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The Nazification of Norwegian Cultural Politics and the work of Frithjof Sælen


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Anette Storeide
This paper provides a micro-analytical study of the Nazification of Norwegian cultural politics based on a narrative and book-historical analysis of the work published by the Norwegian author Frithjof Sælen during the German occupation of Norway (1940-45). Whereas his first book (published in November 1941) was banned by the Nazi authorities after one month, his second book (published in December 1942) escaped both censorship and prohibition, but Sælen was questioned by the Gestapo and strongly warned against writing further books.
Based on the analysis of Sælen’s work, the paper also aims to discuss both the nature of the attempted Nazification of Norwegian literature as well as the situation of Norwegian authors during the German occupation.

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The Nazification of Norwegian Cultural Politics and the work of Frithjof Sælen

  1. 1. The Nazification of Norwegian Cultural Politics and the work of Frithjof Sælen Dr. Anette H. Storeide Associate Professor of European Studies
  2. 2. Frithjof Sælen (1917- 2004) • 1940: art-student in Oslo • 9 April 1940: Germany attacks Norway • Sælen enlisted immediately and participated in the heavy battles in Hallingdal (“Halling Valley”) • Critical of Norwegian politics prior to German attack: Naïve, policy of neutrality as failure and dangerous mistake • Children’s books as coverage for political criticism against German occupation and Nazification, but also against Norwegian politicians • Snorre the Seal (1941) – was denunciated and banned • Three Cold Guys (1942) • January 1943: interrogation by the Gestapo and warned off against writing further books • Participation in military resistance work, escaped to London in 1944
  3. 3. Snorre the Seal (1941) • Snorre the Seal in the Arctic Ocean = Norway • Two bad habits: 1. Dreamer 2. Vanity ”The sly polar bear Grumbeling Paw” = the Soviet Union ”The dangerous orca Snap” = Nazi-Germany
  4. 4. A fight between the good and the evil
  5. 5. ”The nice uncle Bart/Mustache”: England as Norway’s saviour
  6. 6. The Seagulls Swing and Bend: Only acting for their own benefit • ”Fake yellow twinkle in the eyes” • ”Red dots above the eyes” • The book was denunciated after four weeks despite good reviews • Far more critical of the Norwegian Nazis than of the German occupants?
  7. 7. Hidden resistance symbols
  8. 8. Three Cold Guys (1942) Three snowmen producing winter: • Drummer hail = hail • Creak = dry snow • Slush = wet snow They have icicles instead of hearts and are travelling by brooms = traditional symbols of the dark forces The three snowmen as symbols of the Axis powers: • Drummer hail = Nazi-Germany • Creak = Japan • Slush = Italy
  9. 9. The fight between the good and the evil (sun = the Allied)
  10. 10. Literature as resistance • Writing children’s books as coverage for political criticism: Subtitles ”A fable in colours for adults and children” (Snorre the Seal), ”A winter-fairy-tale in colours and words” (Three Cold Guys) • Sælen worried about the impact of Nazi propaganda on children • The stories can be read on two levels: 1) Exiting stories for children 2) Normative, educational stories on the battle between the good and the evil • Narrative strategies: 1) Classic elements of the respective genres 2) Contrasts, eg. dark-light, cold-warm etc. 3) Norwegian resistance symbols
  11. 11. Why was Snorre the Seal banned, but not Three Cold Guys? • Snorre the Seal was denunciated – but why that? • Snorre the Seal ridicules and criticises the Norwegian Nazis through the presentation of the seagulls Swing and Bend, eg. ”they are fake” (p. 46) • Snorre the Seal: a. A political and satirical presentation of the occupation of Norway b. An educational story: from dreaming vanity to alertness (encourages alertness and resistance) • Three Cold Guys: a. Are the satirical points hidden better? b. A classic narrative on the fight between good and evil c. Encourages hope and endurance more than resistance d. A story about the world war with no explicit remarks on the Norwegian Nazis