); 
translated by Mürer as The Sharks: The History of a Crew and a Shipwreck 
(Norwich, U.K.: Norvik Press, 1992).
* Dongery: en collage om forretningsstaanden og om markedsfo/rerens liv 
(Oslo: Pax, 1976).
* Under en mykere himmel: brev og bud fra en Steinerskole, edited by André 
Bjerke (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1976).
* Ro/d Emma (Oslo: Forlaget Bjo/rnsons Grav, 1976).
* Samlede dikt, edited by Bjerke (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1977).
* Lanterner: noveller, reisebrev, epistler, edited by Bjerke, illustrated 
by Bjo/rneboe (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1977).
* Om Brecht, edited by Tone T. Bjo/rneboe and Fredrik Engelstad (Oslo: 
Pax, 1977).
* Om teater, edited by Tone T. Bjo/rneboe and Engelstad (Oslo: Pax, 
1978)--includes "Teateret i morgen," translated by Mürer as "The Theater 
Tomorrow," in Amputation: Texts for an Extraordinary Spectacle, pp. 3-18; 
"Skogene bak Iguananatten," translated by Mürer as "The Forests behind The 
Night of the Iguana," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (28 April 2000) 
* Bo/ker og mennesker: artikler i utvalg, edited by Aud Gulbransen and 
Jadwige T. Kvadsheim (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1979)--includes "Ernst 
Josephson--hans liv og kunst," translated by Mürer as "Ernst Josephson, 
His Life and Work," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (July 2001) 
<http://emurer.home.att.net/texts/josephsn.htm>; "När jeg skrev Jonas," 
translated by Mürer as "When I Wrote Jonas," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English 
(February 2001) <http://emurer.home.att.net/texts/jonas.htm>; 
"Strindberg--den fruktbare," translated by Mürer as "Strindberg the 
Fertile," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (July 2001) 

Editions and Collections

* Samlede skuespill (Oslo: Pax, 1973).
* Samlede verker, 15 volumes (Oslo: Gyldendal/Pax, 1995).
* Samlede essays, 6 volumes (Oslo: Gyldendal/Pax, 1996).

Editions in English

* "Anarchism--Today?" and "Anarchism as Future," in Degrees of Freedom: 
Anarchist Essays by and about Jens Bjo/rneboe, translated by Esther 
Greenleaf Mürer (Philadelphia: Protocol Press, 1998), pp. 1-11.


* Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Romulus den Store, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, 
Nationaltheatret, 1960.
* Til lykke med dagen, Oslo, Oslo Nye Teater, 21 February 1965.
* Ornithofilene, Oslo, Odin Teater, October 1965; revised as 
Fugleelskerne, Oslo, Nationaltheatret, 5 November 1966.
* Edward Albee, Balansegang, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, 
Nationaltheatret, 1967.
* Dürrenmatt, Meteoren, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, Nationaltheatret, 
* Friedrich von Schiller, Morderne, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, 
Nationaltheatret, 1967.
* Peter Weiss, Sangen om utysket, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, 
Nationaltheatret, 1967.
* Semmelweis, Turku, Finland, aobo Svenska Teater, 24 September 1969; 
Oslo, Nationaltheatret, 19
November 1969.
* Amputasjon, Stockholm, Friteatern, 1 April 1970; Oslo, Nationaltheatret, 
February 1971.
* August Strindberg, Fro/ken Julie, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, 
Nationaltheatret, 1972.
* Tilfellet Torgersen, Oslo, Scene 7, 25 November 1973.
* Dongery, Oslo, Scene 7, November 1974.
* Franz Wedekind, Vaorlo/sning, translated by Bjo/rneboe, Oslo, Oslo Nye 
Teater, 1975.


* Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, Det gamle spill om Enver, translated by 
Bjo/rneboe, radio, Radioteatret, 5 April 1955.
* Brendan Behan, Særlingen, translated by Bjo/rneboe, television, 
Fjernsynsteatret, 4 April 1963.
* "Semmelweis," radio, Radioteatret, Norsk rikskringkasting, 29 May 1977.
* "Semmelweis," television, Fjernsynsteatret, Norsk rikskringkasting, 30 
August 1983.
* "Fugleelskerne," radio, Radioteatret, Norsk rikskringkasting, 2 October 
* "Til lykke med dagen," television, Fjernsynsteatret, Norsk 
rikskringkasting, 3 May 1988.


* Vaopenlo/s: Jens Bjo/rneboe leser egne dikt, read by Bjo/rneboe, 
Zarepta, SKA 1434, 1976.


* Bertolt Brecht, Tolvskillingsoperaen (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1964).
* Miodrag Bulatovic, Helten pao eselryggen (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1966).
* André Grabar and Manolis Chatzidakis, Det kristne og bysantinske maleri 
* Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Meteoren (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1967).
* Donatien-Alphonse Françoise, marquis de Sade, Justine eller Dydens 
ulykker (Oslo: Pax, 1970).
* Georg Büchner, Dantons do/d and Voyzek, in Büchner, Samlede verker 
(Oslo: Gyldendal, 1973).


* "Det utrolige," Spektrum, no. 2 (1949): 101-111.


Jens Bjo/rneboe was one of the most cosmopolitan, versatile, and 
controversial Norwegian writers of his day. His career is fraught with 
paradoxes. He belongs to the tradition of Norwegian literary radicalism in 
that he engaged intensely with the issues of his time and place, taking 
the part of the wretched, defending individual freedom against convention 
and authoritarianism, and mounting strong attacks on the Norwegian 
educational and judicial systems. Yet, he was first and foremost a 
European writer, mindful of a deeper cultural stream--the Bible, classical 
antiquity, and the masterpieces of European literature and art--and most 
of his major works are set outside Norway. While his writings are both 
strongly political and strongly metaphysical, Bjo/rneboe resisted 
identification with any political or religious orthodoxy. Although he made 
relentless use of his own biography, his sights remained firmly fixed on 
the outside world. In his essay "Litteratur og virkelighet" (Literature 
and Reality), published in Politi og anarki: essays om katter, domstoler 
og mennesker (Police and Anarchy: Essays about Cats, Courts, and People, 
1972), he maintained that "Skjo/nnlitteraturens omraode er hverken det 
indre eller det ytre; dens oppgave er ao utforske mo/tet mellom dem begge" 
(The province of literature is neither the interior nor the exterior; its 
task is to explore the meeting between the two).

The list of non-Scandinavian writers, artists, and thinkers to whom 
Bjo/rneboe pays homage in his works is a long one. German, French, and 
Italian names predominate, but the roster also includes Eastern Europeans 
and Anglophone writers. His essays on Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee 
Williams--"Hemingway og dyrene" (translated as "Hemingway and the Beasts," 
1999) in Politi og anarki and "Skogene bak Iguananatten" (translated as 
"The Forests behind The Night of the Iguana," 2000), first published on 3 
December 1962 in the newspaper Dagbladet and collected in his Om Teater 
(On Theater, 1978)--are among his strongest. The failure of his work to 
cross the language barrier into English during his lifetime has prevented 
this atypically universalist Norwegian writer from receiving a hearing in 
the international arena where he most properly belongs. Only since 1990 
have a significant number of his works appeared in English translation.

