|Ibsen's original draft of Peer Gynt. Act V. (Photo from H. Ibsen Biography by Michael Meyer.)|
After the publication of Peer Gynt in 1867, in his motherland, Ibsen was attacked as no other author before, attacked because of his style of poetry, his subjects and his strange idea of theatricality (even when Peer Gynt wasn’t conceived for the stage). But that wasn’t the Ibsen of some years before, immature and choleric, who didn’t know how to reply any attack; Italy, the exile and the success of his “Brand” had given to him a self-assurance that nobody in Norway could brake in the future.
After Peer Gynt was published Henrik Ibsen has become a monster.
The next is an extract of a letter to Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (December 9, 1867) as a reply of all those critics:
"Dear Bjørnson, (…) My book is poetry; and if isn't, it will become such. The conception of poetry in our country, in Norway, shall shape itself according to this book. (…) However, I am glad that this injustice has been flung at me; it is sign of divine aid and dispensation; anger increases my strength. If there is to be war, then let there be war! If I am not a poet, what I have to lose? I shall try my hand as a photographer, I shall deal with my contemporaries up there, each and all of them, one by one, as I have dealt with these language reformers; I shall no spare the child in its mother's womb, nor any thought nor feeling that may have motivated the actions of any man who shall merit the honor go being my victim. (…) Do you know that all my life I have turned my back on my parents, on my whole family, because I could not bear to continue a relationship based on imperfect understanding?"(1)
Ibsen is capable to assure that his own text would become in Norway the concept of poetry itself (and it was almost true), and it wasn’t what his critics called errors and mistakes. Who can assure that?
He knew he was at war if he wanted to be the most recognized author in Norway, and that famous sentence about photography that many of us are used to identify as Ibsen’s start in Realism became his chant of battle: “I shall deal with my contemporaries up there, each and all of them, one by one, as I have dealt with these language reformers; I shall no spare the child in its mother's womb, nor any thought nor feeling that may have motivated the actions of any man who shall merit the honor go being my victim.”
We only have to recall his most important plays to see that those words were accomplished.
Ibsen also made a very hard confession about turning his back to his parents and family; coming from a very provincial background, with no intellectual or artistic links, all his relatives were mere obstacles in his way to fame as a writer (since his adolescence he never saw any of them again). Only a man with all his goals in mind, ready to fight any battle to be the number one in his world could write in that manner.
He wanted it, he fought for it and he got it. He was monster.
(1) Ibsen Biography. By Michael Meyer. Double Day, 1967.
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