He was born on the island of Hemnskjela in what was then the municipality of Heim. He graduated from the University of Oslo in 1976 with the cand.philol. degree. He was a literary critic for the newspaper Dagbladet from 1984, and is regarded among the most important and influential literary critics in Norway over a period of two decades. Before Dagbladet he had worked for Ny Tid and Arbeiderbladet. He also contributed to Norsk biografisk leksikon.
His most widespread works as a literary historian are the three last volumes of Norges Litteraturhistorie, covering the period after World War II, Fra Brekke til Mehren 1945–1965 (volume 6, published 1995), Inn i medietidsalderen 1965–1980 (volume 7, 1997) and Vår egen tid 1980–1998 (volume 8, 1998). He lectured at the University of Tromsø and from 1985 to 1991 at the University of Copenhagen, and spent one year from 1991 to 1992 as a visiting scholar at the University of Vienna. He died in 2004 in Copenhagen.
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