Nature distributes her bounty unequally
Erling read from the diary:
"From the very first day in Sweden a dark instinct directed me to everything that further contributed to my depression. It did not matter what I undertook. If I sat at home, alone, I was torn by thoughts that made me even more depressed. If I went out I met people who told me the worst things they could think of. If I picked up a book, preferably very old, which I felt might be peaceful and neutral, the dark instinct still directed my hand. One day I came across an old newspaper in the library, it was from 1858, and in it was an article by Viktor Rydberg about the Norwegians—he was on a journey in Norway:
"'Nature distributes her abundance unequally: tactfulness and delicacy are not characteristics of all nations, and openness is hardly attractive when it displays coarseness and a desire to exalt one's own deficiencies through emphasizing the shortcomings of others.'
"He writes further: 'The Swede has a right to be proud of his nationality: he belongs to a people who, though few in numbers, nevertheless has carved its name on history's most beautiful pages. [p. 184] Among the races of the globe he is the chief representative of the Scandinavians, and their bastion in case of danger.'
"And a third quotation: 'First of all we would have expected the Norwegians, who ever since the days of Gange-Rolf have been devoid of history and are destined in the future to share good and evil with us and who never can expect any historical significance except through us—we would have expected that the Norwegians above all others would be interested in their brother-lands's past and would be pleased with the honor of being a common nation with Sweden. In this we are greatly disappointed.'
"The quotations practically follow each other, in the above order. A comparison between the first and the two last is disgusting when the words come from an otherwise prominent person like Viktor Rydberg. Even a well-developed brain works with a rusty nail in some corners when it is operating on a nationalistic level. His disappointment that the Norwegians have lacked the delicacy to sun themselves in the deeds of others seems real. His ability to judge both his own situation and that of others seems to sway in the direction of power. The German surprise at our failure to appreciate their occupation of our country was highly evident, particularly in the beginning. Once I saw a Dutch-Indonesian conversation-dictionary which contained only words for abuse, accusations of theft and similar doings. Until recently Danish children could read in their schoolbooks that Iceland was a vassal country of theirs. Protests were in vain: national humiliation was considered an honor.
"I could not help making comparisons while in Sweden. My conclusions indicated the Norwegians can be happy with their fate. A quirk of history gave us a free farmer-class, however many the attempts at suppression, and in spite of some dark blots on our freedom. Another of history's gifts: the Norwegians have no other people on whom they could practice their desire for power—perhaps this above all made the Norwegians individuals. They never suffered the moral degradation of collective bragging. A nation's freedom can never become absolute, neither externally nor internally, but it can approach perfection if it is not its brother's guardian.
"Not that the Norwegians were to appreciate their inner resources to any great extent; they perpetuated a four hundred-year night when apparently nothing happened, because there were no kings to write about. But in due time the Norwegians will assimilate their misfortune at not having had a history that ran its course like all others.
"We have never had an eternally smarting wound, like the Swedes [p. 185] with their Charles XII, a misfortune that must be glorified with all the resources of that nation.
"Norway must learn to accept her history, not bury it, not falsify it, not lie herself away from it; rather, with self-restraint look back and unearth all her supposed defeats and analyze them once more.
"Vidkun Quisling was a sick and distorted picture of all sick Norwegian inferiority-feeling, with a bodyguard that worshiped Hardrader—dead a thousand years—changelings begotten through Norwegian envy of all nations that had been or were under the whip. Quisling was the exponent of the inverted dream of being in chains like everybody else. For what was his dream but the dream of a slave to be rewarded with praise from the big ones; a fervent desire to step up before the great Mogul, in gold-plated helmet and shining armor, and swear him fealty with a thundering voice in the Old-Norwegian tongue. In secret a pleader for defeat, in the open a calf with his tail straight in the air running into the burning barn. Always the same thing: humanity's blindness considering defeat a gift and a faith-testing; the acceptances of defeat in individuals are like important junctions where we stop and choose the road. Defeat must be brought into daylight, not dug down, for it is through defeats that one becomes a man. The one who never understands his defeats remains a buffoon; he carries nothing into the future, he is like a woman of the sort who believes she can live on her sex into old age and doesn't realize her bitter mistake until she notices the sneers that follow her in the street."
Copyright © 1958 by H. Aschehoug & Co., Oslo, Norway. Used by permission. English translation copyright © 1966 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.
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