Georg Johannesen, Norway's sole professor of rhetoric and the man behind
DARK TIMES -- a conversation (after Brecht)
In dark times / only the wise speak / They say: Here only a few / can be saved
In dark times / only fools sing / They sing: It's good / that the grass is green
I do not sing / I do not speak / Wise men are silent in / dark times
In dark times / I am not wise / I sing and speak / of the dark times
PROPOSITION FOR AN EXPERIMENT
When you who opens my heart with a prayer / Find nothing but answers, it is due to me
When you who opens my heart with a knife / Find nothing but blood, it is due to the knife
...is out with a new book, News about Ibsen, and has let hisself be interviewed by Dagbladet, Norway's Guardian-like daily. Reporter is Fredrik Wandrup (himself author of a biography on Jens Bjørneboe). Some highlights:
"I'm always bitter, but never angry," GJ reassures us.
When reporters ask if I'm a socially engaged poet, I answer that they're on the wrong track. It is those who write commentaries and opinions on the second and third pages of the dailies that are socially engaged poets. A newspaper is a collection of poems until the opposite is proven. VG [local Torygraph] is modern poetry on free verse in news print and in tabloid format. Dagbladet is henceforth and from tomorrow morning a daily poetry collection without metre or rhythm.
And where does Ibsen enter into the picture?
I don't want to say bad things about Henrik Ibsen. NRK [local BBC] and the Parliament compete to be considered Norway's two premier national theatres, far ahead of Henrik Ibsen and lagging somewhat behind Ludvig Holberg.
[We will cut here, and move on to GJ's estimation of specific plays by Ibsen.]
What about Emperor and Galilean [Kejser og Galilæer, one of Ibsen's early, spectacular plays, traditionally considered in somewhat bad taste]?
A magnificent piece, in a total of ten acts. Hollywood's most expensive biblical tales are preceded by the stage directions of this play. They are written as world historical news bulletins in German- Gothic ruins. Emperor Julian is a Dionysian heathen. The Empress plainly and physically detests her husband. She gets to say it before she dies from poisoning, but pregnant, with the emperor's more virile brother. She is a heathen whore. She has enough sex. The Emperor is a Holbergian cuckold.
Ibsen's later fame was due to his supposed critique of society?
His contemporary dramas aren't that interesting anymore. They have too much puritan sex. They are ladies' novels to be read aloud. Ibsen's women are horny ladies who are disregarded by their impotent husbands. Social scientists with no sense of history are pulled to the theatre by their wives to attend these plays. There they get to see how little men understand of women. [...] The play is marital pornography of uncertain use in psychiatry, but of certain use to Northern German noble ladies until 1917.
After the diaphragm and the pill the lady was privatized to her inner market. Nora shoots Helmer. Hilde shoots Master Builder Solness. Hedda Gabler has an abortion and becomes Minister of Children. Rita Allmers sells dildos to herself. Sigrid Undset claimed there were thirteen to the dozen of Hedda Gablers. She said Ibsen had prejudices against women, but that they were lovable prejudices. One would have to be old-fashioned like Ibsen to take these characters seriously. The main characters of Ibsen's contemporary dramas are often dumb. Several of them tries to be insane without really succeeding, or have turned insane without anyone noticing. The Master Builder should be performed as a farce.
When you call your book News about Ibsen, it's obviously ironic. What's new?
Everything is new, all the time. Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that you can't swim in the same river twice. Anyone who reads Ibsen again, do it anew. Everybody is an intellectual. Everybody can think. Everybody can talk. A person is a philosopher and artist interpreting the world.
The Media as well?
NRK is Norway's premier vocalist, and they broadcast The Religion of Norway, which consists of moralizing foreign policy. When I watch the 9 o'clock news I see it as a kind of witty sermon. The anchors bring out the comedian in me.
In the essay on Ibsen you ask if Jesus should have been taken off the cross and sent by air ambulance, financed from Norway, to attend family counselling in Jerusalem?
According to The Religion of Norway that could have been the correct approach. There Jesus would meet 500 poorly educated, but generously remunerated, crisis therapists who could have cured him from his self- delusion that he was a god who should save the world. Because that would have been accomplished already by Norway.