Friday, February 27, 2009
Welcome to Norway
Just to set the stage for Out Stealing Horses, I’ll share a little about Norway with you. Part of the appeal of this book was the fact that I’m half Norwegian. In fact, the Queen of Norway is my (now deceased) father’s 5th cousin. She may or may not have the family book on her bookshelf.
In 1971 after graduating from college, a friend and I backpacked through Europe. We rode a bus into the middle of nowhere to find my Norwegian relatives, who were strawberry farmers in Telemark. Our inability to communicate without the help of the local school teacher who spoke English fueled my desire to learn Norwegian.
Back home I exchanged friendship for language lessons with lonely embassy employees and gradually learned enough Norwegian to be able to accompany my parents on their one and only trip out of the country two years later. I will never forget the thrill at seeing the place for which our family was named and learning the stories of what had happened to those who had stayed behind.
Norway is a wild and beautiful country, a rugged place where only 4 percent of the land is arable. That might explain why so many people decided to leave the country in the mid-1800's, as they searched for land to call their own.
It’s water everywhere that connects remote places, often forming the only way in and out. That was true very recently of my grandmother’s families home on the Sogn Fjord, where it was not until 1973 that a road was built.
The pictures I’m including were taken when my family visited Norway in 2003 to attend a family reunion on that very farm. I gave a short speech in my primitive Norwegian and they all cheered for America. It was quite a touching homecoming.
You will come to have your own appreciation of the waterways that figure into our March book. And you will definitely get a sense of the remoteness of the place. That’s a big part of the appeal of the book.