Axel Sandemose


August 13, 2022

Aksel Sandemose (born 19 March 1899 in Nykøbing Mors, died 6 August 1965 in Copenhagen) was a Danish-born writer, known for the psychological novels En sjømann går i land (1931) and En flyktning krysser sitt spor (1933). He is particularly known as the man behind the Janteloven, a text about the unwritten "laws" that characterize many small Scandinavian communities. Sandemose emigrated to Norway in 1929 and wrote in Norwegian, but with elements of Danish. With over 300 articles, Sandemose was among the biggest contributors to the magazine Aktuell in the years 1945–1965. Sandemose wrote in many genres in Aktuell. Among other things, he reported on the trial against the sex offender Carl Jacob Schnitler and warned against revenge, because he thought Schnitler was a "very sick man".

Life and work

Aksel Sandemose's birth name was Axel Nielsen, but in 1921 he changed his name to Aksel Sandemose, a name connected to his Norwegian mother's family. Growing up in the town of Nykøbing on the island of Mors in the Limfjord in North Jutland provided material for a large part of his writing. His time as a sailor at a young age is also biographical material in his books. Sandemose's mother, who was from Skedsmo outside Oslo, has given the author what he himself has described as "patriotism" towards her homeland. At the suggestion of fellow writer Sigurd Hoel, he settled in Norway in 1930. In Norway, Sandemose immediately established himself as a Norwegian author by translating parts of his Danish writing into Norwegian, including En sjømann går i ashore from 1931. His strong relationship with Norwegian in this early period is expressed, among other things, in the Vinje-inspired one-man magazine Fesjå from 1935, but he only got Norwegian citizenship after the war. A forerunner of the far more extensive one-man magazine Årstidene – Brev fra Kjørkelvik, which appeared in 13 issues in the years 1951–1955. During his first years in Norway, he lived with his first family at Blylaget on Nesodden by Bunnefjorden, the fjord just south of Oslo. Since he was associated with a milieu that worked actively against the German occupying power, he chose to flee to Sweden in 1941. The time in Sweden was a difficult but fruitful time for the author. His second major work, Det svundne er en dröm, was written here and published in Sweden under the title Det gånna är en dröm in 1944. A title that is not a translation of the Norwegian title, as it is a stanza taken from the Swedish poet Dan Andersson's work. After the war, Sandemose moved back to Norway with his new wife, Eva Borgen. Sandemose had long dreamed of moving out of the capital and first thought of Trysil, but the couple came across the disused small farm Kjørkelvik in Søndeled in Aust-Agder in Southern Norway and bought it. After ten good days on the small farm, a tough period began for Sandemose. First he lost his twin son, Espen, and a couple of years later his wife Eva also died. Sandemose has described the events in the Walls around Jericho, a book that he calls a memorial book about those who were close to him. He then moved back to Oslo, where in 1963 he married for the third time. In the spring of 1965, Sandemose fell ill and was admitted to Ullevål hospital. He requested to be moved to the Military Hospital in Copenhagen, where he died in August of the same year. After his third major work, Varulven in 1958, Sandemose was one of the leading candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature at the end of the fifties. The main works A refugee crosses his track, The lost is a dream and Werewolf have given the author a place in world literature. Sandemose was the father of the inventor Bjarne Sandemose (1926–2013), grandfather of the artist Iben Sandemose and great-grandfather of the film director Mikkel Sandemose. He was also the father of the philosopher and writer Jørgen Sandemose (1945-2019).



1963 – The mutiny on the barque Zuidersee 1961 – Felicia's wedding 1960 – The walls around Jericho 1958 – The Werewolf 1950 - The Adventure of King Rhascall the Seventeenth about a palm-green island 194