Christmas Reading

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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.

 

Gunnlöth’s Tale

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?

 

Little Lord 

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.

 

Bang

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.

 

 

Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey through Sweden

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  

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?

 

Childhood 

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).

 

The Angel House

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!

 

 

 

 

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Bang

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The celebrations of Kirsten Thorup and this year’s Nordic Council Literature Prize are still not over, and in the light of this, we would like to announce that another winner of this prestigious award is joining our ranks. Our latest book, fresh from the press, is by Dorrit Willumsen, who in 1997 was awarded the Nordic Council Literature Prize for Bang: En roman om Herman Bang. Marina Allemano’s English translation of this novel, generously supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, is now ready for an English-speaking readership.

Bang relates the life story of the notorious author Herman Bang. The title of Willumsen’s novel might be a play on both his extravagant life and his sortie, as Bang’s life came to a sudden end while he was doing a reading tour across the USA. His last days form the back-story of Willumsen’s novel, a novel that weaves fiction and fact together in a touching and exciting portrait of an extraordinary man leading an extraordinary life (read an extract from the novel here).

Willumsen was at first supposed to write a traditional biography about Bang, and she did months of reading and researching previous biographies, his literary works and journalism and his thousands of letters, but the story fired her imagination to the extent that the book became a fictional biography, which describes Bang’s life from the inside rather than the outside. We first encounter Bang in New York, where he is starting out on his USA tour. The city is a grim, grey and loud place, according to Bang, and he is happy to board the train to escape from it, although he seems to want to escape the tour altogether. Unfortunately for Bang, the tour must go ahead, but he does find a way to escape – into his dreams. He dreams of his life, starting with his childhood: his mentally ill father and his beloved mother. Good, bad, sweet and sore memories are mixed and presented to the reader through young Herman’s eyes. As the story progresses we follow him throughout the USA, and in his flashbacks throughout his life. We get to know his youthful infatuations with young men and women, his bohemian life full of wonders but also scandals, his travels and life in different cities in Europe – from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg to Prague, and we discover the hardships he suffered as a well-known writer and a homosexual.

As well as a novelist Bang was a journalist, critic and playwright, as well as an actor and a theatre director. Because of this, he was omnipresent in Danish cultural life. He often wore eccentric clothes that shocked the conservative public, and of course, his homosexuality shocked them even more. His first novel was banned for immorality, as much for its content as for the writer himself.

But although Herman Bang was viewed as what we might now call an attention-seeking drama queen, his novels often focus on quiet, downtrodden people who do not raise their voices; people with a lack of agency; people who seem to accept the fate that society has in store for them. These stories of Stille eksistenser (Quiet Lives) are what made him a celebrated and loved author in Denmark. One example is the novel Tine from 1889. This novel interweaves the Prussian invasion of Denmark with male invasion of female innocence. Tine is a young girl who takes up the housekeeping chores at the neighbouring farm, owned by the charming and handsome Henrik Berg, who has just seen his wife and son shipped off to Copenhagen because of the war. Henrik and Tine become intimate, despite her being much younger and far below him in class – although Henrik is a decent man. Tine is inexperienced and mistakes desire for true love. This is her downfall, and when she realises that Henrik in fact never loved her, she drowns herself.

It seems that the love Bang always wrote about, was the kind of love that fails or the kind of love that cannot be fulfilled. Maybe he saw parallels with his own life, or maybe not – the kind of love that cannot be fulfilled is always novel material. He did write an essay, published in 1922, after his death, where his thoughts on his own kind of love seem rather grim. He writes that homosexuality is a harmless mistake in nature, and he expresses the hope that future medicine will not only cure homosexuality, but prevent it altogether. This tragic conclusion, in which Bang converts the hostility of his own times into a form of self-abnegation, is contextualised by an Afterword by Dag Heede, a leading Danish queer theorist.

Buy Bang here.

Read an extract from Bang here. 

We have a winner

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Photography by Lærke Posselt

We would like to congratulate Kirsten Thorup for being the winner of the 2017 Nordic Council Literature Prize!

We are very excited and happy for her and honored to have published one of her works, The God of Chance, which you can read more about and buy here.

Thorup and Hjorth shortlisted

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Photography by Louise Jeppesen/norden.org

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 om kærligheden 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!

Mesmerising Estonian novel

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Norvik Press is proud to announce the upcoming publication of the English-language version of Ilmar Taska’s Pobeda 1946. This Estonian novel received critical acclaim when it was first published last year. It has already been translated into Finnish, German and Latvian, and Lithuanian and Danish versions are forthcoming. Norvik Press will release Christopher Moseley’s English-language translation, titled Pobeda 1946 – A Car Called Victory, in early spring 2018. Both Norvik Press and the translator have been awarded grants from the TRADUCTA programme, which supports high-quality translations of Estonian works.

Pobeda 1946 is a historical narrative set in Estonia under Soviet occupation. Secrets and mystery dominate – reflecting the covert behaviour of an oppressed people. At the centre of the story there is a young boy, too young to grasp all the things happening in the adult world around him, who unwittingly reveals a family secret to the kind of person in whom you should never confide – a government agent.

Ilmar Taska, the author of Pobeda 1946, is a well-known name in Estonia, but he has also been active beyond the borders of his own country, working in film, theatre and television in the UK and Sweden, amongst others. In addition to producing, directing and writing for the screen, Taska has also ventured into short-story writing in recent years. In 2014, Taska’s novella ‘Pobeda’ won the Estonian literary prize ‘Looming’ in the short-story category, and the following year, his story ‘Apartment to Let’, was included in the prestigious anthology Best European Fiction 2016, edited by Nathaniel Davis. Pobeda 1946 is Taska’s debut novel.