In a span of twenty-five years Bjo/rneboe published four volumes of 
poetry, fourteen novels, six plays, and several hundred articles and 
essays. In addition, fourteen of his translations of German, French, and 
English works were either published or performed. He was a disciplined 
craftsman; yet, most of his work is flawed. He was an experimenter, not a 
perfectionist. He says in "Litteratur og virkelighet" that "efter min 
oppfatning er diktningen en empirisk vitenskap" (in my experience writing 
literature is an empirical science), and he was continually in search of 
the right form for the expression of what he wanted to say. He is at his 
most polished and formally conventional as a poet and at his most 
experimental in his trilogy of novels popularly known as Bestialitetens 
Historie (The History of Bestiality) and in his plays. As a dramatist 
Bjo/rneboe sought alternatives to the bourgeois theater tradition of 
Henrik Ibsen, which he saw as reflecting an ordered, moral, logical 
worldview that no longer sufficed.

Jens Ingvald Bjo/rneboe was born on 9 October 1920 in Kristiansand in 
southern Norway. He was the youngest of three children of Ingvald 
Bjo/rneboe, a shipowner who also served as the Belgian consul, and Anne 
Marie "Maja" Bjo/rneboe, née Svenson. His mother, who was twenty years 
younger than her husband, cultivated the family's prominence in local 
society while distancing the children from their father. Bjo/rneboe 
relates in an unpublished autobiographical fragment that he felt stifled 
by the conventional and conservative small-town milieu. He was a sickly 
child and was often depressed and lonely. At fifteen he took a year off 
from school because of pleurisy and read voraciously. A book that made a 
decisive impression on him was Wolfgang Langhoff's Die Moorsoldaten: 13 
monate konzentrationslager (Peatbog Soldiers: Thirteen Months in a 
Concentration Camp, 1935; translated as Rubber Truncheon: Being an Account 
of Thirteen Months Spent in a Concentration Camp, 1935). This account by 
an escapee from the Oranienburg concentration camp set Bjo/rneboe to 
pondering the problem of evil and marked the beginning of his lifelong 
love-hate affair with German culture.

From early adolescence Bjo/rneboe became increasingly rebellious; his 
alcoholic tendencies also began at this time. He was expelled from several 
schools, worked as a deckhand on his father's ships, traveled on the 
Continent with his mother, and studied painting with the Kristiansand 
expressionist painter Edvard Vigebo. His father died in 1939. The 
following year Bjo/rneboe enrolled at the Kunst- og haondverkskolen 
(School of Art and Handicraft) in Oslo; the school was closed by the 
Germans soon after they invaded Norway on 9 April 1940, and Bjo/rneboe 
continued his studies at the painter Axel Revold's illegal art academy. 
For two years he shared an apartment with Vigebo and Vigebo's wife, who 
had moved to Oslo, and he and Vigebo--who had also studied with 
Revold--continued painting together. In Oslo he became acquainted with 
anthroposophy, the religious system founded by Rudolf Steiner, through his 
cousin André Bjerke and Bjerke's friend Karl Brodersen.

In 1943 Bjo/rneboe was warned that the Germans were about to conscript him 
for forced labor, and he and Brodersen fled to Sweden. Bjo/rneboe found 
lodgings with Karl Enqvist, a priest of the Steiner-inspired 
Kristensamfunn (Christian Community) church, where Bjo/rneboe participated 
in services as an acolyte. During the rest of the war years he deepened 
his acquaintance with anthroposophy and studied painting at the Kunglige 
Kunsthögskolan (Royal Academy of Art) in Stockholm under Isaac Grünewald, 
a former pupil of Henri Matisse. Bjo/rneboe made his debut as an artist in 
1944 with a solo exhibition of landscapes, portraits, and still lifes in 
which the most salient influence is that of Paul Cézanne.

The years in Stockholm brought Bjo/rneboe into close contact with many 
refugees from both the German and the Soviet regimes. In 1945 he married 
Lisel Funk, a German Jewish refugee he had met in anthroposophical 
circles. Bjo/rneboe returned to Norway with his bride and continued to 
paint; but he recalled in a 1971 interview with Odd Berset that is 
included in Samtaler med Jens Bjo/rneboe (Interviews with Jens Bjo/rneboe, 
1987), edited by Haovard Rem, that "Mens jeg malte . . . surret det inne i 
hodet mitt alltid en dialog . . . om kulturpolitiske, om sosiale, 
psykologiske, og andre problemer. Av og til ble jeg fortvilet, fordi jeg 
ikke maktet ao bremse denne ustoppelige dialogen, mens jeg malte" (As I 
painted . . . there was always a dialogue buzzing inside my head . . . 
about cultural, political, social, psychological, and other problems. I 
sometimes despaired because I could not manage to put the brakes on this 
unstoppable dialogue while I was painting). In 1946 he had a solo 
exhibition of forty-five paintings in Kristiansand and used the proceeds 
from the works he sold to buy a typewriter. The following year he appeared 
in print for the first time with an article about a Swedish painter, 
"Ernst Josephson--hans liv og kunst" (translated as "Ernst Josephson, His 
Life and Work," 2000), in the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten. (Bjo/rneboe 
continued to draw throughout his life but seems not to have painted after 

During the next few years Bjo/rneboe traveled on the Continent. He 
supported himself by writing travel letters to Aftenposten, often with 
witty illustrations, which were posthumously collected in Lanterner: 
Noveller, reisebrev, epistler (Lanterns: Short Stories, Travel Sketches, 
Epistles, 1977). He also tried his hand at an historical novella set in 
the early seventeenth century, Hertug Hans (Duke Hans), which was turned 
down by several publishers in 1948. The title character, the younger 
brother of Christian IV of Denmark, is to marry the czar's daughter after 
undertaking a mission to the Spanish general Ambrogio di Spinola, who is 
fighting the Protestants in the Netherlands. The horrors he encounters en 
route are too much for Hans's melancholic nature, and he wastes away and 
dies in Russia at the age of nineteen. When Hertug Hans was finally 
published in 1972, Bjo/rneboe wrote in the foreword that the novella 
"slutter seg konsekvent til nesten alt jeg senere har skrevet: sinnets 
mo/te med virkeligheten, med urettens og bestialitetens verden,--med det 
uforstaoelige at en i seg selv god og vakker verden er blitt ond og 
urettferdig" (was consistent with almost everything I have written since: 
the mind's meeting with reality, with the world of injustice and 
bestiality--with the incomprehensible fact that a world in itself good and 
beautiful has become evil and unjust). Still, Hertug Hans definitely 
belongs to Bjo/rneboe's early period and has a clear anthroposophical 

In 1950 Bjo/rneboe took a part-time job teaching carpentry at the Rudolf 
Steiner School in Oslo. The following year he became a full-time teacher 
in all subjects; he remained in that position until 1957. During much of 
this period he edited the school magazine, Ny skole (New School). His 
articles from that publication, elucidating various facets of Steiner's 
system of Waldorf education, as well as two short plays he wrote for 
performance by his pupils, were collected posthumously as Under en mykere 
himmel: Brev og bud fra en Steinerskole (Under a Gentler Sky: Letters and 
News from a Steiner School, 1976).

