Alf Prøysen

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Alf Prøysen c. 1949.

Alf Prøysen (23 July 1914 - 23 November 1970), was a writer and musician from Norway.[1] Prøysen was one of the most important Norwegian cultural personalities in the second half of the twentieth century, and he made significant contributions to literature, music, TV and radio.

Early life[edit]

He was born at Rudshøgda in Ringsaker. His childhood was typical[citation needed] for those of the social class of tenant farmers—the landless lower class of rural Norway.


His childhood was typical[citation needed] for those of the social class of tenant farmers—the landless lower class of rural Norway. This is reflected in his songs and short stories, where he draws realistic, satirical and harsh pictures of class relations and everyday life in rural Norway.

Though somewhat of an underdog[clarification needed] and an outsider, Prøysen made significant contributions to many artistic fields: children's radio, short stories, theater and music. His only novel Trost i taklampa was a great success both as a book and as a play, depicting the urbanization of 1950s Norway, and the effect this had on rural life.

His work includes the stories about Mrs. Pepperpot, a tiny lady who never knows when she is going to shrink to the size of a teaspoon.

Hearsay claims about bisexuality[edit]

In 1992, in a phone conversation between Prøysen's widow and Ove Røsbak, the widow "confirmed that her husband had an attraction (legning) towards men". Furthermore she said that "on their engagement day, 17 May 1946 he told her that in his youth he had fallen in love with boys. But she was not aware of him living out this side of himself after they were married".[2]

In a 2004 Dagbladet article Knut Olav Åmås "told about a meeting between gay activist Karen-Christine Friele and Alf Prøysen in September 1976. There Prøysen had opened himself completely to Friele. He had told about his love of men, and his split (splittede) life".[3]

In a 2007 Samtiden article, Ove Røsbak said that Svend Erik Løken Larsen retold what Elisabeth Granneman said about a meeting between herself and Prøysen: "Because he [Prøysen] was not a heterosexual man, of course.[2] At least not only that." Furthermore, "Grannemann had told about a confidential conversation between her and Prøysen in a hotel room in Copenhagen, where Prøysen had been deeply in despair and had opened himself completely about his sexuality (legningen)".[2]

A 2014 Dagsavisen article said that there is an overwhelming probability that Prøysen was bisexual, adding that in Prøysen's "life time, it [bisexuality] was associated with shame, and homosexuality was illegal.[4]

Withholding of hearsay claims about Prøysen's bisexuality[edit]

Late in the 1980s Røsbak started collecting material for his book about Prøysen.[5] The hearsay about the meeting between Granneman and Prøysen, led Røsbak to ask his main source Alf Cranner about Prøysen's sexual identity.[5] Cranner confirmed Prøysen's attraction to men, but added "Does it really matter?" Røsbak says about Cranner's reply that "It was the opposite of what he [Cranner] had told me during the years". [6]

Furthermore Røsbak says that "I became less and less enthusiastic about the imposition that was alive among friends of Prøysen, about that this [the topic of the sexual preferences] was to be held within engere circles, as a topic over glasses of red wine, as a hot topic of gossip, but that must not be brought any further", out of (what Røbak's sources called) consideration for the family of Prøysen.[2]

Alleged motives for the withholding[edit]

In a 2007 Samtiden article Ove Røsbak said that "I had a feeling that my sources had other motives for withholding this information [about bisexuality]. - Maybe it was because it would disturb the glossed picture that Prøysen had been turned into, in Norway--the picture that Prøysen's celebrity friends had participated in spreading, and that made Prøysen into an almost Christlike figure, the mascot of the entire social democracy, that they could bask in the glory of? It would not be fitting with the worship, to say that he was bisexual."[7] Furthermore Røsbak referred to an article in Norwegian magazine BLIKK comparing the difference in reactions to the publication of the bisexuality of author Jens Bjørneboe compared to that of Prøysen: "When Bjørneboe's bisexuality was exposed late in the 1960s, it was a shock, but not so terribly great. Bjørneboe was known as an anarchist, rebel, a drunken skjønnånd, troublemaker and European. Differently, in regard to the trauste homestead author Prøysen "... it is the folksiness that is the key word. If Prøysen could be bisexual, than anyone can, even in the villages, during the hunt for elks, in the veaskauen, [or] at the local dance (dansebandgallaen). "[8]

Impact of sexual identity in song lyrics[edit]

Britt Andersen (researcher of literature) has questioned Ole Paus denial that homosexual identity has had any impact on Prøysen's song lyrics.[8] Furthermore she says that "many male bi- or homosexual lyricists have chosen to write about love and men in lyrics to be sung by women, i.e. Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Noel Coward".[9] Furthermore Prøysen "is known for writing well about women, so well that one can suspect him of writing about himself.[9]


Alf Prøysen died of cancer on 23 November 1970, aged 56. He was buried at Vår Frelsers gravlund, at Norway's main honorary burial ground—Æreslunden.[10]

After death[edit]

The encyclopedia Store Norske Leksikon says that "Prøysen's great popularity, shadowed (in his lifetime) for his deeper literary qualities". Furthermore "Still in 1972 Olav H. Hauge wrote in his diary that Prøysen was a rich, fat celebrity and favorite of the the upper- and ruling class ("storfolket"), but also Hauge eventually changed his perception.[10]


As the youngest of four children, Prøysen was very close to his mother Julie. He married Else Storhaug in 1948 and together they had two children, a daughter, Elin Julie and a son, Alf Ketil.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Biography from Prøysenhuset, a museum dedicated to the artist.
  • Biography written by the artist's daughter, Elin Prøysen.
Preceded by
Hans Peter L'Orange
Recipient of the Norsk kulturråds ærespris
Succeeded by
Alf Rolfsen