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Travel Literature

Norwegian travel literature has traditionally been linked to the discovery, exploration and conquering of inhospitable, difficult-to-access territories.

In the late 1800s, travelling for adventure and exploration became closely associated with research fieldwork. In Norway, this was best exemplified by explorers Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) and Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), both of whom published detailed accounts of their travels. Nansen was a prolific writer, often illustrating his books with his own drawings. Titles include På ski over Grønland (The First Crossing of Greenland, 1890), Fram over Polhavet (Farthest North, 1897), Russland og freden (Russia and Peace, 1927), and Gjennom Armenia (Armenia and the Near East, 1927). Amundsen also published a number of books, including Sydpolen (The South Pole, 1912) and Mitt liv som polarforsker (My Life as a Polar Explorer, 1927). Today, the writings of these extraordinary men continue to captivate audiences.

Another widely published Norwegian explorer is Thor Heyerdahl (1914 -2002), whose transoceanic scientific expeditions on the Kon-Tiki, Ra, and Tigris have been transformed into stirring travel accounts as well as documentary films. Heyerdahl published a number of other works combining his research and travel activities.

Adventurer and writer Helge Ingstad (1899-2001) unearthed the ruins of an ancient Norse village near L’Anse aux Meadows on the north coast of Newfoundland, conclusively proving that the Vikings has established a settlement in North America 1000 years previously. Ingstad published several books about his exploration, including Landet under Leidarstjernen (1959; Land Under the Pole Star, 1965) and Vestervej til Vinland (1965, Westward to Vinland, 1969).

More recent Norwegian travel literature has focused on describing other cultures. In her best-selling novel The Bookseller of Kabul, war correspondent Åsne Seierstad portrays the life of an Afghan family shortly after the fall of the Taliban.

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Helge IngstadPhoto: Gyldendal

Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon-TikiPhoto: The Kon-Tiki Museum