“Livslognen” or “Life-Lie”

Continuing from the last post… in the course of reading Chesterton’s biography of Bernard Shaw, I got curious about the Norwegian playwrightHenrik Ibsen and began reading his plays.. (Sigh! I really don’t know if I can get over this tendency to get distracted in to new things so easily!)

I started with “Ghosts” and went on to “The Wild Duck“. Whenever I read a play (I read very few)… first thing that I love about it used to be the dialogues and in the case of Bergman, it was also the descriptions. But in these two plays, I primarily liked the narrative as a whole. Although both these Ibsenian plays had some kind of similarities in terms of the characterizations (and also with those two or three August Strindberg plays that I read last year….Perhaps, more on these thoughts later!)… I am particularly affected by this concept of “Life-Lie” or the Norwegian word- “Livslognen” from “The Wild Duck”

Here is an excerpt from the play, to put the word in context:


Gregers: And what remedy are you applying in Hialmar’s case?
Relling: My usual one. I am cultivating the life-illusion* in him.
Gregers: Life-illusion? I didn’t catch what you said.
Relling: Yes, I said illusion. For illusion, you know, is the stimulating principle.
Gregers: Poor unfortunate old man! Yes; he has indeed had to narrow the ideals of his youth.
Relling: While I think of it, Mr. Werle, junior — don’t use that foreign word: ideals. We have the excellent native word: lies.
Gregers: Do you think the two things are related?
Relling: Yes, just about as closely as typhus and putrid fever.
Gregers: Dr. Relling, I shall not give up the struggle until I have rescued Hialmar from your clutches!
Relling: So much the worse for him. Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke.

(* The actual term is livslognen. Its translated as Life-lie, Life-illusion etc in the various English translations of the play.)

I can’t explain the multitude of thoughts crossing themselves inside me, as I repeat the words “Life Lie” to myself again and again. I can neither accept nor deny the idea. It looks so unrealistically real…. also really unrealistic to me and both at once too! It seems too good to be true..and too bad to be false ;)… perhaps, “livslognen” is really meant to be that.

What is your livslognen? What is mine? Reality, perhaps! 😉

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The German word is “Lebenslüge”. I think “illusion” is not exactly the right concept. What it really means is the lie you tell yourself in order to make life bearable. E.g., one could imagine a woman with two kinds and a stupid husband who keeps telling herself, that she loves the guy and that being a mother always has been her dream. But in fact, before he got her pregnant and they quickly got married, she wanted to travel the world and be a journalist. Or whatever you imagine. 😉

    After all, we all have made our decisions… and if they might have been wrong, we can either keep telling us – perhaps a bit like saying a mantra – that everything is cool, or we can take the long way and change our lives. Which sometimes is not even possible.

  2. Yeah…the “all izz well” mantra 🙂

    But, I also feel that it is essential for certain kind of people to avoid breaking down – they need some thing to work on… the invention of Hialmar in this play is that… its a distraction from real life, in a way.

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