Norwegian Railways in Philately

   NORWAY: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson 08.12.1932   
Click to enlargeA set of four stamps issued to celebrate the birth centenary of the Norwegian novelist, poet, and dramatist, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910). He is the author of "Jernbanen og kirkegaarden" (The Railway and the Churchyard). This short story, published in 1866, was perhaps the first piece of Norwegian literature to pose the problem of the new materialistic civilization versus the traditional order of things. This account of a railway that was to pass over a graveyard found Bjørnson sympathizing with conservative pietism but prophetic enough to see the inevitable victory of the forces symbolized by the railway. "The Railway and the Churchyard" was published in Scandinavian Short Stories, 1995.

Catalogue Nos.: Sc 154-157 / SG 227-230 / Mi 163-166 / YT 155-158 / NK 185-188

Click to enlargePortrait of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson on the balcony at his home at Aulestad, from a painting by Erik Werenskiold. He was one of the major figures of Norwegian literature and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1903.
In the story, "The Railway and the Churchyard," two friends are estranged by their different views of progress. Knut Aakre belongs to an old and influential family. He is chairman of the parish commissioners, but also protects his family interests. His neighbor, Lars Hogstad (against his own secret personal wishes), supports a proposal to establish a savings bank. The decision turns out to be far-sighted and it brings prosperity to the parish.
Years later, Lars realizes that his bank will fail if a new railway is not built, as the railway will cause all real estate prices to increase in value. Knut opposes in vain the plans to build the railway through the old, now unused churchyard, the only place it can go. Lars sees the train working through the valley as a strong power, and remembers his grandfather who raised the family from poverty to comfortable circumstances. "... true, a part of his citizen-honor had been lost, but forward he had pushed, nevertheless. His faults were those of his time; they were to be found on the uncertain borders of the moral conceptions of that period, and are of no consideration now."
Sparks from a passing locomotive start a fire and burn down Lars's house, but Knut is the first to help him. Lars is again elected the chairman of the parish, but now with Knut at his side.
A souvenir sheet containing a pair of this stamp was prepared by the Norwegian Philatelic Association. Stamps of Bjørnson are also issued by Sweden, St.Vincent & Grenadines and Slovakia.

Catalogue Nos.: Sc 810 / SG 903 / Mi 870A+Block 4 / YT 826 / NK 918

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