In 1950 Bjerke published four sonnets by Bjo/rneboe in the magazine Ordet 
(The Word), of which he was the editor. The following year Bjo/rneboe 
brought out his first book, the small collection Dikt (Poems); it was an 
instant success, going through three printings that fall. The poems are 
heavily inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke and the Norwegian lyric poet Olaf 
Bull; most are sonnets and other forms with rhyme and meter. Themes from 
the Bible, classical antiquity, and medieval and Renaissance art reflect 
Bjo/rneboe's affiliation with anthroposophy and Waldorf education, as well 
as his background as a painter. Poems of a more personal nature include 
some that deal with his childhood. The critics, while mostly positive, 
worried about Bjo/rneboe's aestheticism and lack of political engagement. 
Yet, the seeds of his later anarchism are present in such poems as "Fo/r 
solhverv" (Before the Solstice), a long ode to the nineteenth-century 
bohemian and anarchist Hans Jæger that concludes the collection.

On a visit to Germany in 1947 Bjo/rneboe had been given trial documents 
concerning medical experiments on prisoners in Nazi concentration camps by 
Sigmund Rascher; later he had come into contact with members of Rascher's 
family. Bjo/rneboe wrote about the case in a long article, "Det utrolige" 
(The Unbelievable), published in the magazine Spektrum in 1949, then used 
the material as the basis for a play. When the play was rejected by the 
Oslo Studioteatret (Studio Theater) in 1950, Bjo/rneboe turned it into the 
novel Fo/r hanen galer (Ere the Cock Crows, 1952).

The first two chapters of Fo/r hanen galer are a fictionalized 
first-person account of Bjo/rneboe's own experiences: a Norwegian 
journalist in postwar Germany encounters relief workers, a former SS man, 
and the widow and son of Reynhardt, who is based on Rascher, and pieces 
together the events of 1940. The narrator then disappears, and his 
reconstruction of the story is presented in the third person. It centers 
on the moral schizophrenia that enables Reynhardt to believe that his 
experiments on prisoners are ethically and politically neutral as he 
succumbs to pressure from the camp commandant, Heidebrand, to use his 
scientific prestige for political ends. In the end Heidebrand undergoes a 
spiritual transformation, while Reynhardt becomes thoroughly hated and is 
finally killed by the prisoners. Although the initial reception of the 
novel was in the main positive, most commentators agree that the content 
is not well served by the abrupt change of form after the strong opening.

Bjo/rneboe published a second poetry collection, Ariadne, in 1953. The 
fiftieth anniversary of Norway's independence called forth one of his most 
seminal essays, "Hans Jæger" (translated, 1999), published in Spektrum in 
1955 and collected in his Norge, mitt Norge: essays on formyndermennesket 
(Norway, My Norway: Essays on the Guardian Type) in 1968. He thinks that 
his own generation, having come of age with the Reichstag fire and the 
Moscow Trials, has more in common with fin de siècle sensibilities and the 
dire prophecies of Jaeger than with those who are celebrating the events 
of 1905. Building on Jæger's slogan, "Metafysikk eller selvmord" 
(Metaphysics or suicide), Bjo/rneboe works out an early statement of the 
tension between his own metaphysical and politically engaged sides by 
contrasting two archetypes: the "Monk," who keeps the metaphysical 
connection but risks losing "blodtilfo/relsen fra den jordiske virkelighet 
og dens problemer" (the blood supply from earthly reality and its 
problems), and the "Knight of the Grail," who, if he loses sight of the 
Grail, "mister sin navlestreng til det metafysiske som en gang faktisk 
satte ham igang, og alle hans gjerninger havner i meningslo/st slagsmaol 
og tomt stell" (loses the umbilical cord to the metaphysical realm that in 
fact once set him in motion, and all his deeds end up in meaningless 
fights and empty busyness). Bjo/rneboe sees Jæger as the quintessential 
"tapte Gralsridder" (failed Knight of the Grail): "han tapte metafysikken, 
men beholdt selvmordet" (he lost the metaphysics but kept the suicide).

Bjo/rneboe often used essays as preliminary sketches for longer works, and 
the essay on Jæger anticipates his next novel, Jonas (1955; translated as 
The Least of These, 1959), both with its portrait of Bjo/rneboe's 
generation and with its use of the Holy Grail legend. The novel draws on 
Bjorneboe's experiences as a teacher. A bright but dyslexic boy from a 
poor family is brutalized by the "salamanders," the bureaucrats of the 
Norwegian public-school system. When the authorities threaten to send him 
to a school for the retarded, he stows away on a ship. He is discovered by 
a sailor known only as Jungmannen (the Apprentice), whose history has 
elements in common with Bjo/rneboe's own. The boy and the sailor end up as 
pupil and teacher at a school much like the Steiner School, a milieu in 
which they can thrive.

Jonas was read as an attack on the Norwegian school system and awakened a 
storm of controversy. In the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang (11 October 1955) 
the writer Sigurd Hoel called it the most significant Norwegian novel 
since the war. In the essay "När jeg skrev Jonas" (translated as "When I 
Wrote Jonas," 2001), published in the Swedish magazine Bokvännen in 1956 
and collected in Bo/ker og mennesker: artikler i utvalg (Books and People: 
Selected Articles, 1979), Bjo/rneboe insists that the work was not 
intended as a tendentious novel but as a morality play based on the Holy 
Grail legends and the biblical story of Jonah. To the charge that the 
school authorities in his novel were caricatures rather than fully 
developed human beings he replied that they were intended as symbols of 
"systemet--det store vacuum. Dette er samtidens demoni: 'mennesket' uten 
blikk og trekk" (the system--the great vacuum. This is the demonic of our 
time--the "human being" without gaze or features). Jonas remains the most 
widely read of Bjo/rneboe's early novels. It includes some of the finest 
descriptions of childhood in Norwegian literature, as well as a moving 
portrait of the rootlessness of Bjo/rneboe's generation. It is also his 
longest work; it was heavily edited, and passages were rearranged, in the 
English translation.

In 1956 Bjo/rneboe visited the Goetheanum, the world headquarters of the 
anthroposophical movement in Dornach, Switzerland. While there, he read 
Bertolt Brecht's obituary in a Swiss newspaper. In the foreword to an 
unfinished book with the working title "Brecht--kommisær eller yogi?" 
(Brecht--Commissar or Yogi?), fragments of which are included in the 
posthumous collection Om Brecht (On Brecht, 1977), Bjo/rneboe says that 
despite his early immersion in German literature, his wartime acquaintance 
with refugees whose relatives Joseph Stalin had handed over to Adolf 
Hitler had caused him to avoid Brecht. But after reading the poem "An die 
Nachgeborenen" (To Those Born Later), reprinted in the newspaper that 
carried the obituary, he came to see Brecht in a wholly different light. A 
performance of Brecht's Die heiglige Johanna der Schlachthöfe (1932; 
translated as Saint Joan of the Stockyards, 1969) that he saw in Hamburg 
shortly afterward rekindled his long-dormant interest in the theater. 
Those two events began "en aorelang beskjeftigelse med Brechts diktning og 
teaterarbeide" (years of engagement with Brecht's writings and theater 
work), which included several sojourns with Brecht's Berliner Ensemble 
during which he studied Brecht's plays and observed the company's 
performance techniques.

