Bjørn Berge: IN THE AGE OF THE BOMBERS

CULTURAL HISTORY

Cover of "In the Age of the Bombers"

Luftens tyranner. Menn og bombefly gjennom 100 år
Published by Spartacus Forlag, 2019

Deadly planes as big as football pitches with bomb loads of up to 50 tonnes have thundered over cities and countries since 1914. The scenario is both historical and contemporary.
The arrival of bomber technology, with its ability to penetrate front lines and spread destruction among civilian populations, changed the nature of warfare forever. Its supporters claimed mass bombing would yield rapid victories by demoralising enemy populations. The idea persists: if only bombers become powerful, fast and precise enough, wars will be won swiftly and bloodlessly.

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The Bird Boy and Blue Bats where nominated to the Brage Prize 2019

Rune Belsvik’s The Bird Boy and Harald Nordtun’s Blue Bats were nominated to the Brage Pize 2019 for the year’s best children and young adult book.

Below are the jury’s groundings for their nominations of the two books:

“The Bird Boy is an absorbing, sensitive tale of a child’s attempts to control their emotions and of searching for fellowship. […] Through investigations into his day-to-day, Lukas gradually understands that he isn’t the only one finding it difficult to get a handle on his thoughts. It provides him with strength as he reconciles with his unsafe living conditions in this bleak and believable depiction of childhood.”

Blue bats is sparse and eloquent, swooping down into themes such as poverty, fairness, dyslexia and various types of isolation. […] Sander has a sophisticated ability to rise up against different external pressures, and this runs all the way through the book. Despite its somewhat serious backdrop, this is both a warm and humorous novel. This thrilling, yet at the same time believable depiction of how isolating a childhood summer holiday can be, has a lot to say.”

Jan Roar Leikvoll awarded the Stig Sæterbakken Memorial Prize for 2013

4 September 2013

Jan Roar Leikvoll, Photo: Mimsy Møller
Jan Roar Leikvoll (1974 – 2014) Photo: Mimsy Møller

The prize jury had the following words to say about this year’s winner:

Jan Roar Leikvoll has an uncompromising choice of themes, an insistent and soulfully poetic use of language and, not least, has chosen to write three books that are so consistent in their structure, language and content. His authorship so far represents one of the most accomplished and unique projects in contemporary Norwegian literature.

‘His work consists of the three novels A Winter Story (Eit vintereventyr, 2008), The Violins (Fiolinane, 2010) and Bovara (2012). These books can be said to form a trilogy, all following a vulnerable first-person narrator’s quest, survival instinct and misdeeds in environments that put humanity to the test, or that even set humanity aside. His novels reach out to the extreme boundaries of readers’ imagination, and they all cover themes that are disgusting and captivating, both in a fascinating way. His books explore the inconceivable but genuine evil that humans are able to perform. But even with physical decay, razed surroundings and total isolation, hope still shines out. Leikvoll manages to portray this with dependable credibility. Readers are cornered with the question of whether we feel the protagonists deserve to have hope. The trilogy emerges, therefore, as an essentially humanistic project.

‘The three fables are set in closed worlds where the plots develop limitlessly in all their horror. A Winter Story takes place in an undefined, enclosed camp from which neither the guards nor those they are guarding can escape. The Violins is set in a post-apocalyptic rubbish tip where it really is possible just to leave and to “become one of those who disappeared”. But, in a scorching hot desert where disaster is universal, that means running away from a utopia. Bovara is set in a monastery where the monks abuse unwilling newcomers, a bestial and sinful Garden of Eden in which the protagonist Frrok eventually leaves the monastery garden dressed in a murdered girl’s hair, dress and green shoes, like a monstrous symbiosis of Adam and Eve.

‘Leikvoll tests the limits of readers’ empathy, aversion and spontaneous moral reactions when the victims themselves begin to carry out the very acts to which have been subjected as victims. [… T]he three novels are narrated with a beautifully poetic and lyrical language, making the repellent subject matter into something aesthetically alluring. It is a balancing act with many potential pitfalls, such as a banal use of clichés or exploitative glamorisation of people’s wicked thoughts or deeds. A fable, liberated from concrete times or places, is capable of carrying out this balancing act successfully, referring to societies, settings or private spheres without turning into a cheap or reductive allegory. But succeeding in this takes rare talent and work honing the text, both of which shine through in these novels.

‘Jan Roar Leikvoll has an uncompromising choice of themes, an insistent and soulfully poetic use of language and, not least, has chosen to write three books that are so consistent in their structure, language and content. His authorship so far represents one of the most accomplished and unique projects in contemporary Norwegian literature. We look forward to this year’s coming publication The Songbird (Songfuglen), and to the rest of Jan Roar Leikvoll’s future work, with great anticipation.’

