Mehren, Stein 1935–

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Mehren, Stein 1935–

PERSONAL: Born May 16, 1935, in Oslo, Norway. Education: Attended University of Oslo.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Aschehoug Agency, P.O. Box 363 Sentrum, NO-0102, Oslo, Norway.

CAREER: Poet, essayist, dramatist, and novelist, c. 1960–. Worked as a ski instructor and guide.

AWARDS, HONORS: Norsk Kritikerlags prize, 1963; Dagbladets lyrikk prize, 1966; Kulturråets book prize, 1966, 1969; Doubloug prize, 1971; Fritt Ord prize, 1978; Norske Akademi for Sprog og Litteraturs prize, 1987; Anders Jahres prize, 1993.



Gjennon stillheten, en natt (title means "Through the Silence One Night"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1960.

Hildring i speil (title means "Reflected Illusion"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1961.

Alene med en himmel, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1962.

Mot en verden av lys, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1963.

Gobelin Europa, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1965.

Tids Alder, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1966.

Vind runer, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1967.

Aurora det niende møke (title means "Aurora, the Ninth Darkness"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1969.

Veier til et bilde, Bokklubben (Oslo, Norway), 1971.

Kongespillet—avviklingen av en myte (title means "The Royal Game"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1971.

Dikt for enhver som våger, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1973.

Menneske boere ditt bilde frem, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1975.

Der opprinnelige landskapet: dikt i utvalg, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1976.

Det trettende stjernebilde, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1977.

Vintersolhverv, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1979.

Den usynlige regnbuen, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1981.

Samlede dikt 1960–1967, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1982.

Kai Fell Galakse, illustrated by Kai Fjell, Stenersen (Oslo, Norway), 1982.

Timenes time, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1983.

Corona. Formøkelsen or dens lys, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1986.

Fortapt i verden. Syngende, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1988.

Det andre lyset, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1989.

Skjul og forvandling, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1990.

Nattsol, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1992.

Dikt i bilder, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1993.

Evighet, vårt flyktigste stoff, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1994.

Hotel Memory, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1996.

Kjœrlighetsdikt, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1997.

Nattmaskin, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1998.

Utvalgte dikt, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1999.

Ark: dikt 2000, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 2000.

Den siste ildlender: dikt 2002, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 2002.

Imperiet lukker seg: dikt 2004, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 2004.


Humanitet og virkelighetsoppfatning, av Stein Mehren, edited by Øivind Foss, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1965.

Samtidsmuseet og andre tekster (title means "The Contemporary Museum and Other Texts"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1966.

Maskinen og menneskekroppen. En pastorale, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1970.

Kunstens vilkår og den nye puritanismen (title means "The Conditions of Art and the New Puritanism"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1974.

En rytter til fots. Åpent vrev til kulturister av alle slag, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1975.

Myten og den irrasjonelle fornuft (title means "The Myth and the Irrational Reason"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), Volume 1, 1977, Volume 2, 1980.

Femti seksti sytti åtti, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1980.

Her har du mitt liv, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1984.

Vår tids bilde som entropi og visjon. 5 postmoderne essays, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1987.

Det forseglede budskap. Et essay om jeg-dannelse i lys av postmodernisme, mystikk og kjønnsroller, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1992.


De utydelige (novel; title means "The Vague Ones"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1972.

Den store frigjøringen eller hva som hendte meg på siste sommerseminarium en dag jeg forsøkte å krype ut av sangkassen min, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1973.

Titanene (novel; title means "The Titans"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1974.


Narren og hans hertug, eller Stykket om fløytespilleren Hans va Kicklashausen og hans møte mer stratenplyndrerne (play; title means, "The Fool and His Duke"), Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1968.

Den store søndagsfrokosten: drama i to akter, Aschehoug (Oslo, Norway), 1976.

Poems and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Fire profiler, 1955–1965: Stein Mehren, George Johannesen, Per Bronken, Peter R. Holm; Jeg elsker deg: an antologi and Five Norwegian Poets: Tarjei Vesaas, Rolf Jacobsen, Olav Hauge, Gunvor Hofmo, Stein Mehren.

ADAPTATIONS: Mehren's poems have been set to music in Plym-plym: Hommage à Edvard Grieg: for blandet kor, solistkvartett, speaker, 1970, 1984; Plym-plym for Mixed Choir, Soloist's Quarter and Speaker, Philips, 1972; Om kjœrlighet: for sang og cello, op. 46, Norsk Musikforlag, 1981; and Mot en verden av lys: to Stein Mehren-sanger: op. 34a: for sang og piano, Norsk Musikforlag, 1985.

