My fabulous five for Easter reading
CHRISTINE FOSTER MELONI
All Norwegians read påskekrim during their long Easter break. Right? Well, after asking some of my Norwegian friends about this tradition, I discovered that it is not entirely true.
My friend Elin wrote:
I would love to say I am conforming to the Easter-crime-loving-Norwegian, but I have to admit that my guilty pleasure when it comes to reading is firmly in the “chick-lit” category. Ninety percent of the books I read are in English. Written by British or American authors. Most of them have a female lead character. Me and my mom are reading a book series by Lucinda Riley [an Irish writer] at the moment, The Seven Sisters. In Norwegian. If I have any spare time this Easter, I will try to dig into the penultimate one. I have been saving it because I just love how the author weaves together present and historical times and locations.
Well, so much for help from my Norwegian friends with suggestions of påskekrim! I will follow their lead, however, and suggest five books to read that are not crime novels. I have selected books written by my five favorite Norwegian authors I call The Fabulous Five. They are, in alphabetical order, Jon Fosse, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Per Petterson, Dag Solstad, and Tarjei Vesaas.
Fosse is a prolific writer in several genres. He has written novels, short stories, poetry, children’s books, essays, and plays. For your Easter reading, I would highly recommend his thought-provoking collection of 28 essays An Angel Walks through the Stage. It is ideal for a holiday weekend because it can be picked up and put down frequently, as there is no thread throughout that must be followed. (While reading a crime novel, one must try to keep many details in mind, because they might be clues to solving the mystery. It is not advisable to put down such a book for a long interval.) One of the most interesting essays in this volume is “The Demoniacal Writer,” in which he calls Ibsen “the blackest and most demonic author” he has ever encountered and attributes to him “utter, pure destruction.”
Knausgaard is best known for his six-volume autobiography My Struggle. This is definitely not to be recommended for a long weekend. Much more time would be needed, even for a single volume. A better choice would be one of the interesting books in his Seasons Quartet. Why not choose Spring? In this brief volume, as in the other books in this series, his primary audience is his young daughter. He tells her stories about herself, her family, and the people and places around them. It is like a baby book for her to read later in her life. Although very personal, the stories have universal appeal, and many readers will wish that their father or mother had written such a book for them. The author’s love for and his delight in his daughter and his other three children come through very vividly in this book.
Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses is his most popular book. An excellent movie was recently released based on it. He has, however, written several other equally impressive books, such as I Refuse, which is similar to it in plot. It is about two men who were best friends as children and then meet again after 35 years of separation. In flashbacks, we learn about the tragic events that happened in their childhood. It is a very moving book about family and friends and loss.
Solstad has written a book with a beginning that is hard to forget. Shyness and Dignity begins when high school teacher Elias Rukla is expecting to have the same routine day that he has experienced for many years. But, as he is reading aloud a passage from Ibsen’s Wild Duck to his students, he suddenly has a revelation about the character Dr. Relling. He tries to communicate this to his students, but they remain bored and distracted, as usual. After class he goes outside and, noticing the rain, he takes out his umbrella. When it will not open, he explodes in anger. This highly uncharacteristic reaction changes his life as he begins to examine the life he has led up until this time.
Vesaas is the author of many wonderful novels, and it is hard to single out only one to recommend. But my favorite is The Ice Palace. It is a powerful story of grief. The protagonists are Siss and Unn, two teenage girls who become close, perhaps too close. When Unn mysteriously disappears, Siss’ world is turned upside down. This is a beautifully written book with lyrical tones. It is not surprising that Vesaas has also been highly praised for his poetry.
God påske and happy reading!
This article originally appeared in the March 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.