Jens Bjørneboe – Norway 1920 – 1976

Jens Bjørneboe (October 9, 1920–May 9, 1976) was a Norwegian painter, dramatist, essayist and novelist. His first published work was Poems (Dikt) in 1951. He is widely considered to be one of Norway’s most important post-war authors. Bjørneboe identified himself as an anarcho-nihilist. He was both a sharp critic of the society and was obsessed by the question of evils and wrong doings. He thought himself as a manic-depressive person with abusive use of alcohol. Jens Bjørneboe was born in 1920, in Kristiansand. In 1943 Bjørneboe fled to Sweden to avoid forced labor. During this exile, he met the German Jew Lisel Funk, who would later become his first wife. After having struggled with depression and alcoholism for a long time, he committed suicide on May 9th, 1976. (Read all the rest, also his literary career – rest on wikipedia).

Jens Bjørneboe – Norway

He was thinking about Human Rights, like here: “To me the United States once symbolized everything that guaranteed the human rights which made life livable—but it did so less and less. Passion may arise with a sudden unquenchable power, but it may die out slowly. I cannot say exactly when it was, but one day I realized I no longer loved the United States. It must have been in the beginning of the 1950s. America had become dangerous, frightening, scary. It represented conformity, corruption, violence, the world’s strongest military, and it aspired to become a world ruler … we who loved America” (1967)”.

Amputation – Texts for an Extraordinary Spectacle: The Norwegian iconoclast Jens Bjørneboe described this work as “a wild, almost surrealistic play—partly sinister, partly comic … directed against those forms of society that do not allow room for people who think differently from those in power.” In the horrible world of Amputation the dissident indivudal who cannot be normalized by conditioned reflexes may yet serve society—in the medical sense”. Bjørneboe wrote two versions of the play.

Here, in one volume, are both, plus supplemental texts that provide all the materials for an extraordinary reading and, for the avant- garde theatrical group, an extraordinary production of Bjørneboe’s shocking and prophetic warning ( Edited by Karl August Kvitko, Xenos Books, Los Angeles, February 2003, ISBN 1-879378-46-9 (paper). $15.00).

“The problem of evil” was for Bjørneboe “the authoritarian problem”, as it finds expression in historical, political and pesonal form in the three novels Moment of Freedom, Powderhouse and The Silence. This theme can be summarized briefly in the following sentence: “Power, which is the sole existing principle, means only one thing: the opportunity to cause others pain.” In Norway’s world of work the authoritarian problem has ostensibly broken down. Today no CEOs or directors can regulate their workers in detail. The organizations are represented at the boss’s table, and words such as “the stipulated framework” and “rules of the game” seem soft and non-authoritarian. At the same time we know that the cult of leaders from the 1980s continues in the best of health. In addition money, efficiency and profitability have achieved a paramount position to which all other values must quietly submit. Today the people have truly become Homo consumens, as Bjørneboe describes them in Moment of Freedom.

In the “History of Bestiality” trilogy he takes up that part of world history which, while it hasn’t been hidden, is commonly treated under such general phrases as “conflicts,” “wars,” “massacres,” and “pogroms.” Here Bjørneboe describes the history of bestiality as an endless series of acts of tyrany toward human beings, torture, abuse, executions and genocide. Bjørneboe presses the following perception of world history on his readers: Life on earth could have been a paradise, but humans have made it into a slaughterhouse. It is the individual’s helplessness and lack of rights vis- …-vis power which is Bjørneboe’s theme. “His collected writings can be read as one long defense of the individual with a corresponding attack on all forms of authoritarian activity,” writes professor øystein Rottem in Norway’s Literary History. Bjørneboe himself expressed it thus in his last interview with H†kon Ringnes in the spring of 1976: “More important than the attack on the authoritarians’ docile conventional thinking is the defense of the individual—but these go hand in hand.” In much of his writing Bjørneboe gives us a feeling that people need a “defense” against themselves and against other people. This finds its strongest expression in the poem “Mea maxima culpa” from 1966 (see below). (Read more on Jens Bjørneboe in English).

“For 25 years Jens Bjørneboe was a center of unrest in Norwegian cultural life: Passionately concerned with contemporary problems in nearly all their aspects, controversial and with the courage to be so, with a conscious will to carry things to extremes. He was not to be pigeonholed. He dropped in on many philosophical and political movements, but couldn’t settle down in any of them. He was a wanderer, always traveling on in search of what was for him the truth — and he was a free man, in that he always ruthlessly followed his innermost intentions. Perhaps he could say, like Søren Kierkegaard, that “subjectivity is truth,” for he knew no other guide than his personal conviction and his own impulses — but he related not merely to himself; his deepest concern was society and the person in society. His subjective grasp always involved the totality.” aftenposten.

Jens Bjørneboe, 1920-76, was one of the most eminent Norwegian authors after the second- world war. He wrote novels, poems and dramas. He was both a sharp critic of the society and was obsessed by the question of evils and wrong doings. He thought himself as a manic-depressive person with abusive use of alcohol. The main objective of this thesis was to research and analyse his psychological health by modern diagnostic criteria.

I have studied biographies and Bjørneboe’s own writings and I have also had an interview with his wife, Tone Bjørneboe.

Through this study I have found that Jens Bjørneboe suffered from serious depressions during several periods of his life. In this context he developed abusive addiction to alcohol. Bjørneboe also had periods of impulsiveness and symptoms, which could be interpreted as hypomania. There is reason to believe that these signs of impulsiveness were an integrated part of his personality structure and not as an indication of bipolar disorder. He showed several symptoms that could be related to a borderline personality disorder. It is therefore, concluded that an extensive psychiatric investigation was necessary to provide with a precise diagnosis of his mental health. (Source Uni Oslo, a Student thesis written at the University of Oslo – see mainly next page of same link).

See also here the study itself in pdf, 52 pages in Norsk, on Books by

Moment of Freedom:

Ask me about “guilt”! It is a gruesome word.

Each is guilty of all that happens on earth!

In shame you needs must turn away your face:

The sins of one are those of the human race.

But man knows that he is doing wrong:

It is within our hearts that the law is stored,

And every tittle must be upheld by force.

What abides are evil figments from a carouse;

Of our planet we have made a slaughterhouse.

Jens Bjørneboe

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friends of jens;

english online archive.

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