Rolf Fjelde

Rolf Fjelde headshot
Born in Brooklyn, New York into a family of artists, Rolf Fjelde (1926-2002) was an American educator, poet and critic and one of this country’s foremost translators and proponents of the works of Henrik Ibsen. His father, Paul Fjelde, was a noted sculptor. His grandfather was the Norwegian born sculptor, Jacob Fjelde, who had immigrated to Minnesota in 1887. In 1885, at the age of 26, Jacob had met Ibsen, then 47 years old, and created a bust of his famous countryman.

Rolf Fjelde grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and graduated from Yale University where he was a founding editor of the
Yale Poetry Review. After receiving an MFA at Columbia University, he received fellowships to study in Heidelberg and Copenhagen. In 1954 he joined the faculty of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he was a Professor of Literature until his retirement in 1997. He was also on the faculty of the Juilliard Drama School from 1973 to 1983.

Fjelde published two volumes of poetry in 1955 and 1962 and first translated Ibsen in 1964, starting a translating career that culminated in Ibsen: The Complete Major Prose Plays in 1978 and Peer Gynt in 1980. In 1991, the King of Norway honored Fjelde for his translations with the medal of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav and in 1993 the American Academy of Arts and Letters presented him with its Award in Literature. In 1978, as the Ibsen Sesquicentennial Symposium celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ibsen’s birth took place at the Pratt Institute, the Ibsen Society of America was started and Fjelde was elected its founding president. He held that office for 15 years and during that time founded Ibsen News and Comment, the journal of the Society which has been published annually since 1980. The Ibsen Society of America and its journal have provided a vital forum for actors, directors, scholars and critics involved with Ibsen. Fjelde has lectured nationally and internationally, often in connection with productions of his translations.

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