If Norwegians are not generally very interested in Germany, it was certainly not the fault of late Norwegian author Jahn Otto Johansen (1934-2018), who worked tirelessly to promote German-Norwegian understanding. Read more about a Norwegian author’s love for Germany.
Jahn Otto Johansen with his familiar face with a bushy white beard atop a figure whose bulk was clear evidence of its owner’s love for the good things in life, was easy to recognize. Jahn Otto Johansen had a long career as a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in Moscow, Washingtodn D. C. and Berlin, and author of several books about the relationship between Germany and Norway.
Love for traditional German dishes
The inspiration for his number of books and articles about Germany came largely from the old-fashioned bars of Berlin. Ensconced at a table at the “Schildkröte” or the “Schweibelfish” he enjoyed traditional German dishes such as pork shank, potato soup, stuffed cabbage leaves and herring, while listening to other guests’ views on political issues of the day. His pictures hang on the walls. People came in and asked where he was – because they thought that was where he sat – at the time – in the bar!
And he did not mind sharing his own strong views with his fellow guests who listened with interest to this familiar figure. There is probably no one in Norway over the age of 45 who would not rank him as one of the country’s most important foreign correspondents of all time.
When he realized that fewer and fewer children in Norway chose to study German in school, Johansen was quick to respond. “It is tragic that Norwegian youngsters are choosing not to study German in school. By doing so they are denying themselves knowledge of a rich culture, that not only comprises 82 million Germans, but the whole of German-speaking Europe. There are not many people in the Norwegian media who can even read German any more, so you cannot take what they write or say seriously. Germany is Norway’s most important supporter in the EU and our biggest market for gas and fish,” he wrote.
“So, the lack of interest in Germany is completely incomprehensive, if is not simply a matter of the language, although that is important. Nor can you carry on blaming the war. The explanation lies rather in the fact that Norway is one of the most Anglo-Americanized countries in Europe. That is the answer,” he concluded.
Related: A Norwegian Heritage
Love of nature
If Norwegians are going to Germany, it is often to the big cities. But when Germans come to Norway, they are looking for fjords, mountains and fishing opportunities. But what do Germans really know about Norway?
“That depends on where in Germany they come from,” said Johansen. “Germans from the south of the country tend to think of Norway as being a long way away. Those from the north know a lot more about our country and are keen to visit us.”
Love of the city
Johansen did loose count of the number of Norwegians he and his wife. Siv Kirsten, had accompanied on visits to Berlin.
“What we want is for Norwegians to experience the real Germany, which is exciting, interesting and hospitable, with an ancient and important culture. A country which is going through a difficult transition phase.”
The German Patient
This is something he explained in detail in his prize-winning book, “Den tyske pasient” (“The German Patient”), which was published in 2006. In the book, Johansen addressed the reforms and economic problems that was facing Europe’s oldest and best-developed welfare state.
After the costly reunification, the country simply could not maintain the welfare schemes its citizens had been accustomed to enjoying. And Germany’s role as a driving force in the EU and “engine” in the European economy meant that the problems sooner or later would hit the entire continent – probably Norway, too.
The book has not been translated into other languages.
A Norwegian Author’s Love For Germany, written by Tor Kjolberg