What are some cultural taboos in Norway

: Is Norwegian Culture Going Bankrupt?


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"On the forefront of Norwegian culture, the approaching cold death can already be felt in all its areas. Theater and visual arts are rapidly shrinking. Our painting is experiencing its autumn and exhibiting it, our sculpture is a monumental souvenir shop, and our architecture has become mindless and tensionless. The few important artists that we have cannot change the state of the whole ...

In the foreseeable future, we Norwegians will probably have become a kind of satisfied half-human, English pygmies, who wander around in an unproductive local culture: a culture that is becoming more and more similar to a dusty local museum. "

That is how a clever Norwegian sees it. What the stranger can afford, a feeling of affection mixed with a dash of touched irony, would be bad for a man who has put his cause on the Norwegian culture of which he judges so ruthlessly. The man's name is Henrik Groth and is one of the most famous publishers in the country. The quote comes from a lecture he recently gave in Oslo, and this lecture, under the provocative title "Is Norwegian Culture Bankrupt?" has become the real intellectual season of this winter.

The enormous sensation that Groth's speech caused is due not only to the ruthless sharpness of his analysis, the anger of the sedate cultural patricians whom he challenged, and the carefully guarded national taboos that he overturned. He is not satisfied with failures and not with the cashier call. ("In thirty years, a Norwegian will have no choice but to choose between a superficial spaciousness with borrowed, demimondan features, and a local culture that is becoming more provincial and petty-minded by watching.") What makes his prognosis significant, and not only significant for Norway, is the reasoning.

Groth is not a culture pessimist; in no way does he cover his head from the ghosts of the "mass people" and the mass media. On the contrary: he sees incomparably great future opportunities for the arts, literature and the refinement of consciousness in the emergence of a "world culture". However, he fears that Norwegian culture will not survive this "integration process". The quantitative increases in cultural consumption, he argues, lead to qualitative changes; compact majorities are formed, which act as centers of gravity. The is in larger cultural landscapes, how the English, French and German, not life-threatening, because the minorities, which are indispensable for productive development, remain numerically large enough to be able to defend themselves. Norway, with its three and a half million inhabitants, is one of the smallest cultural and linguistic areas in Europe. Here the minorities no longer reach the critical mass that is the condition of their survival in the age of mass culture.

In just a few sentences Groth touches on the country's greatest cultural problem, which of course now makes matters far worse. For half a century, a dispute has been raging in Norway that is almost incomprehensible to a foreigner: the so-called language dispute. For a generation, fierce battles have been waged here over every telephone book, every official form, every lesson, and there is no end in sight to this terrible philological battle.

So it has the following reasoning. The long-established written language, related to Danish, is spoken in the cities, using the press, industry and trade: this "imperial language" was written by the Norwegian classics, from Björnsen to Hamsun. The country only achieved its independence late, in the last century. For romantic nationalism, the "imperial language" was all too Danish; Linguists roamed the country and botanized the dialects that lead a tough and archaic existence in the flat country. A second written language, the so-called "New Norwegian", was distilled from these dialects; it has fanatical supporters, especially in homeland clubs and patriotic circles.