SIDELIGHTS: Acclaimed as one of Norway's leading poets of the late twentieth century, Stein Mehren has published prolifically since 1960. In addition to some two dozen volumes of poetry, he has written short stories, plays, and numerous philosophical and critical essays. Mehren, who studied philosophy and biology at the University of Oslo, creates poetry that fuses lyrical and intellectual elements within a dialectic approach—one that seeks to determine a truth by posing a thesis, then an antithesis (or opposite point), and finally a synthesis, or combination of thesis and antithesis. Primarily an existential poet, Mehren is interested in both questions of self and other and in the relationship between self and language. Øystein Rottem, writing in the Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature, identified one of Mehren's central concerns to be "the problem of reconciling the intellectual meta-attitude toward life and the authenticity of emotional and metaphysical experience." This concern, according to John Eric Bellquist in Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, can be traced to the Romantic poets and pervades modern art and thought, which is engaged more with the perception of reality than with the direct experience of reality. In his essays, which Bellquist considered "among the most interesting anyone has written on modern poetry in any language," Mehren confronts the problems within this essential dualism, and argues that the task of poetry is "to conquer the distance between us and living life, the distance between us and the glasses through which we look upon ourselves."

These preoccupations are apparent from Mehren's earliest work. In his first collection of poems, Gjennon stillheten, en natt ("Through the Silence One Night"), he employs concrete and sensitive nature imagery while also conveying a sense of alienation and unreality. Bellquist cited "Sommernattsregn" ("Summer Night Rain") from this book to illustrate Mehren's deep interest in "the interchange between his consciousness and what it is conscious of" as well as his sophisticated poetic technique. "Billedskrift" ("picture-writing"), from Mehren's third collection, Alene med en himmel, is, in Bellquist's view, one of Mehren's best. The poem presents the image of humankind carving pictographs into a rock which becomes the carver's self. "What is outside the perceiving consciousness," the critic observed, "thus resides inside that consciousness, not only mirrored or even hurled there, but carved there by the creative imagination that all human beings, and not just poets, possess." While such existentialist concerns remain a strong element in Mehren's work, his subsequent collections, particularly Aurora det niende møke and Kongespillet—avviklingen av en myte, which mix poems with essays and aphorisms, reveal a deep interest in myth and a sometimes satirical approach to the world. Harald S. Naess, writing in Books Abroad, found Aurora det niende møke "first and foremost a meta-Odyssey, being not only a poem about Wanaka's journey but itself a 'journey,' an exploration of the average reader's self, his struggle with transcendental questions … and his difficulties with human coexistence."

In his prose, as well, Mehren confronts these existential dilemmas. His novels De utydelige ("The Vague Ones") and Titanene ("The Titans") are concerned with the same three characters, Oslo intellectuals who struggle to free themselves from the dangers of rigid thinking. Mehren's play Narren og hans hertug, eller Stykket om fløytespilleren Hans va Kicklashausen og hans møte mer stratenplyndrerne, based on an historical incident from the 1400s, considers the implications of political revolt. According to Walter D. Morris in the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, the drama "seeks timeless psychological and political insights into the phenomenon of revolt in general," associating the common people with naivete and idealism and the leaders with "the sophistication of power."

Admired almost as much as is his poetry, Mehren's essays deal with existentialist issues but also extol the virtues of nature and love. At the same time, they challenge many contemporary philosophical trends. Kunstens vilkår og den nye puritanismen attacks what Rottem called the "new ideology-ridden literature," while Myten og den irrasjonelle fornuft argues against the theories of Theodor Adorno, German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, and French writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and for, in Rottem's words, "a new philosophy of nature and a new picture of man that combine irrational mythological thinking and reason."

"More than any other Norwegian artist," observed Naess, "Mehren is the poet of light and dreams." As Mehren himself noted in an essay Naess quotes, "I do not write in order to change the world. I write in order to save myself. But to understand is to change—one's self. Like all artists I nourish a hope of being understood. There are dreams which see us more clearly than we see ourselves."



Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Zuck, Virpi, editor-in-chief, Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature, Greenwood Press (West-port, CT), 1990, pp. 413-415.


Books Abroad, winter, 1974, Harald S. Naess, "Stein Mehren: Dialectic Poet of Light and Dreams," pp. 66-70.

Perspectives on Contemporary Literature, Volume 12, 1986, John Eric Bellquist, "On Self and World in Stein Mehren's Early Poetry," pp. 78-86.