Restricted to life within the same four walls at the moment? If lockdown is continuing where you are, we would highly recommend reading the award-winning A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth. Translated by Charlotte Barslund and selected for an English PEN Award as part of the PEN Translates! programme, this novel is a penetrating study of power relations in contemporary Nordic society.
The relationship between a property owner and their tenant is an uneasy one: ‘the power balance was unequal, that is if you could talk about power in such cases, and you probably could’. Petty squabbles over whose responsibility it is to clear a shared driveway of snow, wasteful electricity use, late-night shower routines and prejudices based on superficial appearances – the tenant’s bed-linen is preemptively dismissed by her landlady as ‘undoubtedly synthetic’ – accrue and accumulate, heading towards inevitable combustion.
If you would like to read for yourself how this particular tapestry of tangled lives turns out, copies can be ordered here or you can read the opening pages here. It will also be perfect pre-reading for the 20th Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin, scheduled for September this year (pandemic permitting), where Vigdis Hjorth has been invited to appear as a guest.
In August we celebrate Women in Translation Month. In addition to publishing many female authors over half of Norvik publications are translated by women. Some recently published examples of both excellent writing and translation by women include Suzanne Brøgger’s essay collection A Fighting Pig’s Too Tough to Eattranslated by Marina Allemano, Selma Lagerlöf’s Banished translated by Linda Schenck and Vigdis Hjorth’s A House in Norwaytranslated by Charlotte Barslund.
To celebrate the work of women in translation Norvik is offering blog readers a 10% discount on works by female authors published by Norvik on orders submitted by the end of August 2018. Browse our catalogue here and email your order directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting the discount code WOMEN IN TRANSLATION. Please note that this offer only applies to orders emailed directly to Norvik, and cannot be used for purchases in bookshops or online.
We’ve come to that time of the year where the only sensible thing to do is to snuggle up under a blanket in the biggest, comfiest chair you can find, and get yourself something hot to drink and a good book. Well, we don’t do blankets, but we can help with the book part! At Norvik, we’ve put together a seasonal recommended reading list of our treasures fit for winter. These are perfect as stocking fillers for friends and family, or why not treat yourself for a few hours in that comfy chair during what the Swedes call mellandagarna (the days between Christmas and New Year)? Click on the link in each title below to visit our website for more information on the books, and how to buy.
This spirited and at times sinister novel ensnares the reader in a tangled encounter between modern-day Scandinavia and the ancient world of myth. In the 1980s, a hardworking Icelandic businesswoman and her teenage daughter Dís, who has been arrested for apparently committing a strange and senseless robbery, are unwittingly drawn into a ritual-bound world of goddesses, sacrificial priests, golden thrones and kings-in-waiting. It is said that Gunnlöth was seduced by Odin so he could win the ‘mead’ of poetry from her, but is that really true, and why was Dís summoned to their world?
Wilfred – alias Little Lord – is a privileged young man growing up in upper-class society in Kristiania (now Oslo) during the halcyon days before the First World War. Beneath the strikingly well-adjusted surface, however, runs a darker current; he is haunted by the sudden death of his father and driven to escape the stifling care of his mother for risky adventures in Kristiania’s criminal underworld. The two sides of his personality must be kept separate, but the strain of living a double life threatens breakdown and catastrophe. This best-selling novel by Johan Borgen, one of Norway’s most talented twentieth-century writers, is also an evocative study of a vanished age of biplanes, variety shows, and Viennese psychiatry.
29 January 1912. In a train compartment in Ogden, Utah, a Danish author was found unconscious. The 54-year-old Herman Bang was en route from New York to San Francisco as part of a round-the-world reading tour. It was a poignant end for a man whose life had been spent on the move. Having fled his birthplace on the island of Als ahead of the Prussian advance of 1864, he was later hounded out of Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna and Prague by homophobic laws and hostility to his uncompromising social critique as journalist, novelist, actor and dramaturge. Dorrit Willumsen re-works Bang’s life story in a series of compelling flashbacks that unfold during his last fateful train ride across the USA. Along the way, we are transported to an audience in St Petersburg with the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, to a lovers’ nest in a flea-ridden Prague boarding house, to the newsrooms and variety theatres of fin-de-siècle Copenhagen, and to a Norwegian mountainside, where Claude Monet has come to paint snow and lauds Bang’s writing as literary impressionism.
