Norwegian author short-listed for literature award

Dag Solstad's 'Shyness and Dignity' has been short-listed for the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2007. Linn Ullmann's 'Grace', which was long-listed for the award, did not make it through the final cut, but was applauded and given a special mention by the jury.

The short-list of six titles has been selected by a jury consisting of the Independent’s literary editor Boyd Tonkin, writers David Constantine, Jennie Erdal and Ali Smith, and Kate Griffin from Arts Council England. A total of 86 books were submitted for the prize which last year was won by Norwegian author Per Peterson for his ‘Out Stealing Horses’. The winner of the prize - which awards £5,000 to the author, and £5,000 to the translator - will be revealed on 1 May

Dag Solstad, a central figure in Norwegian literature since his debut in 1965 and now considered to be the country's leading contemporary author, is long-listed for 'Shyness and Dignity'. It tells the story of a senior-school teacher in his fifties who begins his day as usual, picking up his briefcase and some headache pills. After a cordial goodbye to his wife, he leaves for work as he has done every morning for the past twenty-five years. However, this autumn morning is to be the start of no ordinary day. Though familiar with his students’ hostile attitude towards both his lectures and himself, today he feels their enmity touch deeper than ever before and, after a passionate lecture on Ibsen’s 'The Wild Duck', it precipitates a crisis. He reaches a decision that forces an assessment of his choice of life, of his marriage and ultimately of his values and worth in modern society.  He is, to his own mind, ‘plagued by the fact I am a socially aware individual who no longer has anything to say’.

Linn Ullmann's 'Grace', which was one of the 20 titles originally long-listed for the prize, was first published in Norway in 2002 and won the prominent literary award The Reader’s Prize. In their statement, the jury said the book was very close to being chosen as one of the six finalists: "Two other books came so close to places on the list that the judges wish to give them a warm, public endorsement: Seeing by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Harvill Secker), and Grace by Linn Ullmann, translated by Barbara Haveland (Picador)."

Ullmann's novel tells the story of Johan Sletten whose life has not been the greatest success story: an unhappy first marriage, an estranged son, and an undistinguished career as a journalist. But his second wife, Mai has graced his life with love. When told that he is terminally ill, with possibly only a few months left to him, Johan makes Mai promise to help him die “when the time comes”. But is this the true measure of love – to give the gift of death? And who decides when the time is right? Johan himself or his wife Mai? Death may come as a release, but to whom? Through the warp of Johan and Mai’s story, with characteristic subtlety, Ullmann threads a weft of memories, dreams and tales that serve to illustrate the various aspects of Johan Sletten’s character; his life and death.

The short-list includes:

  • 'The Book of Chameleons', by José Eduardo Agualusa, trans. Daniel Hahn
  • 'The Story of Blanche and Marie', by Per Olov Enquist, trans. Tiina Nunnally
  • 'Four Walls', by Vangelis Hatziyannidis, trans. Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife
  • 'Your Face Tomorrow', 2: Dance and Dream, by Javier Marías trans. Margaret Jull Costa
  • 'Vienna', by Eva Menasse, trans. Anthea Bell
  • 'Shyness and Dignity', by Dag Solstad, trans. Sverre Lyngstad



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Linn Ullmann's 'Grace' has already won the prominent Reader's Award in her native Norway,Photo: Picador

Dag Solstad is no stranger to awards and has received the Critic's Prize in Norway three times as well as the Nordic Prize for LiteraturePhoto: Oktober Publishing House

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