Suspect faces prison in Ibsen, Hamsun forgeries

UPDATED: State prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison term for a 41-year-old Norwegian charged with the sale and attempted sale of 23 forged historic documents, books and manuscripts linked to Norwegian literary heroes Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun. As his trial trial wound down this week, his defense attorneys demanded a full acquittal.

The forged works, including an allegedly unknown play by Henrik Ibsen, could have changed Norway’s cultural history, according to prosecutors. PHOTO: Nasjonalbiblioteket

Prosecutors claim they’ve proven that Geir Ove Kvalheim, a well-known collector and film director in Norway, created the forged items himself, including what he suggested was an unknown play called Solguden (The Sun God) by Ibsen.

Newspaper Aftenposten has reported that the forgery case is unique in Norway and also includes what Kvalheim suggested was Hamsun’s almanac from 1943, with notes on his personal meeting with Adolf Hitler.

Prosecutors, reported Aftenposten, claimed this week that Kvalheim had skillfully tried to mislead and confuse police investigators in a swindle “that could have changed Norway’s cultural history.” They called his alleged forgeries “well-planned” and that he was determined to profit from them, even when Nasjonalbiblioteket (Norway’s National Library )demanded better documentation of the material.

The National Library reported him to the police in 2008 and he was indicted last year. Prosecutors believe Kvalheim wrote the alleged Ibsen play himself, saying the ink used in the handwritten document was first produced in 1989. Ibsen died in 1906.

Kvalheim had tried to sell the documents, including the play, for as much as NOK 1 million. The National Library itself demands compensation of NOK 695,000 after it bought eight historic documents claimed to be written by Hamsun but which proved to be forgeries.

Aftenposten reported on Friday that Kvalheim’s defense attorneys claim their client never tried to sell what could have been an unknown play by Ibsen. They criticized the police investigation and pointed out that it’s not illegal to have written false plays or other documents and tie them to famous persons. It’s only illegal when attempts are made to sell them as such, they argued.

They claim their client acted in good faith and merely presented the material to experts at local antique book shops and, eventually, the National Library. A verdict in the case is expected in late September.

Views and News staff