Dec 08

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December 8: Björnstjerne Björnson

Björnstjerne Björnson (1832)

Bjornstjerne Bjornson

It was on this date, December 8, 1832, that Norwegian poet, novelist, and dramatist Björnstjerne Björnson was born in Kvikne, Österdal, Norway, the son of a Lutheran pastor whose religion was as bleak as the village landscape. But after age six the family moved to pleasanter surroundings in Noesset, Romsdal, and Björnson eventually attended Christiania University, from which he graduated in 1852. He read the Agnostic British philosopher Herbert Spencer, as well as Hippolyte Taine, Charles Darwin and others, and in 1875 Björnson revealed his rejection of religion. But this, along with his political views, elicited a charge of high treason, which caused him to travel abroad quite a lot.

Björnson is classed with Henrik Ibsen as one of the twin stars of Norwegian literature. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903 “as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit.” And not only is his advanced Rationalism found in his works — these include Poems and Songs (Digte Og Sange, 1870) and Absalom’s Hair (Absalons Haar, 1894) — but he translated Ingersoll for the Norwegian audience. He also campaigned for democratic political reform, including Finland’s struggle against Russification. Björnstjerne Björnson died on 26 April 1910.

* Björnstjerne Björnson titles available at the Project Gutenberg site include Absalom’s Hair; and A Painful Memory, Poems and Songs, Three Dramas and Three Comedies.

Originally published December 2003.

About the author

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Freethought Almanac was created by Ronald Bruce Meyer, in collaboration with freethoughtradio.com, in March 2003. What started with a brief notice on the birthday of Albert Einstein, grew into almost 250,000 words on not only biography but history, philosophy, theology and politics — one day at a time. Freethought Almanac looks at these daily subjects from a godless point of view, that is, a point of view that is based not on fantasies, delusions or wishful thinking, but a view that is evidence-based.

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