Norvik Press is delighted to introduce Taska’s novel to an English-language audience, especially as the London Book Fair 2018 will be shining a spotlight on Baltic literature. We at Norvik Press are mesmerised by Taska’s book, and will be excited and intrigued to see what other treasures the Baltic region has to offer.

Buy the novel here.

Read an extract here.

Lagerlöf’s Mårbacka longlisted

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9781909408296We are happy to announce that Mårbacka has been longlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. This novel by Selma Lagerlöf (originally published in 1922) was translated by Sarah Death and published by Norvik Press in 2016. We are thrilled that the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation is shedding light on more female voices, as the new prize aims to increase the translations of female international authors and thus make them more accessible to a British and Irish readership.

If you have not read Mårbacka, it is the story of Lagerlöf’s childhood at their family farm Mårbacka in Värmland. It is a warm and personal pseudo-autobiography; Lagerlöf writes about true stories from her upbringing, but she does so with her recognisable artistic pen. The novel is written in a naïve style as the story unfolds through a young Selma. Nonetheless, it contains a dual complexity because the wiser, more grown-up author lets the reader be aware of things that the child Selma herself cannot know. As Sarah Death puts it in her afterword: ‘In many ways [Lagerlöf’s] portrayal of her childhood in Mårbacka is bathed in a rosy glow, but she hints at the shadows (…).’ This proved to be a recipe for success, and when it was first published, Mårbacka won the heart of the reading audience like none of Lagerlöf’s work had done before.

We at Norvik Press are very happy that Lagerlöf is still a relevant voice. We love her authorship and have published many translations of her works. Our forthcoming titles in the series are The Emperor of Portugallia [Kejsarn av Portugallien] and Banished [Bannlyst].

Read an extract from Mårbacka here.

Buy Mårbacka here.

Women in Translation month

August is Women in Translation month and Norvik Press is celebrating the female authors and translators whose work we have had the honour of publishing over the years. These women have taken us soaring through the air on back of a goose, weaving the bustling streets of nineteenth-century Constantinople and posing for a sculpture in Riga during the Soviet occupation. The writing of Norvik women ranges across three centuries from Camilla Collett’s District Governor’s Daughters, first published in 1855, to Vigdis Hjorth’s A House in Norway, first published 2014.

We are especially especially pleased that two female authors whose work Norvik Press has published, Vigdis Hjorth and Kirsten Thorup, have been nominated for this year’s Nordic Council Literature Prize. Three Norvik titles are also in competition for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.

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 September 2017. Browse our back catalogue here and email your order directly to norvik.press@ucl.ac.uk, 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.

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Photo credits: Photo of Viivi Luik by Ave Maria Mõistlik (2011); photo of Helene Uri by Christian Elgvin; photo of Suzanne Brøgger by Isak Hoffmeyer (2010); photo of Hanne Marie Svendsen by Morten Juhl (2012)

New edition of The District Governor’s Daughters

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District Governor's Daughters

Cover of The District Governor’s Daughters

Kirsten Seaver first translated Camilla Collett’s Norwegian classic Amtmandens Døttre (1854-55) for Norvik Press in 1992, and we are delighted to publish a new edition, twenty-five years on. Please click here for more information on Camilla Collett and The District Governor’s Daughters, and to download an extract from the translation.

Click here to purchase the novel from The Book Depository.

Red Magazine’s top ten list of Scandinavian must-reads

Author Hélene Fermont drew our attention to her article in Red magazine about Scandinavian books beyond crime fiction.

people of hemso coverHélene’s list includes August Strindberg’s novel of 1887, The People of Hemsö, translated by Peter Graves and published by Norvik Press in 2012. This novel is a tragicomic story of lust, love and death among the fishermen and farmers of the island landscapes of the Stockholm Archipelago. As Hélene puts it, in this novel, ‘Strindberg explores exactly what happens when you marry for money’.

Also on Hélene’s list is Selma Lagerlöf’s Gösta Berling’s Saga, which is not one of Norvik’s publications, but we have published many of Lagerlöf’s other works in our series Lagerlöf in English. The same applies to Hjalmar Söderberg, who also made Hélene’s top ten.

We were also delighted to see Karin Boye listed. We plan to publish another novel by Karin Boye next year, in a translation by Amanda Doxtater: Kris, or Crisis.

Many thanks, Hélene! What a thought-provoking list.

Nordic crime fiction event

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On Monday 22 May, our friends at UCL’s Nordic Noir Book Club are holding a book launch and panel discussion featuring Scandinavian crime fiction authors Jorn Lier Horst (Norway), Lone Theils (Denmark) and Stefan Ahnhem (Sweden). The authors will be presenting their new and forthcoming work, and host Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL Scandinavian Studies) will be celebrating the launch of his book Scandinavian Crime Fiction, recently published by Bloomsbury.

A selection of Norvik Press books will be available for sale at the event (cash or card). Our crime fiction titles Murder in the Dark (Dan Turèll, Denmark, trans. Mark Mussari) and Walpurgis Tide (Jógvan Isaksen, Faroes, trans. John Keithsson) will be available at the special price of £10. The play The Contract Killer (Benny Andersen, Denmark, trans. Paul Russell Garrett) will be on sale at £5 – while stocks last.

The venue is Juju’s Bar & Stage in E1, and tickets are only £5. More details can be found on the EventBrite ticket booking page: click here to book via EventBrite.

We hope to see you at Juju’s on 22 May!