A richly-illustrated one-volume hardback edition of Selma Lagerlöf’s classic tale. This novel started out as a commissioned school reader designed to present the geography of Sweden to nine-year-olds, but Lagerlöf’s work quickly won international fame and popularity, which it still enjoys over a century later. It is a fantastic story of a naughty boy who climbs on the back of a gander and is then carried the length of the country, learning both geography and good behaviour as he goes. It is a story of Sweden, where every province has its tale and out of the many fantasies, a diverse country emerges; a country of the great and the grand, majestic nature and lords and ladies, but also a country of farmers and fishers, goose-herds and Sami, miners and loggers, and of animals – rats and eagles and elk, foxes and geese and all the other creatures who are part of the life cycle of the land.
A House in Norway tells the story of Alma, a divorced textile artist who makes a living from weaving standards for trade unions and marching bands. She lives alone in an old villa, and rents out an apartment in her house to supplement her income. She is overjoyed to be given a more creative assignment, to design a tapestry for an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway, but soon finds that it is a much more daunting task than she had anticipated. Meanwhile, a Polish family moves into her apartment, and their activities become a challenge to her unconscious assumptions and her self-image as a good feminist and an open-minded liberal. Is it possible to reconcile the desire to be tolerant and altruistic with the imperative need for creative and personal space?
Kerstin Ekman’s wonderful poem Childhood is presented here as a dual language English/Swedish publication illustrated with original photographs provided by the author. Kerstin Ekman is primarily known as a novelist, but she has occasionally turned to free verse, especially when the subject is autobiographical. In 1993-1994, Swedish TV 1 conducted a series of talks with prominent writers under the rubric ‘Seven Boys and Seven Girls’. In place of an ordinary interview, Kerstin Ekman read aloud Barndom (Childhood). The prose passages are quotations from Ekman’s 1988 novel Rövarna i Skuleskogen (The Forest of Hours).
Also by Kerstin Ekman is the novel The Angel House, in which Ekman provides an alternative, subversive history of the community in which she grew up. It is a story that stretches through a century, told through the perspective of the generation of women living in those times:
A giant had a washbowl which he set down in the forest at the base of a moraine. It was made of granite and deeply indented, and he filled it with clear, amber water which looked like solidified resin when the sun shone on it on a summer’s afternoon.
In winter, the top layer of the water froze into a lid and the entire bowl went very still, just like the forest around it. Then, down at its deepest point, a pattern of stripes and dashes would move. A pike, if there had been one, would have seen that it was not broken lengths of hollow reed swaying there but thousands of his brothers the perch, sluggishly and cautiously changing positions.
Across the top of the lid spun a rope-covered ball and after it, heavy but fast, skated men with clubs in their hands. They were dressed in black knee breeches and grey woollen sweaters. About half of them had black, peaked caps with both earflaps turned up and kept in place with two thin shoelaces knotted on top of their heads.
Half had red knitted hats with tassels. Sometimes one of the ones in peaked caps went whizzing off with long blade strokes, feet inclining inwards, guiding the ball in front of him with his club. If a tassel-hat got in his way, both of them would go crashing onto the rough ice near the shore, flattening the broken reeds and sending ice and coarse snow spraying round their metal blades.
Round the edge of the Giant’s Washbowl, people stood watching, virtually all men, coming so far out of town. But Ingrid Eriksson was standing there too. She stood there every winter Sunday, whenever there was a match on.
For further reading in the New Year, watch out for the brilliant Pobeda, coming very soon.
Finally, we’d like to wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas!
The Nordic Council Literature Prize award ceremony will be held November 1st, and we at Norvik Press are looking forward to it with mounting excitement, especially as we have published works by two authors on the shortlist: Kirsten Thorup, nominated for Erindring omkærligheden and Vigdis Hjorth, nominated for Arv og miljø.
