Inspired by the French writers Honore de Balzac (17991850) and Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), the literary style called realism was a major force in Scandinavian letters from around 1840 through the 1880s, but particularly in the 1870s. The term denotes an attempt to describe life as it is, without idealization or the subjectivity of the romantics, against whom the realists reacted. The best early example of realism in Scandinavian literature is arguably the novel Det gåran (1839; tr. Sara Videbeck, 1919; Why Not?, 1994) by the Swedish writer Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793-1866), which discusses the position of women in the family and in society, one of the major topics of the realists. In Norway Camilla Collett treated a similar theme in her seminal novel Amtmandens Døttre (1854-1855; tr. The District Governor's Daughters, 1992). Also in Norway, the peasant stories of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) anticipated the prose writings of the 1870s through their use of everyday language.
   Realism coexisted with late romantic idealism in Scandinavian literature throughout the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, but in 1871 the Danish critic Georg Brandes (1842-1927) decisively called for a literary practice that would use literature to debate modern problems and issues. Most progressive writers in Scandinavia took up this challenge. Brandes s countryman Jens Peter Jacobsen produced two realist novels that adhered to the new program, Fru Marie Grubbe (1876; tr. Marie Grubbe, 1917) and Niels Lyhne (1880; tr. 1919, 1990), while the Swedish writer August Strindberg (1849-1912) wrote a great novel, Roda rummet (1879; tr. The Red Room, 1967), which offers a panoramic view of life in Stockholm.
   Brandes's influence was at least as great in Norwegian literature. Many of the plays of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) from the 1870s and early 1880s come to mind, for example, Samfundets støtter (1877; tr. The Pillars of Society, 1888) and Et dukkehjem (1879; tr. A Doll's House, 1880), which deal with such favorite realist topics as corruption, the role of women, and outmoded ideas. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson vigorously advocated for Brandes's view of the purpose of literature and practiced it in his plays En fallit (1875; tr. The Bankrupt, 1914), Redaktøren (1875; tr. The Editor, 1914), and Kongen (1877; tr. The King, 1914). The novelist Jonas Lie wrote Tremasteren "Fremtiden " (1872; tr. The Barque"Future," 1879), Norway's first novel about business matters, and later Familjen paa Gilje (1883; tr. The Family at Gilje, 1920), which is set in the 1840s and debates the right of women to make their own life choices.
   Elements of realism have persisted in Scandinavian literature up to the 21st century.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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