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Contemporary Literature

Norwegian contemporary literature has gained a popular following both at home and abroad. 

Some of the best-known current authors include Jostein Gaarder (1952-) (see also Children’s Literature), Erik Fosnes Hansen (1965-) and Lars Saabye Christensen (1953-). Close to 30 contemporary Norwegian writers have been translated into more than ten different languages, and several hundred Norwegian titles are sold to international publishing houses each year. Norwegian women crime writers such as Kim Småge, Unni Lindell and Karin Fossum have won widespread recognition abroad. Lars Saabye Christensen, Nikolaj Frobenius (1965-) and Erlend Loe (1969-) are among the Norwegian contemporary novelists who also write screenplays.

The close bonds between the Nordic countries are strengthened by similarities in linguistic and cultural background. As part of the effort to promote Nordic literature, the Nordic Council of Ministers – an umbrella organization for Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway – awards an annual prize for literature to an author from one of the five countries. Eight celebrated Norwegian authors have received this award since it was first introduced in 1962. Prize-winners include Tarjei Vesaas (1897-1970), Johan Borgen (1902-1979), Kjartan Fløgstad (1944-), Dag Solstad (1941-), Herbjørg Wassmo (1942-), Øystein Lønn (1936-), Jan Kjærstad (1953-) and Lars Saabye Christensen.

Dag Solstad (1941-) is considered by many to be Norway’s top-ranking author as regards his ability to describe the contemporary consciousness. His early works were particularly controversial and he has written close to thirty different books. He is the only author in Norway to have received the Norwegian Literary Critics’ Award three times.

Herbjørg Wassmo (1942-) has become one of the most popular authors in Norway. She has received a number of awards, including the Nordic Council Prize for Literature for Hudløs himmel (Naked Heaven, 1986), the final volume of her trilogy about the life of Tora, daughter of a German soldier, growing up with her Norwegian mother during WWII. Dinas bok (Dina’s Book, 1989) was made into a film in 2002 with French actor Gérard Depardieu as the male lead. Like the novel, the film received international acclaim and was nominated for several awards.

Jan Kjærstad (1953-) has gone far in reinventing the novel in Scandinavia. Kjærstad’s works reflect his view that all literature is constructed, and his novels employ his great store of personal knowledge to entertain readers with captivating episodic stories. Kjærstad received the Nordic Council Prize for Literature in 2001 for Oppdageren (The Discoverer, 1999), the final volume of his trilogy about the fictive media personality Jonas Wergeland.

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Lars Saabye ChristensenPhoto: Tine Harden

Jostein Gaarder's "Sophie's World" has been a world-wide successPhoto: www.aschehoug.no

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