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sigrid undset: kristin lavransdatter April 21 2013, 0 Comments


I just finished reading Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. It's a trilogy, consisting of The Wreath, The Wife and The Cross, and it covers the life of the main character, Kristin Lavransdatter, in the 14th century. It was more than 1,000 pages of reading, but it was captivating and well worth the time I invested in reading it. I had tried to read it years before, but I only made it to page 31 before putting it back on the shelf again. This time, I read the version translated by Tiina Nunnally, and it made a world of difference! (I've read Nunnally's work over the years without realizing it: Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg and Before You Sleep by Linn Ullmann.)

Compare this (Nunnally's version): "I see you have your daughter with you," she said after she had greeted them. "I thought I'd have a look at her. You must take off her cap. They say she has such fair hair." (Page 11.)

To this: "I saw you had your daughter with you," she said, when she had greeted them, "and methought I must needs have a sight of her. But you must take the cap from her head; they say she hath such bonny hair." (Page 9.)

No wonder I didn't finish it before!


If you haven't read Sigrid Undset yet, I highly recommend doing so. Now I want to read everything else she wrote. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken.

Here's some more information from the book: "Sigrid Undset was born in Denmark in 1882, the eldest daughter of a Norwegian father and a Danish mother, and moved with her family to Oslo two years later. She published her first novel, Fru Marta Oulie (Mrs. Marta Oulie) in 1907 and her second book, Den lykkelige alder (The Happy Age), in 1908. The following year she published her first work set in the Middle Ages, Fortællingen om Viga-Ljot of Vigdis (later translated into English under the title Gunnar's Daughter and now available in Penguin Classics). More novels and stories followed, including Jenny (1911, first translated 1920), Fattige skjæbner (Fates of the Poor, 1912), Vaaren (Spring, 1914), Splinten av troldspeilet (translated in part as Images in a Mirror, 1917), and De kloge jomfruer (The Wise Virgins, 1918). In 1920 Undset published the first volume of Kristin Lavransdatter, the medieval trilogy that would become her most famous work. Kransen (The Wreath) was followed by Husfrue (The Wife) in 1921 and Korset (The Cross) in 1922. Beginning in 1925 she published the four-volume Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken), translated into English under the title The Master of Hestviken), also set in the Middle Ages. In 1928 Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize in Literature. During the 1930s she published several more novels, notably the autobigraphical Elleve aar (translated as The Longest Years, 1934). She was also a prolific essayist on subjects ranging from Scandinavian history and literature to the Catholic Church (to which she became a convert in 1924) and politics. During the Nazi occupation of Norway, Undset lived as a refugee in New York City. She returned home in 1945 and lived in Lillehammer until her death in 1949."

Kristin Lavransdatter was made into a film in 1995 and directed by Liv Ullmann.

Bjerkebæk, Undset's Lillehammer home from 1919 to 1949, is a part of Maihaugen, one of Northern Europe's largest open-air museums.


Here I am at an old fisherman's church in Maihaugen, about 20 years ago.