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Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset (20 May 1882 – 10 June 1949) – Nobel Prize winner, whose books were banned in Nazi Germany, and her name entered the Gestapo lists of particularly dangerous individuals. Sigrid Undset was born May 20, 1882 in the small Danish town of Kalundborg. Her father was a famous Norwegian archaeologist, and her mother was involved in archaeological work of her husband. Shortly after the birth of Sigrid the family had to move to Norway. There, in the capital city of Oslo she spent her childhood and teenage years. From early age, through her father, Sigrid was interested in Norwegian history and culture. In 1893, after a long illness Sigrid Undset’s father died and 16-year-old Sigrid Undset had to start working as a secretary in an engineering company. Beautiful talented girl Sigrid hated her job, she was profoundly alien to it, when she thought about the work she wanted to die. She was 16 years old when started writing her manuscript, a historical novel set in medieval Denmark.

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Beautiful Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Sigrid Undset completed writing her first novel, which set in the middle of the 13th century. She was trembling with fear, handing in her manuscript at the publishing house Gyuldendal. She was told to come back in a month, and when she came for an answer, the head of the publishing house said to her: “Do not ever grasp the historical novels. You can not write them. But try to write something modern. Who knows, anything can happen”.

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Sigrid Undset was disappointed, but did not give up and decided to write a piece on a contemporary theme – the novel “Fru Marta Oulie”. The first sentence of this book was controversial – “I’ve been unfaithful to my husband”. Undset brought this novel to different publishing houses, but they refused to publish the book. Then the sister of the writer carried the novel to a writer Gunnar Heiberg, who was so pleased with it, that convinced his publisher to accept it. So in 1907, has seen the light the first work of Sigrid Undset.

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

In 1908 she published a collection of her short stories, “A happy age” about the girls living in poor, philistine world and dreaming about happiness. In 1909 Undset published the first historical novel “Vigalot and Vigdis”, which describes the time around 1000.

The first books of Undset had great success, she received a state grant. Sigrid Undset was able to leave the hated job in 1909, and for a time left for Rome. There she met with Anders Castus Svarstad, Norwegian artist. Svarstad was 9 years older, he was married and had three children. Their love can be called love at first sight, but they had to wait for about three years before Svarstad divorced his first wife. In 1912 Svarstad finally got married Sigrid Undset, Sigrid was then 30 years old. In this marriage were born two sons and a daughter. Marriage of Anders Castus Svarstad and Sigrid Undset lasted 13 years, they broke up in 1925.

The first truly mature work was written by Sigrid Undset in 1911 – novel “Jenny.” The main character of the novel – a smart, emotionally generous and sincere girl who dreams of the true and all-consuming love. But she can not find her ideal, making sure of her error – from her point of view, she commits suicide.

After finishing work on the novel “Christine, daughter of Lavransdatter”, in the spiritual life of Sigrid Undset happened important changes. Undset grew up in a non-religious family and was not a believer. But she realized that God exists. In November 1924, at the age of 42 she was baptized in Catholicism, not in Protestantism, more popular in Norway.

In the years between 1920 and 1927 she first published the 3-volume Kristin, and then the 4-volume Olav (Audunssøn), swiftly translated into English as The Master of Hestviken. Simultaneously with this creative process, she was engaged in trying to find meaning in her own life, finding the answer in God.

After 1928 Undset refers in her work to contemporary subject matter. In the thirties, the writer begins to actively oppose fascism. In 1940, Undset’s books were banned in Germany, and her name entered the Gestapo lists of particularly dangerous individuals. April 9, 1940 the Germans occupied Norway and Undset was forced to leave the country. The writer went (skiing) to Sweden, from Sweden flew by plane to Moscow, and from there she moved to the United States. After the war, Sigrid Undset returned to Lillehammer, where she died June 10, 1949.

Sigrid Undset was honored in a variety of ways. The most notable was the Nobel prize for literature. A crater on the planet Venus was named after her. She has been depicted on a Norwegian 500 kroner note and a two-kroner postage stamp from 1982. Neighboring Sweden put her on a stamp in 1998.

Bjerkebæk, Sigrid Undset’s home in Lillehammer, is now part of Maihaugen museum. The farmhouse was listed in 1983. Efforts to restore and furnish the houses as they were during the time of her occupancy were begun in 1997. New public buildings were opened in May 2007.

At the end of the 1930s she commenced work on a new historical novel set in 18th century Scandinavia. Only the first volume, Madame Dorthea, was published, in 1939. The Second World War broke out that same year and proceeded to break her, both as a writer and as a woman. She never completed her new novel. When Joseph Stalin’s invasion of Finland touched off the Winter War, Sigrid Undset supported the Finnish war effort by donating her Nobel Prize on 25 January 1940.

Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset

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