Category: Norway Page 1 of 2

Hanne Ørstavik: Presten (The Pastor)

The latest addition to my website is Hanne Ørstavik‘s Presten (The Pastor). The eponymous pastor is Liv. She had worked in southern Germany where she had befriended Kristiane but when Kristiane killed herself, she had applied for and got a job in the far North of Norway. However, things do not go well, not least because she had trouble fitting in and clearly does not have the right temperament to be a pastor, finding it difficult to comfort people in distress. She has also been working on a doctoral thesis on a Sami rebellion in 1852, which took place near where she is now working, and realises that the connection between the two cultures is Christianity – the Sami seemed to have adopted a more fervent Christianity at the time – while language, ultimately the language of the Bible, not at that time available in Sami, is also important. However the struggles of Liv and other women characters are the key to this book.

Jon Fosse: Eit nytt namn – Septologien VI-VII (A New Name : Septology VI-VII)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Eit nytt namn – Septologien VI-VII (A New Name : Septology VI-VII). This is the conclusion of his brilliant trilogy about three days in the life of an artist/two artists, Alse. I say two artists as there are two Alses but they seem likely to be doppelgängers of one another. In this novel Alse 1 (as I call him but Fosse does not) essentially abandons painting and moves towards the final phase of his life. What has always mattered to him more than anything is Ales, his long since dead wife, and he will see her on a symbolic boat journey, as he moves towards a state of grace. His doppelgänger, however, will spend the entire book in a coma, almost certainly caused by excessive drinking. We do jump back – Alse 1’s meeting with Ales and his artistic career and Alse 2’s marital problems – but the focus of the book is the move towards the end. This trilogy has been haled as one of the great works of the twenty-first century and I can only concur.

Jon Fosse: Eg er ein annan – Septologien III-V ( I is Another : Septology III-V)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Eg er ein annan – Septologien III-V ( I is Another : Septology III-V). This is the second in his trilogy, with the first book introducing us to Asle 1 and Asle 2, both Norwegian painters, and ending with Asle 2 seriously ill in hospital after Asle 1 found him collapsed in the snow. This book continues with Asle 1’s musings but is mostly about Asle 2 and his childhood. It soon becomes apparent that the two men are almost certainly the same person, perhaps two alternative versions of their life story. However, both meet in the book and become friends and we see his/their early struggles. We also follow Asle 2 at the present time and his views on painting and religion and how the two converge. Fosse once again gives us a wonderful example of slow prose a deep exploration of the psyche and the soul of a man – two men? – and his art, his religion and his life.

Jon Fosse: Det Andre Namnet – Septologien I-II (The Other Name – Septology I-II)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Det Andre Namnet – Septologien I-II (The Other Name – Septology I-II). This contains the first two novels in what Fosse calls a septology, though they will be published as a trilogy in English. The novel is narrated by a man I shall call Asle 1. He is a painter, a widower, childless reformed alcoholic, religious and devoted to his work. He is friends with another painter also called Asle, whom I shall call Asle2. Asle 2 is twice divorced with three children he does not see, not religious, a serious alcoholic and a man who struggles with his painting. Asle 1,coming into Bjørgvin, clearly based on Bergen, from the small fishing village where he lives, finds Asle 2 collapsed in the snow and rescues him. What makes this book is Asle 2’s thoughts on his art, his religious views and their influence on both his life and art, his relationship with his rough-and-ready neighbour, Åsleik and his thoughts about his late wife, Ales. There are no fireworks but the book is a wonderful read.

Sigrid Undset: Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken (The Axe (Part 1) The Snake Pit (Part 2); later: Olav Audunssøn. 1. Vows)

The latest addition to my website is Sigrid Undset‘s Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken (The Axe (Part 1) The Snake Pit (Part 2); later: Olav Audunssøn. 1. Vows). This a new translation of the classic 1925 novel by the Nobel Prize winner, set in the late thirteenth century. Olav Audunssøn is fostered to a family when his father becomes ill and dies (his mother died in childbirth). He grows up with Ingunn, the oldest daughter of the family, about his age and they become friends and later lovers, having been promised to one another as children. It all goes wrong first when Ingunn’s parents dies and their next of kin have other plans for Ingunn and then Olav gets into a fight with one of Ingunn’s relatives and has to flee the country. With a troubled political situation things look bleak for true love. It is a first-class story and in an excellent new translation.

