(Richard Orange’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/31.)

It's the case that has absorbed Scandinavia's elite artistic circles and tested some of Norway's finest literary experts.

Over the next few months, investigators from the Norwegian police's economic crimes unit will be combing the market for supposed possessions and letters relating to the playwright Henrik Ibsen, and the Nobel-winning novelist – and Nazi sympathiser – Knut Hamsun as part of investigations into an alleged scam that exploited the nation's interest in its most celebrated authors.

More than a dozen documents are alleged to have been forged by Geir Ove Kvalheim, a Norwegian scriptwriter and actor, who has been charged and is due go on trial in April.

The alleged fraud was only revealed when Kvalheim sensationally claimed to have discovered fragments of a previously unknown Ibsen play, The Sun God, a find that would have changed Norwegian literary history.

Lars Frode Larsen, a Hamsun expert who was one of the first to raise the alarm, said that he could not think of a literary forgery of such magnitude since the fake Hitler diaries in 1983.

"He was very convincing," Rolf Warendorf at Oslo's Norlis antiquarian booksellers, told the Observer. "His story was that he was a collector of all kinds of stuff connected to the second world war – uniforms, medals etc – and that he had got in touch with the older Nazis living in Spain and Norway."

To Warendorf's embarrassment, his bookshop became the conduit through which several of the alleged forgeries were brought to market. He bought a "signed" first edition of the Ibsen play John Gabriel Borkman, which the writer had dedicated to Edvard Munch, the artist who painted The Scream.


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