Which brings us back to Solstad. What qualifies Solstad for this exceptional treatment by the Norwegian state? Well, let’s take a quick look at his career. He has written seventeen novels. (The seventeenth, published two years ago, is adorably entitled Seventeenth Novel.) Many of his novels have surprised even left-leaning Norwegians with their shrill Marxism. Perhaps the most famous of these books, Gymnaslærer Pedersens beretning om den store politiske vekkelse som har hjemsøkt vårt land (Gymnasium Teacher Pedersen’s Account of the Great Political Awakening that Has Haunted Our Country), is an affectionate look at a Maoist secondary-school instructor and his students. It was made into a hit movie in 2006.
The background to this literary record is that Solstad, as I recounted a while back here at PJM, for many years belonged to a hard-Maoist political party called the AKP (m-l). In 2008, having been equivocal for some years about his political orientation, he proudly declared that he was “a Communist once more.” That same year, in response to the debate over free speech inspired in large part by the Danish cartoon crisis, he bragged that “I take a completely indifferent posture toward freedom of expression….I cannot envision a future in which a situation will arise in which I will be denied the right to express myself.” Indeed, instead of defending free speech, Solstad — in a clear reference to critics of Islam — railed against those who, he said, use it “as a weapon directed against everything I stand for.” He made it plain that in his view, some speech should be silenced. This argument was breathtaking to read –though it was unclear whether what was breathtaking about it was the result of incredible ignorance about the lessons of history or a repulsive willingness to lie coldbloodedly about those lessons.
To sum up Solstad’s contribution to Norwegian society and culture: few of his countrymen in the postwar era have done more than he has to normalize, mainstream, and render acceptable extreme leftism, including the monstrous ideology of Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderer in human history. Alas, it is in the nature of the current socialist regime in Norway that such an achievement is not held in contempt but is rather honored as a contribution to the nation. To put it bluntly: in the eyes of Norway’s socialist leaders, Solstad has quite clearly done the right thing with his life. To hand this successful man 200,000 kroner a year, to be sure, is hardly the kind of redistribution of income that Karl Marx had in mind — but it’s precisely the kind that the Norwegian government routinely practices: quite simply, it rewards those who engage in behavior it approves of and punishes those who don’t.