Q&A with Snorre Smari Mathiesen, author of the new book on August Schonemann
What piqued your interest in Norwegian comedian August Schønemann (1891-1925) in the first place?
Although a huge celebrity in Norway during his lifetime, August Schønemann is today chiefly remembered as the father of Aud Schønemann, a much beloved comic performer in my home country, whose fame has endured more so than that of her father. I have many fond memories of watching Aud’s film and TV performances in my childhood. I’ve kind of always been interested in “old” things, including entertainment history of the past, and felt that August Schønemann’s story had not been properly told. I originally wrote a rather small book about him in Norwegian back in 2018, which I self-published, but then BearManor Media showed interest in the book and so I had it translated to American. This edition includes new and updated information, I should add.
As you did research, was there one tidbit of information that stood out as particularly surprising or interesting?
Yes, and it concerns a tragic detail, I’m afraid: the cause of August Schønemann’s early death. All literature that I’ve read on him, including his daughter’s authorized biography, claims that Schønemann, at age 33, died as a result of pernicious anemia, and I repeated this, uncritically, in the Norwegian edition of the book. However, I’ve since been able to view Schønemann’s burial certificate, which gives a different cause of death.
What have you wished to achieve with your book?
I've wished to celebrate August Schønemann as the great comic talent and pioneer that he was. As stated above, I feel that his role in Norwegian entertainment history has not been sufficiently communicated, even in his home country. I hope and believe his story can be of significance to anyone interested in revue and film history, also non-Norwegian readers. Among Schønemann’s many achievements during his brief lifetime, he starred in the first major Norwegian film comedy, a production which the book covers in detail.