is a publication of The Ibsen Society of America and is sponsored by support from Long Island University, Brooklyn. Distributed free of charge to the members of the Society. Information on membership in the Society and on library rates for INC is available on the Ibsen Society web site: ibsensociety.liu.edu
© 2002 by The Ibsen Society of America. ISSN 1089-6171. All rights reserved.
Editor, Joan Templeton
Advisory Editor, Thomas Van Laan
ROLF FJELDE, 1926-2002
The Ibsen Society of America celebrates and pays homage to the life of its esteemed founding President, Rolf Fjelde: teacher, scholar, poet, critic, mentor, and Ibsen's translator and tireless advocate in America.
Rolf Fjelde was born in 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, to Amy and Paul Fjelde. Paul Fjelde (1892-1984) had a long and successful career as a sculptor and was known for his portraits of famous Norwegian-Americans, like Charles Lindbergh. Paul was a first-generation American, the son of Norwegian sculptor Jacob Fjelde (1859-1896), who had immigrated to Minnesota in 1887. Jacob, who had sculpted Ibsen from the life in Molde, Norway, in 1885, made a name for himself in his new country, and before he died, at the young age of 37, he had completed the near sacred commission of the monument at Gettysburg to the First Minnesota infantry, made up mostly of Norwegian immigrant farm boys, whose sacrificial charge saved the Union line. Rolf Fjelde was very proud of his Norwegian family heritage, and he honored it by his devotion to Norway's greatest artist. In 1989, he had the great pleasure of donating a fired porcelain copy of his grandfather's Ibsen bust to Ibsen House, the theatre and conference center in Skien, Norway, Ibsen's birthplace.
Rolf grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and graduated from Yale University, where he was a founding editor of the Yale Poetry Review. After receiving an M.F.A. from Columbia, he received fellowships to study in Heidelberg and Copenhagen. In 1954, Rolf joined his father, a Professor of Art, on the faculty of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, accepting a position in the Humanities Department, where he taught literature, including many courses on Ibsen, and film, until his retirement in 1997. In 1964, he and Christel Mueller celebrated their marriage. They became parents of three children: Michele Fjelde Burke, and twins Eric and Christopher.
Rolf published two volumes of poetry, in 1955 and 1962, and in 1965, New American Library published the first volume of his Ibsen translations: Four Major Plays: A Doll House, The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder. Thus began the great translating career that culminated in Ibsen: The Complete Major Prose Plays (New American Library; 1978) and Peer Gynt (University of Minnesota Press, 1980). These volumes provided a sorely needed, and now landmark series of translations for teachers and performers of Ibsen all over the country. Removing what he delighted in calling the "high Ibsenese" of the British translations, language which sounded doubly ludicrous in the mouths of American actors, Rolf put Ibsen's Dano-Norwegian into the rhythms and idioms of the American language. In 1991, Norway honored Rolf for his translations by awarding him the medal of the Order of St. Olaf. Two years later, The American Academy of Arts and Letters presented Rolf with its Award in Literature; at the ceremony, Harold Bloom summarized: "It has been Rolf Fjelde's achievement to bring us both the lavish poetry of Peer Gynt and the spare prose of Ibsen's twelve modern prose plays in a way that was new and revelatory. The dictionary sense of the words had been done into English before, sometimes accurately, but the imaginative vision had not come through. To deliver this, Rolf Fjelde's expertise and his talent were required." A year later, when the Ibsen Society paid homage to Rolf on his retirement as President, Eric Bentley, one of eleven eminent scholars and directors who paid tribute to Rolf's work, praised Rolf's achievement in these terms: "Consider these two ideas: one: reverence for individual writers as great men or women; two: translation as an individual's art, the art of a writer equally at home with the language translated from and the language translated into. Ibsen found his American champion in Rolf Fjelde."
|Go To >> | previous | next||