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Alexander Kielland

Alexander L. Kielland
Kielland in later years
Born Alexander Lange Kielland
(1849-02-18)18 February 1849
Stavanger, Norway
Died 6 April 1906(1906-04-06) (aged 57)
Bergen, Norway
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, businessman, and politician.
Nationality Norwegian
Literary movement Realism

Alexander Lange Kielland (Norwegian: ; 18 February 1849 – 6 April 1906) was one of the most famous Norwegian realistic writers of the 19th century. He is one of the so-called "The Four Greats" of Norwegian literature, along with Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Jonas Lie.


  • Background 1
  • Career 2
  • Publications 3
    • Short stories 3.1
    • Novels 3.2
    • Plays 3.3
    • Essays 3.4
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Born in Stavanger, Norway, he grew up in a rich merchant family. He was the son of consul Jens Zetlitz Kielland and great-grandson of Gabriel Schanche Kielland (1760–1821). Kielland was the younger brother of Norwegian landscape painter Kitty Lange Kielland.[1][2]

His family also included his son, Jens Zetlitz Kielland, (1873–1926); uncle Jacob Otto Lange (1833–1902), cousin Axel Christian Zetlitz Kielland (1853–1924), nephew Jens Zetlitz Monrad Kielland (1866–1926), cousin Anders Lange (1904–1974) and great nephew Jacob Christie Kielland (1897–1972). His great niece Axeliane Christiane Zetlitz Kielland (1916–1995) married Agnar Mykle (1915–1994).


Despite being born wealthy, he had a sincere affection for the less fortunate, treating his workers well when he was a factory owner. He remained a spokesman for the weak and a critic of society throughout his time as a writer. His best known plays were the satirical comedies Tre Par (1886) and Professoren (1888). He was also well known for his short stories.[3]

Among his most famous works are the novels Gift (1883), Skipper Worse (1882) and Garman & Worse (1880). Gift (published in English as Poison ) is the first of a trilogy including Fortuna (1884) and St. Hans Fest (1887). With this trilogy, Kielland satirizes the hypocrisy of Norway's clergy. In Gift, Kielland debates the preference for Latin which Norwegian teachers had during his time. The story features a young boy called Marius, lying on his deathbed while repeating Latin grammar.[4]

From 1889 to 1890, Kielland worked as a journalist for the newspaper Stavanger Avis. Kielland virtually stopped writing fiction during 1891 and published only stories which had been published earlier. During 1891 he was designated the mayor of his hometown, Stavanger, until 1902 when he relocated to Molde as county governor of the land Møre og Romsdal.[5]

It has been debated why Kielland ended his career as a writer so early. Some believe that he was so much of a realist that he could not deal with the neo-romantic tendencies of Norwegian literature at the end of the 19th century. A more probable reason is that he chose to emphasize his political career.

The biography of Alexander L. Kielland by Tor Obrestad includes thoughts about Kielland dying from obesity. Already from the mid-1880s, Kielland had suffered from shortness of breath. He had several heart-attacks, he constantly gained weight and he couldn't control his great passion for food.[6]


Statue of Alexander Kielland in Stavanger
Bust of Alexander Kielland in Reknes Park in Molde
Sculpture of Alexander Kielland in Reknes Park in Molde.

Short stories

  • Novelletter, 1879
  • Nye novelletter, 1880
  • To Novelletter fra Danmark, 1882


  • Garman & Worse, 1880 - [7][8]
  • Arbeidsfolk, 1881
  • Else, 1881
  • Skipper Worse, 1882.[9][10]
  • Gift, 1883
  • Fortuna, 1884
  • Sne, 1886
  • Sankt Hans Fest, 1887
  • Jacob, 1891


  • Paa Hjemvejen, 1878
  • Hans Majestæts Foged, 1880
  • Det hele er Ingenting, 1880
  • Tre par, 1886
  • Bettys Formynder, 1887
  • Professoren, 1888


  • Forsvarssagen, 1890
  • Menneker og Dyr, 1891
  • Omkring Napoleon, 1905 [11]


  1. ^ ( Lange Kielland
  2. ^ (A Mirror Of Nature: Nordic Landscape Painting 1840-1910. Minneapolis Institute of Arts)Kitty Lange Kielland
  3. ^ Alexander L. Kielland, utdypning (Store norske leksikon)
  4. ^ (Store norske leksikon)Alexander L. Kielland-ulykken
  5. ^ (Edvard Beyer / Morten Moi. Store norske leksikon)Alexander Lange Kielland
  6. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Alexander Kielland". Books and Writers ( Finland:  
  7. ^ Garman and Worse is available on Wikisource
  8. ^ Garman & Worse is available in the original Norwegian on Project Runeberg at (Norwegian) Garman og Worse
  9. ^ Skipper Worse was published in English translation in 1885 and later as one of the Harvard Classic collection. by Christopher Fauske is published by Cross-Cultural Communications, Merrick, NYSkipper WorseA 2009 translation into English of .
  10. ^ . Skipper Worse is also available in the original Norwegian on Project Runeberg at Skipper Worse
  11. ^ English translation 1907: Napoleon's Men and Methods

Further reading

  • Gran, Gerhard von Lippe Alexander L. Kielland og hans samtid (P.T. Dreyer. 1992)
  • Grøndahl, Carl Henrik and Nina Tjomsland (editors) The Literary Masters of Norway, with Samples of Their Works (Tanum-Norli. 1978)
  • Hallgren, Bengt Skitt eller kanel: Omkring Alexander L. Kielland, aren 1878-1906 (Alba. 1987)
  • Lunde, Johannes Liv og kunst i konflikt: Alexander L. Kielland 1883-1906 : fra Gift til Jacob ; Omkring Napoleon (Gyldendal. 1975)
  • Nag, Martin Omkring samfunnsrefseren Alexander L. Kielland: Essays (Kvekerforlaget. 1999)
  • Obrestad, Tor To Par: Brevvekslingen Mellom Alexander L. Kielland Og Louise Og Viggo Drewsen (J.W. Cappelen. 1998)
  • Risa, Einar O. Mannen i speilet: Alexander L. Kielland i Stavanger 1888-1902 : en nedtur (Tiden Norsk. 1999)

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Ludvig Arnoldus Leth
County Governor of Møre og Romsdal
Succeeded by
Birger Kildal
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