Bjo/rneboe's next novel, Under en haordere himmel (Under a Harsher Sky, 
1957), also uses characters to represent moral abstractions. It takes aim 
at an even more explosive subject than Jonas: the treatment of Nazi 
collaborators in Norway after World War II. A family collaborates for 
reasons that are naive but well intentioned and is destroyed by the 
reprisals following the war. The villain is Wastrup, a leftist 
intellectual who cynically undermines the Norwegian constitutional 
provision against retroactive laws. He represents what Bjo/rneboe sees as 
the destructive, conflict-loving masculine principle, while the heroine, 
Fransiska, embodies the life-conserving, constructive feminine 
principle--a portrayal that some feminists have found offensive.

As with Jonas, the mythological structure Bjo/rneboe had intended for the 
novel was overshadowed by the topical subject matter. The book was met 
with virtually unanimous outrage: Bjo/rneboe was accused of falsifying the 
historical facts, oversimplification, and distortion, and he received 
death threats. Although in Metafysikk eller selvmord: et essay om Jens 
Bjo/rneboe og antroposofien (Metaphysics or Suicide: An Essay on Jens 
Bjo/rneboe and Anthroposophy, 1996) Kaj Skagen calls Under en haordere 
himmel one of Bjo/rneboe's most artistically successful novels, few other 
commentators have ever had a good word to say about it.

The attacks came at a time when Bjo/rneboe's marriage was breaking up; he 
had lost his job at the Steiner School; and he was suffering a resurgence 
of depression and alcoholism. Sentenced to jail for drunk driving, he fled 
to southern Europe and spent the next two years traveling, chiefly in 
Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. During this period he published a third 
poetry collection, Den store by (The Big City, 1958), and the comic novel 
Vinter i Bellapalma: av forfatteren Hans Berlows efterlatte papirer 
(Winter in Bellapalma: From the Posthumous Papers of the Writer Hans 
Berlow, 1958), a burlesque of Hemingway about the relations between 
tourists and natives in an Italian fishing village. This novel foreshadows 
Bjo/rneboe's treatment of the impact of globalization on a community in 
the play Fugleelskerne (1966; translated as The Bird Lovers, 1994)--the 
priest, Father Leone, is a clear prototype of Father Piccolino in the 
later work--and also anticipates elements in the Italian sections of 
Frihetens o/yeblikk: heiligenberg-manuskriptet (1966; translated as Moment 
of Freedom: The Heiligenberg Manuscript, 1975). It includes a sympathetic 
portrayal of a gay man, the first overt reference to homosexuality in 
Bjo/rneboe's writings. But the lighthearted tone of the novel is so unlike 
what readers had come to expect of Bjo/rneboe that it has been virtually 
ignored by critics.
The year 1959 was a pivotal one for Bjo/rneboe. He continued to prepare 
for his long-delayed debut as a dramatist during a long sojourn with the 
Berliner Ensemble. A second visit to Dornach provided closure to his 
formal affiliation with anthroposophy. In his 1984 biography Fredrik 
Wandrup quotes Bjo/rneboe as saying in a 1970 interview in the newspaper 
Morgenposten that he had come to see anthroposophy as "en lukket, 
autoritær bevegelse . . . stadig mer kryptisk, sekterisk, selvopptatt og 
verdensfjern" (a closed, authoritarian movement . . . increasingly 
cryptic, sectarian, self-absorbed and isolated from the world). 
Bjo/rneboe, however, remained a member of the Kristensamfunn until his 

On his return to Norway, Bjo/rneboe published Blaomann (Little Boy Blue, 
1959), a bildungsroman about the childhood and early manhood of Sem 
Tangstad, a gifted painter from a town resembling Kristiansand. As a child 
Sem, whose father committed suicide when Sem was an infant, is isolated 
from normal social relationships by his overprotective mother and two 
aunts; he finds solace in a set of illustrated books about European art 
museums, from which he assiduously copies the paintings. He studies with a 
local painter, attends art school in Oslo, marries, and has a child. He is 
regarded as a genius but does not exhibit. When he receives a substantial 
commission for a portrait, he squanders the money in a several-week-long 
drinking binge from which he emerges ready to move forward with his 
painting. Critics generally agree that the novel loses its way after a 
strong beginning, but recent scholarship has shown how Bjo/rneboe uses 
color to symbolize the tension between the physical and spiritual aspects 
of the protagonist's life.

In the fall of 1959 Bjo/rneboe served the several weeks' jail sentence for 
drunk driving that he had incurred two years earlier. He subsequently 
published a series of newspaper articles exposing the medieval punishments 
meted out to young offenders and the frequency of bizarre suicide 
attempts; in one case he accused the judicial authorities of murder. 
Readers reacted with shock, the authorities with silence. Bjo/rneboe used 
the prison material in the novel Den onde hyrde (The Evil Shepherd, 1960). 
Tonnie, the product of juvenile homes and a reformatory, is released from 
prison and attempts to go straight but is rejected by everyone but a 
former partner in crime. When he ends up back in prison, he retreats into 
catatonia. The insight that the bureaucracy's first priority is always 
self-defense crystallized the anti-authoritarian stance for which 
Bjo/rneboe became known in the 1960s.

Bjo/rneboe's first marriage was dissolved, and in March 1961 he married 
the actress and dancer Tone Tveteraas. The dramatist Helge Krog, who had 
been involved in a similar debate on prison conditions in the 1930s, 
proposed that he and Bjo/rneboe collaborate on a dramatization of Den onde 
hyrde. The collaboration was cut short by Krog's illness and death in 

Meanwhile, Bjo/rneboe was working out his own views on dramaturgy. He 
wrote an erotic comedy, Ingen har sett oss (No One Has Seen Us), in which 
the plot hinges on the gradual revelation of past events through 
conversation in the manner of Ibsen's plays. The work was accepted by the 
Oslo Nye Teater (New Theater) in 1961, but Bjo/rneboe withdrew it before 
it could be performed. He had decided that before he could make his debut 
as a dramatist he must find an alternative to the naturalist retro 
technique that, because of Ibsen, dominated the Norwegian theater. In the 
essay "Strindberg--den fruktbare" (translated as "Strindberg the Fertile," 
2001), published in Aftenposten (4 April 1963) and collected in Bo/ker og 
Mennesker, he says,

Pao den rent teatermessig plan er Strindberg blitt en inspirator, hvor 
Ibsen er blitt en belastning, en urokkelig gravsten som bevarer den 
teaterform som Ibsen behersket og derfor ville beholde uforandret. I den 
dramatiske verdenslittertur har Strindberg mange efterkommere, Ibsen 
ingen. Ogsao i sin sterilitet var han fullkommen.
(On a purely theatrical plane [August] Strindberg has become a source of 
inspiration, while Ibsen has become a burden, an immovable gravestone 
which preserves that form of theater which Ibsen mastered and therefore 
wished to keep unchanged. In dramatic world literature Strindberg has many 
descendants, Ibsen none. In his sterility too he was perfect.)

