Cultural icon changed Norway

Bookmark and Share

The man who scrapped Norway’s state monopoly on broadcasting, and served as the country’s first government minister in charge of culture, was laid to rest on Tuesday. Lars Roar Langslet, who died last week at the age of 79, has been remembered as a powerful if modest politician who changed the country forever.

Lars Roar Langslet, Norway's first Minister of Culture, died last week at an age of 79. PHOTO: Pax forlag

Lars Roar Langslet, Norway’s first Minister of Culture, died last week at an age of 79. PHOTO: Pax forlag

“No one has been more important for Norwegian conservatism in the last 60 years,” claimed Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norway’s current education minister from the Conservative Party, in which Langslet played a major role for decades. He was a Member of Parliament for the Conservatives (Høyre) from 1969 until 1989, Minister of Culture from 1981 to 1986, and he was a member of the party’s central board from 1970.

He was more than a politician, though. As Isaksen wrote in newspaper Aftenposten last week, “he could have chosen so many paths, as an editor, and academic, a writer, author or politician. And he chose them all.”

Commentators agreed he was an “unusual man,” known for speaking in monotone and appearing shy, even restrained, yet he spoke with an authority and wisdom that made people listen. Irene Halvorsen, a commentator for newspaper Dagsavisen, noted that he had “a burning engagement for culture and history,” and he earned respect for that in all of Norway’s political circles.

As Norway’s first culture minister, “he influenced the lives of all of us who were young in the 1980s,” Halvorsen wrote. During his first year in office, he let the proverbial toothpaste out of the tube and there was no putting it back: He scrapped the monopoly Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) had held on all radio transmissions, and opened the airwaves to local radio stations run by local players. A decade later, NRK’s monopoly on TV also fell, and Langslet won an annual prize doled out by the Norwegian organization that champions free speech, Fritt Ord.

He won lots of other prizes over the years, wrote books and edited magazines. He was a historian and assistant professor at the University of Oslo, a position he held for 20 years while also serving in Parliament, where he also headed the committee in charge of church and education issues.

He also wrote for Aftenposten itself from 1990, after leaving parliament, and wrote several biographies of people like Ludvig Holberg and King Olav V.

“With Lars Roar Langslet, modern Norwegian conservatism got not only an intellectual milieu but an historic legacy,” Isaksen wrote. “His conservatism was moderate, traditional, ethical and liberal (in terms of being reform-minded).” Halvorsen wrote that he was more centrist than many in Høyre and played an important role in opposing Norway’s move to halt immigration in the 1970s.

“It he hadn’t been sick, he probably would have taken part in the current asylum debate,” Halvorsen wrote. He would have praised the current Conservatives-led government for its support for research.

His funeral was to be held in St Olav’s Cathedral in Oslo at 1pm on Tuesday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund