Marie Wells

First Among Realists

Henrik Ibsen: The Man and the Mask

By

Yale University Press 694pp £30 order from our bookshop

This book is the abridged English translation of two volumes that originally appeared in Norwegian, the first in 2006 – the centenary of Ibsen’s death – and the second in 2007. It is the fourth major biography of Ibsen to appear in English since 1931. All four are quite hefty volumes, de Figueiredo’s not least, weighing just under 3 lbs.

Each new biography has added to the mass of information about Ibsen, but at this stage that is not perhaps the main purpose of such a work. Rather, it is to show that there are new ways of interpreting the information. De Figueiredo’s argument is that Ibsen felt uncomfortable in the world, that somehow he was ‘different’. From an early age he was creative, and this creativity soon developed into the urge to become a writer. De Figueiredo is not interested in any social factors in Ibsen’s childhood that might have made him feel different. He sees him as a ‘physically insignificant man, asocial, inhibited and silent’, but believes he used these weaknesses to his advantage to become a sharp-eyed observer and critic.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,
    • RT : I regularly make purchases based on - it’s excellent.,
    • RT : I wrote about Yoko Ogawa's dreamlike, allegorical novel The Memory Police, newly published in English in a translat… ,
    • 'At this frankly apocalyptic moment for indigenous rights in Brazil, John Hemming’s "People of the Rainforest" is a… ,
    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,