In quest of an alternative to Ibsen, Bjo/rneboe immersed himself in the 
work of such non-Norwegian innovators as Brecht, Strindberg, Williams, 
Marcel Marceau, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Henryk Tomaszewski and such 
pioneers as Carlo Goldoni and André Antoine. Many of the essays in the 
posthumous collections Om Brecht (On Brecht, 1977) and Om teater were 
first published during this period. In "Teatret i morgen" (translated as 
"The Theater Tomorrow," 2003), published in Ordet in 1963 and collected in 
Om Teater, Bjo/rneboe argues that as thought becomes more abstract in the 
nuclear age the theater must become more physical and concrete, drawing on 
pantomime and the circus:

Bak den frykteligste fysiske virkning menneskeheten hittil har 
iscenesatt--Hiroshima og Nagasaki--lao ogsao den abstrakteste tenkning 
some hittell er blitt prestert. Det mest paofallende ere altsao i hvilken 
grad den abstrakte tanke har inkarnert i materien. Det samme mao gjelde 
teatret; det filosofiske tankeinnhold vil ikke leve i dialogene eller 
monologene som tidligere,--men stadig mere direkte inkarnert i de 
fysisk-sceniske prosesser. . . . Et tidsmessig teater vil altsao bli baode 
vitenskapelig-filosofisk og sirkusmessig-fysisk pao én gang. Alt mao bli 
handling, og det vil bli definitivt slutt pao den gamle statuariske 
deklamasjon av "poetiske" eller "dypsindige" replikker.
(Behind the most horrible physical effects humanity has hitherto 
produced--Hiroshima and Nagasaki--lay the most abstract thinking that has 
so far been achieved. The most striking thing is thus the degree to which 
abstract thought has been incarnated in matter. The same must apply to the 
theater: the philosophical content will not come to life in dialogues or 
monologues as before--but must be ever more directly incarnated in 
physical stage processes. . . . A contemporary theater will thus be 
scientific and philosophical, and circus-like and physical, all at the 
same time. Everything must become action, and there will be a definitive 
end to the old statuary declamation of "poetic" or "profound" speeches.)

He embodied these ideas in the experimental fragment Amputasjonen (The 
Amputation), published in Ordet in 1964 and collected in Om Teater, but he 
did not think that he would find a troupe with the acrobatic ability to 
perform it.

In 1962 the Bjo/rneboes had moved to the former estate of the Jo/lsen 
family in Enebakk. Bjo/rneboe's next novel, Dro/mmen og hjulet (The Dream 
and the Wheel, 1964), follows the family for several generations but 
focuses on Holm Jo/lsen, who had attempted to industrialize the valley, 
and his daughter, the novelist Ragnhild Jo/lsen, who died from a drug 
overdose at thirty-three. The latter is Bjo/rneboe's most fully realized 
female character. His identification with her as an artist--her dark 
themes, her immersion in local pagan myths and rejection of conventional 
Christianity, and her resistance to finishing her chef d'oeuvre--enables 
him to transcend the conventional view of women for which he has often 
been criticized.

In 1963 Bjorneboe had completed the naturalistic drama based on Den onde 
hyrde that he and Krog had begun, but with the encouragement of the 
Israeli director Izzy Abrahami he took the material in a more experimental 
direction. To the story of Tonnie he added a sardonic counterpoint through 
the use of a two-tier stage set and three representatives of "the system": 
the prison director, chaplain, and doctor. The theatrical illusion is 
further broken by elements of circus and pantomime and by songs, with 
music by Finn Ludt, that contrast with and comment on the action. The play 
premiered at the Olso Nye Teater in February 1965 as Til lykke med dagen 
(Many Happy Returns).

Bjo/rneboe's second play appeared in two versions. Eugenio Barba's Odin 
Theater, then located in Oslo, staged an improvisatory version titled 
Ornithofilene after a working draft. It ran for fifty-one performances 
between October 1965 and March 1966 and gave Bjo/rneboe fresh insights for 
the final version, Fugleelskerne, which opened at the Nationaltheatret 
(National Theater) in November 1966 under the direction of Carl Maria 
(Charly) Weber and with music by Hans Dieter Hosalla, both of the Berliner 
Ensemble. The play is a savage satire of economic imperialism and the way 
greed destroys the sense of community. A group of Germans, some of them 
former Nazis, want to turn an Italian village into a tourist resort for 
bird-watchers; they are opposed by the local hunting club, which includes 
former partisans victimized by the same Nazis. After many plot twists, the 
defrocked priest, Father Piccolino, finds a way for the villagers to 
justify selling out. Fugleelskerne is considered Bjo/rneboe's best and 
most innovative play. It has been translated into many languages, and at 
least three English translations exist (only one has been published). In 
1967 the Nationaltheatret declined an invitation to perform the play at 
the International Theater Festival in Venice, exacerbating an already bad 
relationship between Bjo/rneboe, who was difficult to work with and was 
trying to challenge Ibsen's grip on Norwegian dramaturgy, and the 
Norwegian theater establishment. Bjo/rneboe, however, later admitted that 
the spectacle of Norwegians playing Italians in Italy would have been 

Also in 1966 Bjo/rneboe published the experimental bildungsroman Frihetens 
o/yeblikk, which is generally considered his masterpiece. The unnamed 
narrator is a rettstjener (rendered as "Servant of Justice" in the English 
translation, the word also means "court official") in the fictional Alpine 
principality of Heiligenberg. In his spare time he is writing a colossal 
multivolume work, The History of Bestiality. The narrator struggles to 
remember his past, his long years of wandering in "landet Kaos" (the Land 
of Chaos), and how he came to be in Heiligenberg. Like Bjo/rneboe, the 
narrator spent the war years in Stockholm and studied painting with 
Grünewald. He has also been in Germany--"min pæl i kjo/det . . . det kors 
jeg er spirket pao" (the thorn in my flesh . . . the cross I'm nailed 
to)--and in Italy, which gave him a liberating perspective. He has written 
fourteen "protocols," volumes of The History of Bestiality that mirror 
Bjo/rneboe's previous works. The central dynamic of the novel is the 
narrator's struggle to overcome his resistance to speaking his own truth 
about the world around him. In his Et speil for oss selv: menneskesyn og 
virkelighetsoppfatning i norsk etterkrigsprosa (A Mirror for Ourselves: 
View of Man and Conception of Truth in Postwar Norwegian Prose, 1968) Leif 
Longum contends that in this work Bjo/rneboe finally found a way to 
"uttrykke en ny virkelighet, som de gamle ordene, de gamle formene, ikke 
lenger strekke til for. . . . Den frigjo/ringsprosess boken forteller om, 
bekreftes av det den er: den forteller om en vilje til ao gi en personlig 
visjon av sannheten, her og nu, eksistentielt" (express a new reality for 
which the old words, the old forms, no longer suffice. . . . The process 
of liberation the book tells about is confirmed by what it is: it tells of 
a will to give a personal vision of the truth, here and now, 

For most Norwegians, however, Frihetens o/yeblikk was overshadowed by 
another Bjo/rneboe novel that appeared the same year: the pornographic 
Uten en traod (translated as Without a Stitch, 1969), an unflagging 
account of the sexual adventures of a young woman. Although it was 
published anonymously, the author was soon unmasked; the book was 
confiscated; and the author and publisher were prosecuted in a trial that 
was frequently in the headlines in 1967. The defense argued that the book 
was mild compared to much of the pornography freely available; but the 
book was banned (the prohibition was not lifted until the early 1990s). 
Bjo/rneboe and the publisher were each fined 100 kroner; Bjo/rneboe had to 
pay 5,000 kroner and the publisher 10,000 kroner in court costs, and both 
men were sentenced to two days in jail.

