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Archive for the ‘Norway’ Category

Sigrid Undset (Norway, 1882-1949)

Sigrid Undset (Norway, 1882-1949)

Instead of posting a portion of one of Undset’s novels, I’m posting part of a letter she wrote to the novelist Willa Cather. The two writers met and corresponded with each other in the 1940s. I’ve also included a paraphrased portion of a letter from Cather to Undset. These letters can be found in Willa Cather and Sigrid Undset: The Correspondence in Oslo by Sherrill Harbison. 

undset_Undset’s letter of 17 March 1946: Very often I think of you and wonder, how are you now? Meeting you was one of the happiest things that happened to me in America, and I cherish the memory of those evenings with you and Miss Lewis so much. When my books returned from that church basement out in the country, where kind friends had hidden my library, and I unpacked your books, it was quite a different thing to handle them (I have not been able to put them up yet, as the German females who lived here during the occupation had used my bookshelves for firewood, and it takes time and a lot of money to get new ones, material being wanted in the first place to rebuild our burn-out towns and places), thinking of you as a friend I know now. Your picture, which Alfred Knopf sent me from you years ago I also unearthed from the attic, where my “roomers” had put away pele-mele all the things they did not want, which was not much. It is a little broken and soiled, but all the more dear to me.

Willa Cather (1873-1947)

Willa Cather (1873-1947)

Cather’s letter of May 18, 1941: Thanks Undset for the deep pleasure of the lilies of the valley she had sent. How interesting that the Norwegian name for the flower is so like the English, whereas the German name bears little resemblance to the flower itself. Undset’s letter of the previous day had made her very happy. How wonderful that they, who had known one another so long, finally knew one another in person, and discovered how many loves, beliefs, and pleasures they shared.

Cather’s own desire to live had dropped considerably since Undset’s visit; at Hitler’s agreement with the Vichy government she had completely lost heart. Though no one knew the agreement’s terms, it made everything taste bitter; she wanted to escape from herself, because any such agreement and terms must be evil. She was sick at heart at this German victory.

She hoped Undset would come for another quiet evening with her and Miss Lewis, as it was good to escape crowds and arguments; she was very glad that Undset found it restful and sympathetic there. Signed, she explains, with her [wobbly] left hand: With all the old admiration, and with my love which is both old and new, yours, . . .

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knut hamsun2

Knut Pedersen Hamsun (Norway, 1859-1952)

Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for his novel Growth of the Soil. Here are the opening paragraphs: The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest — who trod it into being first of all? Man, a human being, the first that came here. There was no path before he came. Afterward, some beast or other, following the faint tracks over marsh and moorland, wearing them deeper; after these again some Lapp gained scent of the path, and took that way from field to field, looking to his reindeer. Thus was made the road through the great Almenning — the common tracts without an owner; no-man’s-land. The man comes, walking toward the north. He bears a sack, the first sack, carrying food and some few implements. A strong, coarse fellow, with a red iron beard, and little scars on face and hands; sites of old wounds — were they gained in toil or fight? Maybe the man has been in prison, and is looking for a place to hide; or a philosopher, maybe, in search of peace. This or that, he comes; the figure of a man in this great solitude. He trudges on; bird and beast are silent all about him; now and again he utters a word or two; speaking to himself. ” n189024Eyah — well, well . . “— so he speaks to himself. Here and there, where the moors give place to a kindlier spot, an open space in the midst of the forest, he lays down the sack and goes exploring; after a while he returns, heaves the sack to his shoulder again, and trudges on. So through the day, noting time by the sun; night falls, and he throws himself down on the heather, resting on one arm.

A few hours’ rest, and he is on the move again: ” Eyah, well . . .”— moving northward again, noting time by the sun; a meal of barley cakes and goats’ milk cheese, a drink of water from the stream, and on again. This day too he journeys, for there are many kindly spots in the woods to be explored. What is he seeking? A place, a patch of ground? An emigrant, maybe, from the homestead tracts; he keeps his eyes alert, looking out; now and again he climbs to the top of a hill, looking out. The sun goes down once more.

Knut Pedersen Hamsun (Norway, 1859-1952)

He moves along the western side of a valley; wooded ground, with leafy trees among the spruce and pine, and grass beneath. Hours of this, and twilight is falling, but his ear catches the faint purl of running water, and it heartens him like the voice of a living thing. He climbs the slope, and sees the valley half in darkness below; beyond, the sky to the south. He lies down to rest.
……………………………….
by Knut Hamsun,
translated by W.W. Worster

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson  (Norwegian, 1832-1910)

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (Norwegian, 1832-1910)

The Tree

Ready with leaves and with buds stood the tree.
“Shall I take them?” the frost said, now puffing with glee.
“Oh my, no, let them stand,
Till flowers are at hand!”
All trembling from tree-top to root came the plea.

Flowers unfolding the birds gladly sung.
“Shall I take them?” the wind said and merrily swung.
“Oh my, no, let them stand,
Till cherries are at hand!”
Protested the tree, while it quivering hung.

The cherries came forth ‘neath the sun’s glowing eye.
“Shall I take them?” a rosy young girl’s eager cry.
“Oh my, yes, you can take,
I’ve kept them for your sake!”
Low bending its branches, the tree brought them nigh.
…………………………………………….
Translated by Arthur Hubbell Palme

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