The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor's daily NPR broadcast and email newsletter, had a nice write-up today on the Norwegian novelist Johan Borgen:
It's the birthday of Norwegian novelist, journalist, playwright, and short-story writer Johan Borgen, (books by this author) born in Christiania (now Oslo) (1902). His mother was a good artist and his father was a lawyer who owned a lot of land, and Johan grew up in affluence—the sort that he came later to satirize in his writing.
After World War I ended, Borgen started law school. But he found it boring and wanted to be a writer. He began writing for various newspapers, including the Dagbladet, which at the time was affiliated with the Liberal Party and is now a daily tabloid. He published his first book, a collection of short stories, at the age of 23 and spent much of the 1930s as a journalist, writing witty and biting satire about corrupt politicians and about various social issues. He also wrote several works of fiction, many of which revolved around the theme of identity, man's exploration of himself. He said:
"Personally I believe that man's fascination for art lies in our unsatisfied desire for identity. I believe that our unarticulated longing for freedom, our painful and impractical and completely unreasonable longing for freedom derives simply from the fact that we are shut up inside that system of apparent necessities which is called our personality, or which we call our personality, because we need to fasten a fine-sounding name to the cage in which we have shut ourselves up. … We live a crippled life, shut up inside the narrow cage of considerations, caught in the net of expectations." (Words Through the Years, 1966)His novels include Little Lord (1955), Dark Springs (1956), and We Have Him Now (1957), which together comprise a trilogy, as well as Blue Peak (1964), and My Arm, My Intestine (1972).
Borgen won a Nordic Council literary prize for his collection of short stories (in 1967 for Nye Noveller), after which critic Sven Rossel wrote, "Borgen is a master of representing sudden outbreaks of forgotten or suppressed spiritual powers. The primary goal for him is not to tell a story or to reproduce a picture of external reality; rather, his short stories are studies, sudden dives into the dark ravings of the spirit or of a dark past, spotlights on the ironic paradoxes of human existence."