After losing an appeal to the Supreme Court--which even increased both the 
fine and the jail sentence--Bjo/rneboe wrote a sequel that was published 
in Denmark as Uden en trævl 2 (1968; translated as Without a Stitch 2, 
1971). It was dedicated to the Norwegian Supreme Court and included 
obscene, wittily surrealistic drawings by the author, mostly involving 
judges or policemen. That same year he published his first essay 
collection, Norge, mitt Norge. The many pieces related to the trial 
include Bjo/rneboe's 1957 defense of Agnar Mykle, whose Sangen om den 
ro/de rubin (1956; translated as The Song of the Red Ruby, 1961) had been 
the subject of a similar case. A section on the United States anticipates 
the theme that dominates his next collection, Vi som elsket Amerika: 
essays om stormaktsgalskap, straffelyst, kunst og moral (We Who Loved 
America: Essays on the Madness of Superpowers, the Desire to Punish, Art 
and Morals, 1970). He also published a mostly complete but 
nonchronological collection of his poetry, Aske, vind og jord: Sanger, 
viser, og dikt (Ashes, Wind and Earth: Songs, Ditties, and Poems, 1968), 
meant to show the affinities between his earlier and later work.

Semmelweis: et anti-autoritært skuespill (1968; translated as Semmelweis: 
An Anti-authoritarian Play, 1999) was intended as the first in a projected 
series of works about "frihetens historie" (the history of freedom). It is 
the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the discoverer of antisepsis. After finding 
that childbed fever could be prevented if doctors washed their hands 
before examining the mothers, Semmelweis spent the rest of his life 
battling to get a hearing from the medical establishment. The issue of 
class prejudice looms large in the play as the prestige of the doctors 
takes precedence over the welfare of the lower-class women and the 
authority of the textbooks overrides the empirical findings of the "mad 
Hungarian" who gets his ideas from prostitutes and toilet cleaners. 
Bjo/rneboe's first play without songs, Semmelweis is of epic length, with 
many short scenes and minimal sets that can be shifted quickly. A statue 
of Semmelweis, unveiled at the beginning and present throughout the play, 
serves in various ways as a prop. The play begins and ends with framing 
scenes evocative of the student protests of the 1960s; meant to lend 
contemporaneity, underline the anti-authoritarian message, and provide a 
contrast with the docility of the medical students in the central play, 
the scenes seem dated today and are relegated to an appendix in Joe 
Martin's translation.

Kruttaornet (La Poudrière): vitenskapelig efterord og siste protokoll 
(1969; translated as Powderhouse: Scientific Postscript and Last Protocol, 
2000) is a sequel to Frihetens o/yeblikk. The preoccupation with the 
atrocities of the twentieth century in the first volume is supplemented by 
a longer historical perspective. The narrator now occupies an ambiguous 
position as caretaker and, probably, patient in a private asylum in 
Alsace. The inmates include an American general, a Soviet ambassador's 
wife, and others symbolic of contemporary ills. The unorthodox methods of 
treatment used by the chief physician, Lefèvre, include allowing the 
patients to give lectures; three of the lectures form the core of the 
book. In the first lecture the narrator discusses "Den permanente 
Heksejakt" (the permanent witch-hunt), which he sees as a constant of 
Western civilization; LaCroix, a retired executioner, lectures on capital 
punishment from the executioner's point of view; and Lefèvre, in 
"Kjetterbaolenes kultur" (The Culture of the Stake), asks what gives a 
human being the strength to suffer torture and death for the sake of 
truth. Interspersed with the lectures are conversations; lyrical, 
pastoral, and erotic interludes; and an abortive murder mystery. The 
formal experiment is too daring to be entirely successful. In Keeper of 
the Protocols: The Works of Jens Bjo/rneboe in the Crosscurrents of 
Western Literature (1996) Martin contends that "The boundaries which 
define our conception of what a novel is are forced to expand or even 
dissolve under the pressure of texts such as this one, in which so many 
conflicts in style, form and content are held between two covers."

In late 1969 the Swedish director Martha Vestin asked Bjo/rneboe if he had 
any material she could use. The following year Amputasjon: arenaspill i én 
akt (1970; translated as Amputation, 2003), a revised and expanded version 
of the 1964 fragment, was staged in Stockholm by the Friteatern (Free 
Theater), which at that time was associated with the touring company of 
the Svenska Riksteatern (Swedish National Theater); the Swedish troupe 
brought the play to Oslo in 1971. It is a dystopian satire set in a future 
when all individual differences have been eradicated. Deviants are 
brutally "normalisert" (normalized) or, if that procedure fails, become 
human guinea pigs. The setting is a surgical amphitheater where 
"disiplinærkirurgi" (disciplinary surgery) is about to be performed on a 
deviant. Two rival surgeons, representing the United States and the Soviet 
Union, have conflicting theories about what kind of surgery is needed. The 
added material includes four vignettes showing how various characters were 
or were not "normalized"--cured of such deviant behavior as thinking for 
oneself, being a virgin, or liking solitude. Critics found the unrelieved 
brutality of the play hard to endure. The first of Bjo/rneboe's plays to 
be performed in English, it was produced in Solrun Hoaas's translation in 
1977 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and in Canberra, Australia.

In 1972 Bjo/rneboe wrote a series of newspaper articles arguing that 
Fredrik Fasting Torgersen, who had been convicted of murder in 1958 and 
sentenced to life imprisonment, was innocent. The articles, which provoked 
a furious debate, are included in his third essay collection, Politi og 
anarki, published the same year. The collection also includes Bjo/rneboe's 
fullest statement on anarchism, the essay "Anarchismen--idag?" (translated 
as "Anarchism--Today?" 1998). He writes that "anarchismen idag bare kan 
eksistere som innslag" (anarchism today can exist only as a leaven) but 
that the leaven is essential: "Et samfunn er et sundt samfunn bare i den 
grad det viser anarkistiske trekk" (A society is a healthy society only to 
the degree that it exhibits anarchistic traits). The following year 
Bjo/rneboe's documentary play, Tilfellet Torgersen (The Torgersen Case), 
was produced at Scene 7, a small ensemble theater in Oslo. Conceived 
primarily as propaganda, the play lends itself better to reading than to 

"The History of Bestiality" became a trilogy with the publication of 
Stillheten: en anti-roman og absolutt aller siste protokoll (1973; 
translated as The Silence: An Anti-novel and Absolutely the Very Last 
Protocol, 2000). To the historical perspective of Kruttaornet Bjo/rneboe 
adds geographical distance, with the aim of viewing the European 
Continental sickness from outside. The narrator is now sojourning in an 
unnamed country in North Africa. The theme is colonialism, and Bjo/rneboe 
uses the narrator's alcoholism as a metaphor for European dependence on 
the exploitation of other peoples. The novel moves back and forth in time 
as the narrator has conversations with Ali, an African revolutionary, and 
with Christopher Columbus, Maximilien Robespierre, and God. There are 
mock-epic accounts of Hernando Cortez's and Francisco Pizarro's conquests 
of Mexico and Peru, and a guilt-ridden American Vietnam veteran is killed 
by a mob of hungry children. An encounter with a child prostitute sends 
the narrator into a drinking-and-sleeping-pill binge during which his 
subconscious wrestles with issues of individual and social transformation, 
and he emerges with new energy and hope.

