JONAS LIE (1833 - 1908)
Jonas Lie was born in Hokksund (Hon Farm), but spent his childhood in Tromsø,
to which his family had moved when he was five years old. His father
worked there as a judge. The seafarers, winter storms and storms at
sea, Russian traders, Lapps and Finns, inspired Lie´s imagination and in his books he often returned to Nordland. Following his father´s footsteps, Lie was educated at the University of Christiania as a lawyer. He began practice in 1859 at Kongsvinger and married in 1860 his cousin Thomasine Lie. At the same time Lie worked as a journalist and timber merchant. Because of unsuccessful financial speculations, Lie lost his property in the economic crisis of 1865-68.
Norwegian novelist who is considered one of the four great ones of the 19th century Norwegian literature. The others are Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and Alexander Kielland.
Jonas Lie stands out for his impressionistic style, picking out
only significant details of setting, atmosphere, mood, and speech. In
his first novels Lie mingled realistic with fantastic elements. Lie´s
studies of family life, such as "The Family at Gilje", and stories of
the life of the fishermen and the stormy Arctic Ocean, represent his
With much encouragement from his wife and with her collaboration, Lie devoted himself to writing from 1868 and moved in Christiania (Oslo). Lie´s first work, "Den fremsynte eller billeder fra Nordland", appeared in 1870 and earned him a scholarship. The novel centered on Lie´s
childhood impressions of life in an Arctic seaport. It was followed by
the first Norwegian story of sea and of business life, "TREMASTEREN
FREMTIDEN ELLER LIV NORDPÅ". His early novels were not
successfull, but showed his skill at depicting seafaring people.
One of Lie´s
central works is "FAMILIEN PAA GILJE", a classic novel that deals with
the position of women. The tragedy of Gilje family is set against warm,
happy moments of everyday life, which give the dark story a contrast.
"KOMMANDØRENS DØTRE" also portrayed the constrains on women and other
problems of Norway´s increasingly irrelevant upper class, but in more
bitter tone. Disillusioned "LIVSSLAVEN", about the slums, was
influenced by Emile Zola. "LODSEN OG HANS HUSTRU" dealt with maritime life in the far north. "MAISA JOHNS" was about a poor seamstress.
The much anthologized short story "Elias and the Draugh" was included in a collection originally published by Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, and has been reprinted for instance in Roald Dahl´s
Book of Ghost Stories. In the tale a poor fisherman plunges a harpoon
into a back of a seal or so he thinks. The creature vanishes into the
sea in a spray of mingled blood and water. He sees the creature again,
with a long iron prong projecting from its back, in a boat house. Elias
buys a "fembøring", the famous Norland fishing-boat, and sets
to sail home with his family. On the dark sea he meets a rival boat.
The sea strucks his vessel. His wife, taken by the sea, calls his name.
Elias cannot help her and he decides to save the three children he has
on board. At that he was convinced in his innermost soul of two things:
one was that it was none other than the Draugh himself who sat steering
his half-boat alongside his and who had lured him on to destruction,
and the other was that he was fated no doubt this night to sail the sea
for the last time. For he who sees the Draugh at sea is a marked man.
Draugh, a sea monster, sails with a crew of men lost at sea who have
not received Christian burial. Elias loses his two sons during the
night, he tells his Bernt, the youngest, all about the Draugh, who he
had wounded him in the neck and how the Draugh was now taking his
revenge. In the morning Elias throws himself into the sea, crying: "Im
going to mother. In Jesus´s name!" Bernt is saved, but he would never
go to sea.
In his works Lie has depicted business life,
the sea, social misfortunes, the narrow and conventional existence
endured by Norwegian middle-class women, and other subjects with sharp
sense of social realism. Differing from many of his 19th century
colleagues, Lie rarely used his writings for the more direct
type of social discussion, which gave many novels of the time the tone
of tracts. Although "The Barque Future (1872) took its theme from
Pierre Joseph Proudhon´s famous slogan "Property is theft", it
juxtaposed coolly, almost journalistically old and greedy merchandising
with new ideas and enterprising spirit.
In "The Peasant and Prima" Lie expresses his admiration of the simple life style of peasants. Evina, a young girl from the backwoods of Finland,
likes sing from morning to night to her heart´s content. Her beautiful
voice attracts the attention of a stranger just before she is due to
marry Vermund, a young man from her neighborhood. The stranger
persuades her to follow him and became rich. Evina gains success as an opera singer.
learns to speak foreign languages, drink champagne, and have all the
things she wants. Years pass and her high notes are no longer so full
and pure. She gradually loses all her property to creditors. Evina
returns to her birth place and marries Vermund who has faithfully
waited for her. In the evening, Evina sat in the chimney-corner and
stirred the pot, humming the while arias and fragments of melody from
the operas as they rose in her mind, much like a song-bird that is
hoarse and only occasionally can bring its voice into tune.
With this story Lie
seems to say, that all the artistic glory and fame is temporary, and
nothing compared to peace of mind. Toward the end of his life Lie
became more pessimistic and naturalism gave way to mystic views.
wrote two volumes of fairy tales called TROLD (some translated
as "Weird Tales from Northern Seas"), which draw on his knowledge of
the folklore of the far North and Lapp magic.
In "Finn Blood" a fisher named Eilert has prejudices against Finns, his
neighbors. He believes that they practice sorcery and idolatry. After a
shipwreck he experiences a strange adventure at the bottom of the sea.
He then wakes up from his delirious sleep, and the Mermaid of his dream
turns out to be a young girl, a Finn his neighbors had rescued him.
After that it seemed to him that he had never heard anything so absurd
and presumptuous as the twaddle that would fix a stigma of shame or
contempt on Finn blood, and the same spring he and the Finn girl Zilla
were betrothed, and in the autumn they were married.Lie wrote these tales in a simple epic style, but in later novels he returned to his earlier realism.
marriage with Thomasine was happy. They lived in Rome and from 1882 to
1906 in Paris. In 1906 they returned to Norway. Thomasine Lie died in
1907 and Jonas Lie in their home "Elisenfryd" in Stavern on July 5, 1908.
DEN FREMSYNDE ELLER
BILLEDER FRA NORDLAND, 1870
The Visionary or Pictures from NordlandFORTELLINGER OG
SKILDRINGER FRA NORGE, 1872TREMASTEREN FREMTIDEN, 1872
The Barque FutureLODSEN OG HANS HUSTRU, 1874
The Pilot and His Wife
THOMAS ROSS, 1878
ADAM SCHRADER, 1879
GRABOWS KAT, 1880
GAA PAA!, 1882
FAMILJEN PAA GILJE, 1883
The Family at Gilje
One of Life´s Slaves
EN MALSTRØM, 1884
KOMMANDØRENS DØTRE, 1886
The Commodore´s Daughters
ET SAMLIV, 1887
MAISA JOHNS, 1888
ONDE MAKTER, 1890
NAAR SOL GAAR NED, 1895
DYRE REIN, 1896
FASTE FORLAND, 1899
NAAR JERNTÆPPER FALDER, 1901
ØSTENFOR SOL, VESTENFOR MÅNE
OG BAGOM BABYLONS TÅRN, 1905
JONAS LIE OG HANS SAMTIDIGE, 1915
SAMLADE DIGTSERVERKER, 1920-21
Peasant and Prima and Finn Blood, published in
the anthology Scandinavian Short Stories, 1995