Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne Martinius (1832–1910) By D’Amico, Giuliano
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson is one of the most important Scandinavian writers of the second half of the 19th century, a novelist and playwright as well as a journalist, theater director, and political activist. In the Scandinavian context, he was a pioneer of a variety of literary forms, including late Romantic prose, historical and bourgeois drama, and the modern novel. He was deeply involved in the literary and political debates of his age, both in Norway and elsewhere in Europe, where he enjoyed, at least until his death, a degree of public recognition. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1903.
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson made his literary debut in 1857 with Synnøve Solbakken, the first of a series of prose works which combined a late Romanticism with an interest in the contemporary period and its problems. The main characters Synnøve and Thorbjørn, and the contrast between good and evil they represent, are still dependent on the stylization of Romanticism, but the environment in which they grow comprises a problematic social space in which alcoholism and bigotry plague the population. Such a duality is also evident in Bjørnson’s historical plays published between 1857 and 1862. His production took a turn towards the Modern Breakthrough with the play En Fallit [A Bankruptcy] (1875), which introduced theatrical realism in Scandinavia and paved the way for Henrik Ibsen.