Stillheten brought Bjo/rneboe Kritikkerprisen (The Norwegian Critics' 
Prize), as well as the Swedish Academy's Dobloug Prize, but, like 
Kruttaornet, it got mixed reviews. The two books involve quite different 
mixes of Bjo/rneboe's metaphysical and engaged sides and seem to appeal to 
different audiences: in general, critics who admired Kruttaornet regarded 
Stillheten as a sellout to leftist ideological fashions, while those who 
liked Stillheten saw Kruttaornet as reactionary; readers, too, tend to 
prefer one novel over the other.
After completing Stillheten, Bjo/rneboe suffered a prolonged bout with 
alcoholism and depression and spent several months in a clinic. He 
increasingly experienced blackouts and did bizarre things that he did not 
remember afterward. His status as a cult figure for youth, and his coming 
out as a bisexual, added to the chaos of his life.

The cabaret sketch Dongery: en collage om forretningsstaanden og om 
markedsfo/rerens liv (Blue Jeans: A Collage about Sales and the Life of a 
Marketer), produced in 1974 and published in 1976, was Bjo/rneboe's last 
completed play. It satirizes the advertising industry's penchant for 
turning social issues into moneymaking commodities--for example, by 
packaging starvation in India as a series of coffee-table books aimed at 
different audiences. This return to the musical genre lacks the energy and 
bite of its predecessors.

Bjo/rneboe's final novel, Haiene: historien om et mannskap og et forlis 
(1974; translated as The Sharks: The Story of a Crew and a Shipwreck, 
1992), is an allegorical sea story. The narrator, Peder Jensen, is second 
mate and medical officer on the bark Neptune, which sails from Manila in 
the fall of 1899 with a crew drawn from the oppressed classes and the 
third world and officers from the privileged classes. Jensen becomes a 
surrogate father for the deck boy Pat and mediates between officers and 
forecastle as the tensions grow into mutiny and the forces of nature 
compel cooperation for the sake of survival. The work is an anarchist 
allegory with a strong dose of mysticism and functions as a kind of coda 
to "The History of Bestiality" trilogy in that the themes broached there 
are here presented in a much more accessible form. The novel was 
universally acclaimed and was an instant best-seller. In a letter dated 2 
November 1974 Bjo/rneboe described the attendant publicity as "en blanding 
av mareridt og triumf" (a mixture of nightmare and triumph).

In the fall of 1974, as his second marriage disintegrated, Bjo/rneboe 
moved to an apartment in Oslo, but "byen Python" (the city Python), as he 
called it, soon overwhelmed him. In 1975 he bought a house and land on 
Veierland, an island off the old whaling town of To/nsberg, hoping for the 
peace to write his memoirs but managing only an unpublished fragment. He 
also planned to complete Ro/d Emma (Red Emma), a play about the anarchist 
Emma Goldmann. He attempted to stop drinking and published a long 
free-verse poem, "Farvel--bror Alkohol" (Farewell--Brother Alcohol) in the 
Oslo newspaper Dagbladet (27 December 1975); it is included in his Samlede 
dikt (Collected Poems, 1977). He had many visitors, including his 
daughters and young admirers, but was often alone. He was in constant pain 
from advancing cirrhosis, and after a harrowing journey to Oslo to read 
his poetry for the recording Vaopenlo/s (Defenseless, 1976), he committed 
suicide at Veierland on 9 May 1976. Shortly before his death he had 
received a grant to go to Japan to study Japanese whaling practices for a 
novel to be set in the future.

After Bjo/rneboe's death the struggle over his legacy began. At his 
funeral, conducted according to the ritual of the Kristensamfunn, a group 
of anarchists placed a red and black flag over the coffin. A fragment of 
Ro/d Emma, which Bjo/rneboe had written in the English and German of the 
sources he used, was translated into Norwegian by an anarchist collective 
and published in a pirated edition by Forlaget Bjo/rnsens grav in 1976 but 
was suppressed after a protest from Bjo/rneboe's estate. The following 
year a program of readings from his work at Nationaltheatret was disrupted 
by anarchists who read a manifesto accusing the organizers of the 
performance of exploiting and perverting Bjo/rneboe's work now that he 
could no longer defend himself.

Posterity has tried to render Bjo/rneboe "safe." The Henie-Onstad Art 
Center, a modern-art gallery in Ho/vikodden that Bjo/rneboe had attacked 
as a symbol of capitalist hegemony over the arts, commemorated the 
seventy-fifth anniversary of his birth in the fall of 1995 with an exhibit 
of his paintings and drawings. It was not well received by fans of his 
later writing. In a 2001 memoir the writer Sven Kærup Bjo/rneboe comments 
on the significance of the paintings for his uncle's career:

Jens' styrke som saokalt anarkist, og det faktum at han av samtlige 
samfunnsstormere i 60- og 70-aorene har overlevet med sitt oppro/r og 
fremdeles inspirerer de unge, skyldes denne ballasten av kunnen, og 
selvdisiplin. Naor han fo/rst slaor haoret ut og gyver lo/s pao Makten, 
pao autoritetene, skjer det med en tyngde i slaget som de o/vrige 
rebellene manglet.

(Jens's strength as a so-called anarchist, and the fact that he out of all 
the radical assailants of the system in the Norway of the 1960s and 1970s 
has survived with his rebellion and still inspires the young, are due to 
this ballast of craft, and self-discipline. When he first tears his hair 
and lets fly at Power, at the authorities, it happens with a weight in his 
punches which the other rebels lacked.)

There was a similar synergy between Bjo/rneboe's activist and 
contemplative sides. His nephew comments, "Til siste forble han en 
metafysicus og en rebell. . . . den ene ikke utelykket den andre, men 
forutsatte hverandre" (To the end he remained a metaphysician and a rebel. 
. . . the one did not exclude the other, but they presupposed each other). 
In his preface to Aske, vind og jord, Jens Bjorneboe wrote:

Den mest aopenbare motsetning i det jeg har skrevet siden jeg debuterte i 
1951, har vært spenningen mellom en sterkt innadvendt, avgjort metafysisk 
legning pao den ene side--og en like sterkt utadvendt, polemisk og 
dokumentarisk, "samfunnsengasjert" og egentlig revolutionær holdning pao 
den annen side. For meg ligger der ingen virkelig motsetning i disse to 
ytterligheter, og jeg har ikke o/nsket ao viske motsetningen ut.
(The most obvious contrast in what I have written since my debut in 1951 
has been the tension between a strongly introverted, decidedly 
metaphysical leaning on the one hand--and a just as strongly extroverted, 
polemic and documentary, "socially engaged" and downright revolutionary 
attitude on the other. For me there is no real opposition between these 
two extremes, and I have not wished to erase the contradiction.)

Jens Bjo/rneboe strove throughout his career to maintain these two poles 
in tension. His refusal to abandon either one remains a perennial 
stumbling block for his critics. The wish to identify this or that aspect 
of his work as "the real Bjo/rneboe," together with the myths and scandals 
surrounding his life, continue to make it difficult to assess his 
achievement. As the specific controversies and issues in which Bjo/rneboe 
was engaged recede into the background, however, the essential unity of 
his vision is becoming clearer.

Papers:  Jens Bjo/rneboe's manuscripts are in the archives of the 
Gyldendal publishing firm in Oslo. His other papers and books are in the 
possession of his heirs.



