Torolf Elster

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Person.png Torolf Elster  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(media executive, editor)
Torolf Elster.jpg
Born27 May 1911
Died4 November 2006 (Age 95)
PartyNorwegian Labour Party
Norwegian Labour Party stalwart and Director-General of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

Torolf Elster was a Norwegian newspaper and radio journalist, magazine editor, novelist, crime fiction writer and writer of short stories. He was Director-General of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) from 1972 to 1981.[1]


Elster was born in Kristiania. His parents were author and literary critic Kristian Elster, Jr. (1881–1947) and Ragnhild Poulsen (1885–1958).[2] He was married to poet and psychoanalyst Magli Elster (née Raknes, daughter of psychologist Ola Raknes and poet and playwright Aslaug Vaa).[3] He was the father of philosopher Jon Elster.[2]

Journalist and literary career

Elster made his literary debut in 1936 with the novel Muren. He was sales manager at the publishing company Tiden Norsk Forlag in the late 1930s. He was a member of the communist movement Mot Dag before the German occupation of Norway 1940–1945, during which he had to flee the country.[1] The novel Historien om Gottlob was issued in 1941. In Stockholm he edited the underground newspaper Håndslag, together with Eyvind Johnson and Willy Brandt.[4] Håndslag was smuggled into Norway and distributed illegally. Funded by the Norwegian legation in Stockholm, it was issued once every second week, and was printed in 15–20,000 copies towards the end of the war.[2][4] Elster was also a commentator in Norsk Tidend.[5]

Elster was a foreign editor for Arbeiderbladet from 1945 to 1946, and editor of the labour movement's magazine Kontakt from 1947 to 1954. He then wrote for Arbeiderbladet for almost ten years, from 1954 to 1963. This was the time when editor-in-chief Rolf Gerhardsen, brother of Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen, ran his own Labour movement intelligence service from the newspaper.

During this time he also wrote several non-fiction books, mainly political literature: Frihet og demokrati (Freedom and Democracy, 1947), Øst og Vest (East and West, 1948), Sosialismen under debatt (Socialism Under Debate, 1950) and Sovjetmysteriet (The Soviet Mystery, 1957).[2] He started working as a program manager for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 1963, and was Director-General from 1972 to 1981.[2]