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.


  1. Barbara I like this. I've always wanted to trek up here. It's such a beautiful country. And learning an ancestral langauge. To do this, is wonderful. Mine are multiple. German I know, but Ukranian...and no-one left to teach me the proper dialect. And I finally pick up my copy, on the morrow!

  2. Oh boy, oh boy! What a great introduction!

  3. Thank you for this Barbara- this will really bring the book alive. The country looks so beautiful. You have also inspired me to try to keep up my French, which is very very rusty. I think it is important to be able to communicate in other languages- I really admire translators.
    I have my copy- just finishing my other reading group book first!

  4. It is a beautiful country. The book would have easily have convinced you of that without my photos!

    Given the book was written in Norwegian, I do think the translator did a great job. Translation is indeed a real art.

  5. Thank you for the post--incredible, lovely photos. I'm nearly finished with the book, and will probably have to re-read it before we post at the end of March, to refresh my memory!

    I was wondering about the translation too. What a job--to keep true to the author--but something of the translator must come through as well.

    Thanks again!

  6. Rats! The library has not gotten in my copy, as yet. They tell me this coming Tuesday. A week late but still time to read it.

    Megan, they did have "Stargazey", so I got that while I was there. At least it was not a wasted trip :)

  7. Thanks, Barbara. I just started this today.

  8. Thanks Barbara! I didn't know you were part Norwegian!

    I visited Norway a few times to see a close friend (who I met when she very briefly lived in NYC) One summer on a whim I took a solo trip to the polar circle -- hung out with the Lapps.
    I have so many GREAT memories of Norway-- since my friend had to work I had lots of time to wander on my own, and on weekends she'd play the tour guide--it was perfect. She lived in Oslo, Nesodden, and in Trondheim for my visits. I'd love to go back.

  9. I'm so excited to start the book after reading this post. (the waterways part has me intrigued!)

  10. Avid Reader -- I've never been to the far north, but always wanted to go there. Did you travel by boat or train to go up there? Was language an issue for you?

  11. My copy arrived today. Woo hoo!

  12. Oh joy! Got my copy yesteday. Alas, babysitting put it on hold for a while. Barbara's snaps will help me get into the book.

  13. Oh Ja, big time language problem, but i laughed it off, what else can you do? I expected it . I often wandered around totally lost for hours. A guy came up to me, he was lost too, he was from Connecticut. He seemed a bit ticked off that I wasn't Norwegian and just as lost as he was. and he seemed annoyed that I didn't care that I was lost. he was panicky.
    The Lapps? They had their own thing going. In Oslo the Sri Lankans spoke decent English, so when I was in their neighborhood it was pleasant to sit and talk with them.

    The trains were a little scary sometimes, but efficient.