Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kristin Lavansdatter

An Amazon book club plog is discussing Kristin Lavransdatter, a book I loved so much the first time that I tried to teach myself Norwegian.

Because I needed a respite from genre fiction, I turned first to Gissing and Trollope. Now I’m rereading Kristin Lavransdatter, the remarkable, luminous twentieth century trilogy about Kristin’s girlhood, marriage, and religious life in medieval Norway.

Penguin has a new translation of KL, which is supposed to be very good. I have the 1929 Nobel Prize Edition, translated by Charles Archer, which was fine when I first read it and is still fine now. One cannot be plugged into an iPod and read this; perhaps the Penguin edition is easier. In the first 35 pages Kristin runs away from an elf-maiden and a monk asks her to contemplate becoming a nun.

“’We have no child but me,’ answered Kristin. ‘So ‘tis like that I must marry. And I trow mother has chests and lockers with my bridal gear standing ready even now.’

“’Aye, aye,’ said Brother Edwin, and stroked her forehead. ‘tis thus that folk deal with their children now. To God they give the daughters who are lame or purblind or ugly or blemished, or they let Him have back the children when they deem Him to have given them more than they need. And then they wonder that all who dwell in the cloisters are not holy men and maids--’”

Having read this once before, I understand that Kristin would have been better off as a nun than married to an alcoholic (if I remember correctly he is an alcoholic: I haven't gotten that far).

I don’t think Undset is read much these days, even though she won the Nobel Prize. Perhaps the Penguin translation will introduce Kristin to a new generation. There is also a movie available at Amazon.

You may wonder why I can't stick to my reading plans. 2007 was supposed to be the year of the genre book. But can anybody read nothing but SF/fantasy and mysteries? I’ve read about medieval falconers and hawkmistresses (I love _Hawkmistress!_), psychics, women with vampire boyfriends, and crimes solved by detectives in ancient Rome and Egypt. Then I said one should read nothing but Gissing.

Next week...what?


Anonymous said...

I am reading this book too and I love it now that I am into it...I did find it difficult at first, bit it's getting so interesting. It does demand your undivided attention though!

Mad Housewife said...

Yes, it is absorbing once you get past the medieval language. I have to assume it's better in Norwegian!