Reading Norwegian literature before or during your trip can enhance your journey. Below are a few authors that I've labeled "classic" even
though they are not that old. Further down are Contemporary writers.
HENRIK IBSEN is Norway’s most well known writer and today is the second most performed playwright in the world after Shakespeare. Many of
Ibsen’s plays dealt with societal issues that were taboo subjects at the time. Foremost among these is A Doll’s House (1867), which criticized
the role of women in society. Ghosts (1881) and An Enemy of the People (1882) dealt with the moral hypocrisy of his times.
Peer Gynt (1867) is probably the most celebrated play with Norwegians today. There’s an annual week long Peer Gynt Festival in the
Gudbrandsdal Valley where the play is performed outdoors, not far from where the real life model for Peer lived.
The definitive biography on Ibsen is Michael Meyer’s Biography (1971). Robert Ferguson has written a shorter New Biography (2011).
KNUT HAMSUN is one of the great European novelists – Issac Bashevis Singer said that "the whole school of fiction in the 20th century stems
from Hamsun". Hunger (1890) was his breakthrough book and is considered to be one of the first modernistic novels. This semi-
autobiographical work about a starving writer pioneered the stream of consciousness technique. Pan (1894) and Mysteries (1892) are two of
his strongest novels from his early period. Hamsun later wrote more conventional novels that gained a widespread ridership. The epic Growth of
the Soil (1917) earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.
Unfortunately for Hamsun’s reputation he lived too long and as an old man he supported the German occupation of Norway during World War II.
This was very hard for the people in Norway to understand and accept as he was the nation’s greatest writer. Two good biographies, Enigma:
The Life of Knut Hamsun (1988) and Knut Hamsun: Dreamer and Dissenter (2009), attempt to explain how such an insightful writer could
have supported the Nazi occupation.
SIGRID UNDSET won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928 for the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, a historical novel taking place in medieval
Norway. The book is noted for its historical accuracy and for telling this epic tale from a woman’s perspective. The newer Penquin translation is
easier to read than the original translation. At over 1000 pages, it will make for a fine companion during your trip to Norway.
NORWEGIAN FOLKTALES were collected by Asbjørnsen & Moe in the mid 1800’s. Like the German brothers Grimm, they traveled around the
rural countryside collecting folktales. Their published versions of these folktales have had a huge impact on Norwegian culture and their Troll
stories are read around the world, most notably, the Three Billy Goats Gruff. There have been many versions translated into English, this one
includes some original illustrations by Thoedor Kittelsen who created the vision of Trolls we have today.
Contemporary Norwegian Writers
The popularity of Nordic Noir has given Scandinavia crime writers an international readership. The Swede Steig Larsson was the first to have
worldwide fame. Norwegian Jo Nesbø is now the most prominent writer in the genre. He’s best known for his Harry Hole series, 11 of which have
been translated into English. The series started with The Bat and The Snowman was recently made into a film. Nesbø has also written some
stand alone books: The Son and Headhunters are two good examples.
Anne Holte is another popular Nordic Noir writer in Norway. Her Hanne Wilhelmsen series, started with Blind Goddess , took Norway by storm
and led to her being named Minister of Justice a few years later. Karen Fossum and Gunnar Staalesen are two other Nordic Writers who are
widely read in Norway.
More Highbrow readers might like Karl Ove Knausgaard and Jon Fosse. Knausgaard is best known for his six volume autobiographical My
Struggle. This series has gotten rave reviews international for its brutally candid details of his family and friends.
Jon Fosse is currently one of the most performed living playwrights in the world. In appreciation for his contribution to Norwegian culture, the
government has given him an honorary residence next to the Royal Palace for the rest of his life.
Other contemporary Norwegian writers who have been translated include: Linn Ullmann, daughter of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman, novelist
Jan Kjærstad and journalist Åsne Seierstad .