Aksel Sandemose
Aksel Sandemose was a novelist, born in Nykøbing
Nykøbing Mors
Nykøbing Mors is the largest town on the Danish Limfjord island of Mors. The town received its charter in 1299 and has a population of 9,154...

, Mors Island, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 to a Danish father and a Norwegian mother.

Apart from his writing, in his early years he worked as a teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

, journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, sailor
A sailor, mariner, or seaman is a person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in their operation, maintenance, or service. The term can apply to professional mariners, military personnel, and recreational sailors as well as a plethora of other uses...

 and lumberjack
A lumberjack is a worker in the logging industry who performs the initial harvesting and transport of trees for ultimate processing into forest products. The term usually refers to a bygone era when hand tools were used in harvesting trees principally from virgin forest...

 in Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

. Although his birth name was Axel Nielsen, in 1921 he changed his name to Aksel Sandemose. His new surname was a danicised version of Sandermosen, near Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

, not far from his mother's birthplace.

His literary debut came in 1923 with his first novel Fortællinger fra Labrador (Stories from Labrador). In 1927 Sandemose made a trip to western Canada sponsored in part by the Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway
The Canadian Pacific Railway , formerly also known as CP Rail between 1968 and 1996, is a historic Canadian Class I railway founded in 1881 and now operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, which began operations as legal owner in a corporate restructuring in 2001...

. The result was a series of articles and stories about Canada and three novels: Ross Dane (1928, English translation 1989); En sjømann går i land (A Sailor Goes Ashore) and September which is concerned with how first-generation immigrants become Canadians or persist in remaining a part of the old country.

In 1930 he settled in Norway. One year later he published his first book written in Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

. Although by then an established author, his breakthrough came in 1933 with the novel En flyktning krysser sitt spor (A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks), English translation 1936). As many of his other works, the novel was based upon his upbringing in Nykøbing at the beginning of the 20th century. In A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks Sandemose develops one of his more famous concepts, the Jante Law
Jante Law
The Jante Law is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.The Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose...

, in which he depicts the suppression of the individual's aspirations and personal development by the collective.

Sandemose remained in Norway until 1941 when his involvement in the Norwegian resistance forced him to escape to Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. After the war he settled in the countryside near Risør
is a city and municipality in Aust-Agder county, Norway. The city belongs to the traditional region of Sørlandet. It is a popular tourist place. The surrounding area includes many small lakes and hills, and is known for its beautiful coastline as well....

 in Norway.

As in A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks the main theme in Sandemose's books is the evil that people inflict on others by narrow-mindedness and limited imagination. This is developed in a wryly humorous form in books that mix loose stories with comments and digressions. In the book which most poignantly follows this pattern, Varulven (The Werewolf) (1958), the evil, in the form of the werewolf
A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope , is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse...

, eventually leads to murder because a rigidly brought up girl cannot accept unconventional magnanimity.

In English

  • The Werewolf, trans. by Gustaf Lannestock, University of Wisconsin Press (2002), ISBN 0-299-03744-4


"The worst thing the Germans did was to let stupidity loose in the land."

"It was a burden he carried, an ineradicable interest for the essence of stupidity, its mammoth strength, its invincibility because the stupid never are inhibited of shame and never are contrite when others feel ashamed over them. "

"The strange thing is not that people stoop under the yoke, but that there are others who care about laying it on them."

"How can it be that we feel ashamed over the destructive instincts of others?"

"The first that happened was this: We don’t want to live if the Germans win this war! By this, they had from the start forced us to stake it all on one card. "

"Stupidity will never die. It is simply too stupid to die."

External links

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