Due to various geographical and political reasons, people up north would rather be called Nordic than Scandinavian. Apart from the Nobel prizes awarded in Sweden and Norway, the countries in the grouping are known for their large production of books.
That’s right. Half the population of Iceland, for example, writes books. Scandi (sorry, Nordic!) noir books or thrillers are international best sellers providing the basis for a slew of new films and series.
Ibsen, Strindberg, Knut Hamsun, Selma Lagerlöf, Astrid Lindgren, Karen Blixen and many others were Nordic.
There’s also Karl Ove Knausgård, who has divided readers in many countries with his long autobiography. Is it unnecessarily boring or is his literary style unique, one of a kind, unparalleled?
Recently I discovered two more Nordic female authors.
Erika Fatland is contemporary, a young woman from Norway who has studied social anthropology and has written some interesting books. She was in Leipzig for the annual book fair. She has dealt with difficult subjects that require guts for their research.
In her book Village of Angels, she talks about the Beslan school massacre. In The Year Without Summer, she interviews people who survived the murderous mania of Breivik in her country. For Sowjetistan, her latest (translated from the Norwegian into German), she visited some former Soviet satellite countries or colonies, most considered dictatorships today, like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc. Places in Central Asia are not so well known to the majority of us.
And then there’s Sigrid Undset, born in Denmark and raised in Norway.
Many years ago a friend of mine used to read a trilogy by Undset, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. The beautiful covers of the books had made an impression on me and I always thought that I would like to read them someday. The story takes place in the Norway and Sweden of the Middle Ages and the main protagonist is called Kristin Lavransdatter.
My old wish came true when I discovered in a store with used books the first part of the trilogy, Τhe Bridal Wreath. In this first volume, the reader gets to know Kristin and her childhood, her coming of age, as well as the adventures of her family and the love affairs she herself had.
It is obvious that Sigrid Undset studied the historical period in detail.
She even provides readers with footnotes regarding nobility, customs of the time, information on various guilds, etc. It is a well written book, full of suspense, and creates intense feelings in the reader. Now I look forward to finding the rest of the trilogy…