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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Jonas Lie (1833–1908)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
JONAS LIE was one of three men who make up the literary triumvirate of Norway. Björnson, Ibsen, and Lie are the veteran writers of the nineteenth century’s close, who gave international importance to Norwegian belles-lettres. Lie lacked the heroic proportions of the other two; but his position in his own land is as secure as theirs, and his work deserves and receives critical foreign attention.  1
  Jonas Lauritz Idemil Lie (the family name is pronounced Lee) was born June 11th, 1833, at Eker, a small town in southern Norway. His father was a lawyer, who when Jonas was a lad moved in some official capacity to the wild northern seaport of Tromsö. This early presence of the sea may have given color and direction to Lie’s subsequent literary work, in which coast life is so prominent a theme. This residence also gave him opportunity for an acquaintance with the primitive fishing districts. He entered the naval academy at Frederiksvœrn, but near-sightedness compelled him to stop. He was then sent to school at Christiania to fit for the university at Heftberg’s Gymnasium, where he fell in with Björnson and Ibsen, forming friendships kept up in the case of the former through later years. At the university, Lie studied jurisprudence, and began to practice law at Kongsvinger; he prospered in his profession, and soon was socially prominent. In 1860 he married his cousin Thomasine Lie, whose collaboration in his work he acknowledged in an article ‘Min hustrù’ (My Wife) in 1893. Their sons Mons and Erik have both won distinction in letters. In the Norwegian financial crisis of the sixties he was ruined; and in 1868—having hitherto done journalistic and literary work enough to test his talent—he went to Christiania, there to devote himself single-eyed to letters.  2
  He had the usual young literary man’s struggle at first; did a little teaching; and got on his feet by his first novel, ‘The Visionary’ (1870), which had immediate recognition. After the enlightened custom of the country, the Norwegian government sent him to the far north to study life, and later allowed him a stipend to travel abroad for the purpose of cultivating himself as a poet. His ‘Tales and Sketches from Norway’ (1872) was written mostly in Rome. The two novels ‘The Bark “Failure”’ and ‘The Pilot and his Wife’ (1874) are typical sea stories, in which Lie excels. This year he was granted the “poet’s pension,” the same official recognition received by Björnson and Ibsen. ‘The Pilot and his Wife’ is perhaps the best known of his novels; its publication established his reputation as the foremost Norwegian novelist. He received a stipend from the government as did Ibsen and Björnson; and henceforth he worked steadily, producing novel after novel and adding solidly to his reputation. In the main Jonas Lie lived abroad, in different German cities and in Paris,—like Ibsen in this respect; but he spent the summer of 1893 in Norway, after an absence of twelve years, and this visit was signalized by festivities in Christiania and other cities.  3
  Lie’s Italian experience brought forth ‘Frankfulla,’ ‘Antonio Banniera,’ and ‘Faustina Strozzi’ (1875), minor works not calling out his native gift. ‘Thomas Ross’ (1878) and ‘Adam Schrader’ (1879) depict city life. In ‘Rutland’ (1881) and ‘Press On’ (1882) he returns to the sea for inspiration. ‘The Slave for Life’ (1883) is a strong story, ranking among the best of his maturest productions. ‘The Family at Gilje’ appeared the same year. These were followed by ‘A Malstrom’ (1884), ‘Eight Stories’ (1885), ‘The Daughters of the Commodore’ (1886), ‘Married Life’ (1887), ‘Evil Powers’ (1890), ‘Troll I. and II.’ (1891–2: a group of marine horror tales), and ‘Niobe’ (1893). Among Lie’s later novels were ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ (1895), ‘Dyre Rein’ (1896), ‘Faste Forland’ (1899), containing autobiographical matter, ‘When the Iron Curtain Falls’ (1901), and ‘The Consul’ (1904). A three-act comedy, ‘Grabow’s Cat’ (1880), after rejection at Copenhagen, was successful at Christiania and Stockholm; other dramas were the comedy ‘Merry Women’ (1894) and the fairy play ‘Lindelin’ (1897). His ‘Collected Works’ were published at Copenhagen in 1902–04.  4
  Lie’s earlier works are marked by keen characterization, sympathy for the life described, truthful observation of traits external and internal, and a certain pathos and poetry of treatment which give his fiction charm. Of late years Lie, like his literary compeers Björnson and Ibsen, like so many distinguished writers in other lands, has moved pretty steadily towards realism and the unflinching presentment of unpalatable fact,—retaining, however, his sympathetic touch. A powerful but unpleasant story like ‘The Slave for Life’ is significant in denoting this change in Lie; the same is true of ‘The Family at Gilje,’ although this study is relieved by humor. When the novelist wrote of the sea which he knew so marvelously well, when he limned the simple provincial folk who live by the water or go forth upon it for their daily bread,—he was admirably true, and a master at home with his subject. Björnson said of Lie in a public address: “His friends know that he only needs to dip the net down into himself to bring up a full catch.” To carry out the figure, the fattest catch with Lie is a sea catch. When writing in scenes the most remote from the marine atmosphere, he has caught the very spirit of the ocean and its wayfarers. This is true of ‘The Pilot and his Wife’ (the English translation of which is entitled ‘A Norse Love Story’), from which a chapter is given. Penned in a small Italian mountain town, it is, as Edmund Gosse puts it, “one of the saltest stories ever published.”  5
  Lie has been much translated, and a number of his novels and short stories have appeared in English. He died July 5, 1908.  6
 
 
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