Norvik Press published Thorup’s The God of Chance in 2013, a story about Ana, a career-driven Danish woman, and her chance meeting with Gambian teenager Mariama. This meeting is life-changing for Ana; she sees something special in Mariama, and the girl soon becomes the family Ana never had. Because of this, Ana turns their relationship into an all-consuming personal project for herself. However, bringing Mariama into her life proves not to be easy for Ana, who has her own demons to battle, and her life quickly starts to unravel. The God of Chance is a story of opposites that depicts the gulf between European affluence and Third World poverty. Thorup is known for writing socially engaging novels that often take the perspective of the outcasts and the marginalised – and The God of Chance is another brilliant example of this.
Hjorth is the other Norvik Press published author on the shortlist. Her novel A House in Norway is one of our most recent novels. Alma, the protagonist of Hjorth’s story, is an artist who wishes to live a peaceful and undisturbed life that leaves her lots of creative space, but this peace is disturbed when she sublets the apartment in her house to a Polish couple. Alma wishes to be tolerant and open-minded, but finds that she cannot overlook the clash between cultures. A line can be drawn from the theme in this novel to Thorup’s The God of Chance; both of the main characters seemingly welcome foreignness into their lives, but only as long as it can be held at a safe distance, and when it comes too close, they cannot seem to deal with it after all.
Hjorth visited London for the book launch for A House in Norway in February this year, and delighted us all with an animated reading and a lively discussion of the book. On our SoundCloud page, you will find an audio clip from the launch of her reading from the Norwegian version of A House in Norway, accompanied by the translated extract.
That was the final straw. She didn’t get out of the car, but turned it around, drove home as fast as she could, impatiently, she could feel her heart pounding in her throat, blood roaring in her temples, all the clichés, this was how deep outrage felt, that was enough, there had to be limits, she couldn’t get home quickly enough, she had to get back while her body and her mind still felt as they did now, before it subsided even a little and she started having the slightest doubt; this time she called no one, she didn’t want to be talked out of anything or calmed down now that she was in full flow without any inhibitions; she couldn’t get home fast enough to express it, she forced the car up in the drive, parked it and ran outside and could smell burned rubber, she registered that Alan’s car wasn’t there, but even if it had been there she would still have done what she did, she ran up and banged on the door again and again because she knew they were in there, her car was in the drive and all the lights were on, she hammered on the door and didn’t stop until it was opened a little, and Alma pushed it open and stormed into the small hallway and glared at the Pole’s anxious face and her hair in old-fashioned curlers and she was wearing a singlet, of course she was, in the middle of winter. That’s enough, Alma shouted, this time you’ve gone too far, she yelled, you bloody well move out now!
We wish our authors the best of luck for the ceremony!
We are delighted that two authors whose work has been published by Norvik Press have been nominated for this year’s Nordic Council Literature Prize.
Norwegian author Vigdis Hjorth has been nominated for her novel Arv og miljø (Inheritance and Environment, Cappelen Damm, 2016). A House in Norway, Charlotte Barslund’s translation of Vigdis Hjorth’s Et norsk hus, was launched this week by Norvik Press.
One of this year’s Danish nominees is Kirsten Thorup, for her latest novel Erindring om kærligheden (Remembrance of Love, Gyldendal, 2016). Kirsten Thorup’s Tilfældets Gud was translated as The God of Chance by Janet Garton, and published by Norvik Press in 2013. Listen to Helen Cross discussing The God of Chance on BBC Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read’.
Warmest congratulations to Vigdis Hjorth and Kirsten Thorup!
Join us for the Norvik Press book launch of Vigdis Hjorth’s A House in Norway. This novel looks at one of the big political questions of our time, the crisis of population movements and the desire to give assistance versus the threat to our traditional way of life, and makes it personal and gripping. The central character Alma, who sees herself as enlightened and altruistic, is challenged to reassess her priorities in confrontation with untidy realities.
The event will feature a panel discussion with author Vigdis Hjorth and translator Charlotte Barslund chaired by Professor Janet Garton. This is followed by drinks and light refreshments.
Come join us for an evening of lively discussion on literature, translation and European immigration.