The Search for Thor
The Search for Thor takes Randi back to Norway in the summer of 2023
Thor Jensen, 36, moves from Oslo to Hammerfest. He is promoted to bank manager, becomes engaged, and takes a one-month hiking trip through occupied Finnmark in 1941. By the end of the year, he is dead, leaving behind a mystery, a diary, and many questions. This column chronicles his great niece’s attempt to solve that mystery.
It took me five months to decide if and when to fly back to Norway for another summer visit, but I finally bought my ticket to Oslo—a one-way ticket.
Luckily, the person whose apartment I rented in Oslo last summer was interested in renting it again and reached out to me to see if I was interested in coming back. We worked out a timeframe for the both of us, and I finally purchased the ticket. I could live (again) in her lovely apartment one block from the royal palace, above a kebab restaurant (trust me, this is a bonus) and take care of all her plants. I feel safe in the neighborhood and know where the cafes, grocery stores, and restaurants are, and which trams to take to get to downtown Oslo or to Vigeland Park.
As of today, I have not, however, finished the book on Thor. My main goal this summer is to complete the final working draft. I have uploaded everything to Scrivener and currently have nine working chapters. This is a huge step toward completing the book, now that the former novel will now be a non-fiction memoir.
When I arrive in Oslo in early July, I will be joining the Litteraturhuset (Literature House), which is a four-minute walk from the apartment. This “house” is a cafe, restaurant, bookstore, and a working space for writers. According to their website, Litteraturhuset “is a national arena for literature, culture, and debate, hosting many different activities.”
I applied for (and received) space in their Writers’ Loft, which is described as follows:
“Litteraturhuset’s goal is to spread literature in a broad sense and to contribute to more freedom of expression and a knowledge-based public conversation. The top floor of the building is therefore dedicated to those who write and translate fiction and non-fiction or who work with the written word in some way or another. Here, writers can get access to a practical workplace, a community of colleagues, and a network of others they can learn from.”
More information about Litteraturhuset can be found at these links:
Spotify: (Podcast – “How to Proceed” – bi-monthly conversations about writing, creativity and current events); open.spotify.com/show/5815hQCGSE206v4ouymR8w?si=ee73215a727c4342
Literary Hub (article from 2017 about the Literature House): lithub.com/at-oslos-house-of-literature-a-free-space-for-ideas-and-writers
While there are still many holes in the story of Thor’s life, I have managed to find many missing pieces—everything from confirmation of his participation in the Gold Transport (Norwegian resistance), his death certificate (no cause of death), to his actual bank ledger records (original). I plan to visit the same archives and libraries I have worked in before one last time to make sure I haven’t missed anything that might be relevant.
These places include Norges Bank, the National Archives, the Norwegian Resistance Museum, and the National Library. Every time I have gone back to these institutions, I have found new documents and articles that shed light on the mystery of Thor’s life and early death. If I am lucky, maybe I will discover one final clue that will explain everything, and I will be able complete Thor’s final chapter.
Randi Millman-Brown is an art historian, photographer, part-time genealogist, and writer living in Ithaca, N.Y. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.