«Right now a lot of people are writing about the Norwegian language and the work of the Committee on Language, Precision and Whippersnapper, Løvland and Anathon Aal, Members of Parliament and Professors, editors and concerned parties. Almost all are agreed on the need to ruin the language, the only disagreement is over the speed at which this is to be done.»

2017-04-2613:45 Viktor Håkonsen

Language in Danger (1918) originally appeared in as three articles in Aftenposten on June 8th, 10th, and 11th, in 1918. The articles were subsequently collected and published as a brochure, which sold fifty thousand copies.

Behind Hamsun’s articles lay the struggle between Noregs Mållag (the Norwegian Language League) and Riksmålsforbundet (the Society for the Preservation of Dano-Norwegian). In 1917 language reforms were introduced that had important repercussions for the spelling of both nynorsk (New Norwegian) and riksmål (the language spoken and written by most Norwegians). Hamsun was opposed to the new rules, and wrote: "The Norwegian language has no obligation to come to an accommodation with New Norwegian, its only obligation is to the way life itself is lived."

Front cover, first edition of Sproget i Fare (Language in Danger). Photo: The Hamsun Centre.