Vigdis Hjorth: Leve posthornet! (Long Live the Post-Horn)

The latest addition to my website is Vigdis Hjorth‘s Leve posthornet! (Long Live the Post-Horn). Ellinor, our narrator, is a thirty-five year old woman, who owns a small PR company with Dag and Rolf. She is already going through a bad patch, when she learns that Dag has suddenly quit, without warning. Soon after, he is found dead, possibly suicide. Her sister’s miscarriage does not help and nor does her mundane relationship with Stein, who also seems to be having his problems. However, she gradually takes over Dag’s project, helping the Post Office trade union oppose an EU directive which would open up the postal service to full private sector competition. She gradually gets more and more involved, seeing both the value of the postal service, particularly in a country with remote parts, and also the feeling that she is fighting for an important cause. Hjorth tells an excellent story of a woman who overcomes what she describes as her Sylvia Plath moment, to be saved by the Post Office.

Hariton Pushwagner: Soft City

The latest addition to my website is Hariton Pushwagner‘s Soft City. This is the first graphic novel on my website, the only graphic novel by Norwegian artist, Hariton Pushwagner. With Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina making the Man Booker 2018 Longlst, I thought it time to have a look at a graphic novel and went for something different, not least because Drnaso has already garnered a lot of publicity.

Soft City is the day in the life of a family in a mega-city – think Brave New World meets Metropolis – where everybody looks the same and does the same things. We follow the husband as he and hundreds of others leave their high-rise flat to go and work for the Soft Company (maker of armaments and toxic chemicals). We see briefly what the armaments and chemicals can do. Then they all go home, watch TV (Western, violent war film) and go to bed. Pushwagner makes his point and the drawings are well-done but I prefer a novel with lots of words so don’t look for many more graphic novels on this site.

Gine Cornelia Pedersen: Null (Zero)

The latest addition to my website is Gine Cornelia Pedersen‘s Null (Zero). This is Pedersen’s first (of two) novels and she has since made a name for herself as a TV star in Norway. This novel tells the story of a Norwegian girl, aged ten at the start of the novel and aged twenty-one by the end, who starts off by being somewhat sociopathic and, passing through teenage bad behaviour, has serious mental problems, spending some time in an institution, before being released and ultimately heading for Peru. Drugs, drink casual sex, violent behaviour, depression are all part of her problem. The novel is told in the first person, often in single, staccato sentences, as we follow her descent into Hell. Pedersen does not analyse or explain but merely shows what the unnamed narrator goes through.

Dag Solstad: Armand V. (Armand V.)

The latest addition to my website is Dag Solstad‘s Armand V. (Armand V.). Armand is a Norwegian diplomat and we follow his life and career in this novel which is not a novel but merely the footnotes to a novel as the author abandoned the actual novel for various reasons. Armand was appointed an ambassador at age forty-two, one of the youngest Norwegian ambassadors. The key but certainly not only issue in the book is the conflict Armand faces between his public views as an ambassador and his private views, particularly as regards Norway’s relationship with the United States. However, this inner conflict spills out into his personal life, in his relationship with his son and his two (former) best friends. Solstad leads us on all sort of tangents but comes back both to this idea and the nature of his (lack of) novel. It might sound complicated but it more or less worked for me.

Dag Solstad: T. Singer (T. Singer)

The latest addition to my website is Dag Solstad‘s T. Singer (T. Singer). This is the story of a man who, as usual for Solstad is ordinary but, when subject to more detailed scrutiny is less than ordinary and also a man who on the surface seems normal – job, marriage, social relations – but, in fact, gradually wishes to detach himself from life and other people, which he more or less does. Solstad peers beneath the surface of Singer and reveals a complex man but a man who wishes to be entirely self-sufficient, dependent on no-one. It is very well told and we cannot help but be fascinated by this ordinary but unusual man.

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