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Vaa, Aslaug (1889–1965)

Vaa, Aslaug (1889–1965)

Norwegian poet and dramatist. Born in 1889 at Rauland in Telemark, Norway; died on November 28, 1965 (some sources cite 1967), in Oslo; daughter of a farmer; studied in Paris and Berlin, 1909; married Ola Raknes (a philologist and psychoanalyst), in 1911 (divorced 1938); children: five.

Selected writings:

Nord i leite (In the North Horizon, 1934); Steinguden (God of Stone, 1934); Skuggen og strendan (1935); Villarkonn (1936); På vegakanten (1938); Tjugendagen (1947); Fotefar (Footprints, 1947); Munkeklokka (The Monastery Bell, 1950); Skjenkarsveinens visur (The Innkeeper's Songs, 1954); Bustader (Living Quarters, 1963); Dikt i utval (1964); Honningfuglen og leoparden (1965); Munkeklokka (1966).

Aslaug Vaa was born in 1889 and grew up in a rural region of southcentral Norway, the daughter of a farmer. She traveled to Paris and Berlin in 1909 to study literature, philosophy, art history, and theater at various universities. Two years later, she married Ola Raknes, a philologist and psychoanalyst. Following their divorce in 1938, she supported five children by working as a housekeeper and a translator. It was not until 1934, at age 45, that Vaa published her first work: a collection of poems, Nord i leite, and a play, Steinguden. However, she earned immediate prominence in Norwegian literature, writing works influenced by William Blake, Cubism, Dadaism, and dramatic expressionism. She also drew from the folk life and art of her home region of Telemark, writing lyrical poems influenced by local ballads and folk songs. Her work, however, transcended regionalism, and the Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literature described her as "a visionary poet of universal themes."

She wrote seven poetry collections, four plays, and more than 150 articles and essays. In her early work, Vaa praised the virtues of rural life and traditions, imbuing her lyrical verse with the rhythms of traditional music. Later in her career, her work became more philosophically searching, filled with disaster, unrest, and yearning. In her plays, Vaa integrated realism and expressionism as well as lyricism. She was deeply influenced by old earth-honoring traditions, praising the earth as the source of all life and celebrating female power. According to Claire Buck, though, her work defies easy comprehension "as she writes a triple dialect of modernism, ecological feminism and a radical New-Norwegian dialect, landsmål." Vaa died in Oslo on November 28, 1965.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. 2nd ed. NY: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Zuck, Virpi, ed. Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature. Chicago, IL: St. James Press, 1990.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer

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