Nobel Prize Laureate Author. He received international acclaim in 1903 as a Norwegian author who was the first from his country to received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in the remote village of Kvikne as the oldest son of a rural Lutheran pastor, he participated in the early movement of the National Norwegian Theater and wrote some poetic plays. Noted author Henrick Ibsen was a school classmate of his. Leaving home to attend the University of Oslo, he graduated in 1852 and became a theater critic for a newspaper. In 1857 he wrote the historical play “Between Battles” and became the stage director for two years at the Norwegian Theater in Bergan. The play, which had the setting in 12th century Norway, was a great success. Following with “Arne” in 1858 and “Happy Boy” in 1860, critics claim these earlier plays were his best. In the years of 1860 to 1863 he was in Italy where he was inspired by Michelangelo and the Greek sculptures. He wrote “Sigurd the Bastard” in 1862 and, along with Ibsen's 1863 “The Pretenders, ” represented the triumph of Norwegian Historical tragedy. During this time he wrote dozens of beautiful poems including the lyrics for the Norwegian National Anthem. He published a collection, “Poems and Songs,” in 1870. A second trip to Italy from 1873 to 1875 brought about works concerned with political and social problems, which included “The Bankrupt” and “The Editor” in 1875 and “The King” in 1877. After reading Charles Darwin's “On the Origin of Species” and dealing with the loss of Christian ideals in the secular society, he abandoned the church. Leaving his estate of Aulestad in Gausdal, he left Norway again in 1882 to lived in Europe for five years. In 1883 he wrote a play, “A Gauntlet,” which dealt with liberal sexual attitudes of the Bohemians. He then wrote educational novels “The Heritage of the Kurts” in 1884 and “In God's Way” in 1889. In his later works he addressed the subjects of a woman's right to divorce, school reform, and political and religious intolerance. Bjornson's plays were the first Norwegian works that were performed outside the Scandinavian countries. He became political with a strong social conscience with some radical point of views for this era and not always agreeing with elected officials. He was a defender of the Norwegian cultural and political independence and in the end he was fighting for world peace and rights for all oppressed people. In 1895 he wrote the play “Beyond Human Power.” His last important plays were “Paul Lange” in 1899 and “When the Wine Blooms” in 1909. Bjornstjeme Martinius Bjornson's collected works were published in nine volumes in 1919. He has been placed in Norwegian literature along with “The Four Greats,” Alexander Kieland, Jonas Lie, and Ibsen. Sculptor Stephan Sinding's statue of him stands outside the National Theater. He married and had five children to live to adulthood.
Bio by: Linda Davis