* Samtaler med Jens Bjo/rneboe, edited by Haovard Rem (Oslo: Dreyer, 
* Aud Gulbransen and Jadwiga Teresa Kvadsheim, Jens Bjo/rneboe: En 
bibliografi (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1978).
* Esther Greenleaf Mürer, "Bibliography of Literature about Jens 
Bjo/rneboe, 2: Selected Articles Published since 1976," Jens Bjo/rneboe in 
English (January 2000) <http://emurer.home.att.net/about/aboutart.htm>.
* Mürer, "Bibliography of Literature about Jens Bjo/rneboe, 1: Books and 
Dissertations," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (March 2002) 
* Fredrik Wandrup, Jens Bjo/rneboe: mannen, myten og kunsten (Oslo: 
Gyldendal, 1984).
* Sven Kærup Bjo/rneboe, Onkel Jens: Et familieportrett av Jens Bjo/rneboe 
(Oslo: Aschehoug, 2001).


* Arken, special Bjo/rneboe issue, 4 (Winter 1981).
* Atli Evje, "Jens Bjo/rneboe: '. . . det er jo lyrikker jeg egentlig 
er,'" in Frihet! Sannhet! edited by Yngvild Risdal Otnes (Oslo: Pax, 
1977), pp. 131-153; translated by Esther Greenleaf Mürer as ". . . After 
All, I'm Basically a Poet," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (August 1999), part 
1: "The 1950s" <http://emurer.home.att.net/about/evje1.htm>; part 2: "The 
1960s" <http://emurer.home.att.net/about/evje2.htm>.
* Janet Garton, Jens Bjo/rneboe: Prophet without Honor (Westport, Conn.: 
Greenwood Press, 1985).
* Øyvind Gulliksen, "Bjo/rneboe og Amerika," Norsk litteraer aorbok 
(1976): 157-169; translated by Mürer as "Bjo/rneboe and America," Jens 
Bjo/rneboe in English (28 September 1999) 
* Gulliksen, "Tunnel of Love: American Influences on Norwegian Culture," 
in Images of America in Scandinavia, edited by Poul Houe and Sven Haokon 
Rossel (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi, 1998), pp. 101-127.
* John M. Hoberman, "The Political Imagination of Jens Bjo/rneboe: A Study 
of Under en haordere himmel," Scandinavian Studies, 48 (1976): 52-70.
* Espen Haavardsholm, "Av jorden har vi gjort et slakterhus," in 
Forfatternes litteraturhistorie, volume 4, edited by Kjell Heggelund, 
Simen Skjo/nsberg, and Helge Vold (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1981), pp. 216-229; 
republished as "Jens Bjo/rneboe," in Haavardsholm, Essays i utvalg (Oslo: 
Forlaget Oktober, 1996), pp. 15-32.
* Jens Bjo/rneboe: Bilder (Ho/vikodden: Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, 1995).
* Jens Bjo/rneboe in English <http://emurer.home.att.net/index.htm>.
* Oddbjo/rn Johannessen, "Det autoritære og 'svikerne': En kortfattet 
studie i en bjo/rnboesk temakrets med utgangspunkt i skuespillet 
Semmelweis," Sro/landsk magasin, 7 (1991): 50-53; translated by Mürer as 
"The Authoritarian and 'the Traitors,'" Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (August 
1999) <http://emurer.home.att.net/about/sem-oj.htm>.
* Johannessen, "Jens Bjo/rneboe and the Norwegian Theater," translated by 
Mürer, in Amputation: Texts for an Extraordinary Spectacle, edited by Karl 
Kvitko (Los Angeles: Xenos, 2003), pp. 137-142.
* Gary Kern, "Bjo/rneboe's Great Failure: The History of Bestiality," in 
Genre at the Crossroads: The Challenge of Fantasy, edited by George 
Slusser and Jean-Pierre Barricelli (Riverside, Cal.: Xenos, 2003), pp. 
* Inge S. Kristiansen, Jens Bjo/rneboe og Antroposofien: En analyse av 
esoteriske og mytologiske motiver med hovedvekt pao det sene 
forfatterskapet (Oslo: Solum, 1989).
* Steinar Lem, Bjo/rneboes menneskesyn i "Frihetens o/yeblikk" (Oslo: 
Aschehoug, 1981).
* Leif Longum, Et speil for oss selv: Menneskesyn og 
virkelighetsoppfatning i norsk etterkrigsprosa (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1968).
* Longum, "Jens Bjo/rneboe and the Laughter of Tuscany," in I rapporti tra 
Italia e Europa del nord nella letteratura e nell'arte: Giornate 
scandinavie 3-5 maggio 1989, edited by Randi Langen Moen (Bologna: 
Universita di Bologna, 1992), pp. 127-136.
* Longum, "Jens Bjo/rneboes Fugleelskerne: tidslo/shet og 
samtidsproblematikk," in his Drama-analyser fra Holberg til Hoem (Oslo: 
Universitetsforlaget, 1977), pp. 114-126; translated by Mürer as "Jens 
Bjo/rneboe's The Bird-Lovers: Timelessness and Contemporary Problematic," 
Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (October 1999) 
* Joe Martin, Keeper of the Protocols: The Works of Jens Bjo/rneboe in the 
Crosscurrents of Western Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 1996).
* William Mishler, "Jens Bjo/rneboe, Anthroposophy and Hertug Hans," Edda 
(1987): 167-178.
* Mürer, "Glossary of Historical Persons Mentioned in Jens Bjo/rneboe's 
Last Four Novels," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (August 1999) 
* Mürer, "Jens Bjo/rneboe's Winter in Bellapalma: Hemingway Tribute, 
Harbinger of Works to Come," Jens Bjo/rneboe in English (June 1999) 
* Mürer, "Mad Scientists and Moral Outrage: The Genesis of Jens 
Bjo/rneboe's Amputation," in Bjo/rneboe, Amputation: Texts for an 
Extraordinary Spectacle, translated by Mürer and Solrun Hoaas, edited by 
Karl Kvitko (Los Angeles: Xenos, 2003), pp. 143-166.
* Mark Mussari, "Color: The Material of Immateriality in Jens Bjo/rneboe's 
Blaomann," Edda (1999-2000): 340-349.
* Yngvild Risdal Otnes, ed., Frihet! Sannhet! Temaer i Jens Bjo/rneboes 
forfatterskap (Oslo: Pax, 1977).
* Kaj Skagen, Jens Bjo/rneboe om seg selv (Oslo: Ekstrabokklubben, 1984).
* Skagen, Metafysikk eller selvmord: Et essay om Jens Bjo/rneboe og 
antroposofien (Oslo: Cappelen, 1996).
* So/rlandsk Magasin, special Bjo/rneboe issue, 12 (1996).
* Ottil Tharaldsen, Kvinnesyn og mannsrolle i fire romaner av Jens 
Bjo/rneboe (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1977).
* Sigurd Aa. Aarnes, "'Det ondes problem': Nazismen i Jens Bjo/rneboes 
dikting," in Nazismen og norsk litteratur, edited by Bjarte Birkeland and 
Stein Ugelvik Larsen (Bergen & Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1975), pp. 
173-194; translated by John Weinstock as "'The Problem of Evil'--Nazism in 
Jens Bjo/rneboe's Writing," in The Nordic Mind: Current Trends in 
Scandinavian Literary Criticism, edited by Weinstock and Frank Egholm 
Andersen (Lanham, Md.: University Presses of America, 1986), pp. 223-250.

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