About the prize winner:

Jan Roar Leikvoll (1974 – 2014) made his debut with the novel A Winter Story (Eit vintereventyr) in 2008. With The Violins (Fiolinane, 2010) and Bovara (2012), he confirmed that he is one of the strongest and most original voices in contemporary Norwegian literature. Leikvoll’s books are characterised by a brutal and raw yet, at the same time, beautiful and sensitive language, portraying the extremes of human experience with merciless realism. Leikvoll is an original storyteller who dares to follow paths that are entirely his own, for which he has won the universal praise of critics and readers. In the autumn of 2010, Leikvoll was awarded the Sigmund Skard Scholarship for the start of an original and important career in writing. Among other points in their citation, the jury stated that ‘Leikvoll has fused together pain and beauty in a credible and effective way, and we cannot help being affected by the questions his books pose. The jury looks forward to Jan Roar Leikvoll’s continued creation of exciting and original new literary universes.’

Reviews for “The Goalie and the Sea”

Cover of "The Goalie and the Sea"

“A Resounding reunion with the friends from Waffle Hearts

Strong feelings, great drama and a real way with words
This book is one that I feel like reading aloud, chapter by chapter, to everybody around me. It has an exciting plot, drama between the characters, and humour in almost every line.

After her two previous books – Waffle Hearts (Vaffelhjarte) in 2005 and Astrid the Unstoppable (Tonje Glimmerdal) in 2009 – Maria Parr (36) from Sunnmøre, on the west coast of Norway, was proclaimed the shining new talent in Norwegian children’s literature. Then nothing was heard for a while, and it is easy to imagine that ideas were tried and rejected amidst a fear of failure. So it is a real pleasure to report that Parr is back and is surpassing herself, offering us more of what we have grown to love, while at the same time expanding the world of the children she writes about.

Surpassing herself
We are back in the small hamlet of Mathildewick Cove, a ferry journey away from a town that could be Ålesund.

Trille and Lena were nine years old in Waffle Hearts. Now they are twelve, Trille is still the first-person narrator, and we follow them through a year at school. Their world is larger, and the events that happen are more serious.

In one plot thread, we find out more about when Trille’s grandfather was a young man, and how he fell in love with Trille’s grandmother; in another, we see Lena’s new football coach giving her so few opportunities on the pitch that she decides to move to a team in town instead.

Friendship triangle
The new girl in the class, Brigitte from the Netherlands, also causes some commotion. Trille would like to be with her, but he is also ashamed of neglecting Lena and his grandfather. And he is really astonished that Brigitte can see any good in the class bully, Kai-Tommy.

Along the way, there is time for broken arms, fishing trips, secrets, airgun accidents, a school concert, and an Astrid Lindgren reference when Trille’s little sister is hoisted up the flagpole.

Birth, love, and the sea
If there is anything to pick holes in from this book, it might be the penchant for melodrama. The main characters are in mortal danger on the waves two or three times, and Trille’s baby sister is born during a heavy winter storm. Still, this is also probably the book’s greatest strength. The drama is well integrated and realistic, and the reader can feel the grave seriousness of the situations.

Lena emerges as an even more ambiguous character. At her worst, she is self-centered, short-tempered, and sulky. At her best, she has a heart of gold (XL size). It is easy to see how the calmer Trille can feel frustrated and confused.

Best in practically all aspects
The Goalie and the Sea fulfils most criteria of literary criticism. The language is rich and varied. The composition, ensemble of characters, and dramatic structure work well. Parr dares to take all the corners at full speed with even more sincerity, more drama and, not least, even more fantastic new words and expressions. […]

I enjoyed most of all how Parr lets her characters and readers think, learn, and grow as a result of everything they go through. We see honest children struggling with big questions, and coming out of it all with greater self-awareness and greater respect for other people.

This book is full of wisdom, beauty and emotion, and it is quite likely that Maria Parr will see in the new year with several more literary prizes on her mantelpiece.”

(Reviewed by Morten Olsen Haugen, Aftenposten 13 August 2017)

“The sequel to Waffle Hearts: binge-reading!
The sequel to Waffle Hearts does not disappoint. Maria Parr’s writing is lively and humorous, creating a safe universe it feels good to inhabit. […] Your heart also beats more calmly and happily when you read Maria Parr’s books. …This novel uses language inventively and is filled with funny alliterations and playful comparisons. … Lena Lid and Trille deserve many readers and many books. Through her writing, Maria Parr conjures up wild and beautiful western Norwegian scenery and appealing characters we would like to follow in book after book. “

(Reviewed by Kristine Isaksen, VG)

“Speed and self-confidence
Maria Parr has proven again that she is in a class of her own as a children’s author. This charm bomb of a story will bring out laughter and tears in children and adults alike. … It is an exciting story, and the first time you read it, you will at times find yourself on the edge of your seat, hoping that everything will turn out well. Maria Parr is not afraid of writing about difficult topics, such as death: can it happen at any time? This grown-up reviewer shed several tears while reading – tears of sympathy and recognition – which were soon replaced by smiles and laughter.    …   Maybe it is here, more than anywhere, that Maria Parr’s magic lies: not in her use of language, even though that is terrifically good, or in the story, which is also unbearably exciting, but in all the layers she works into it, in the way she surveys the depths of what makes up life. Fun, excitement and humour, but also serious matters, insecurities and sorrow. Life and death. Maria Parr writes about children, but her books are really about all of us.

The Goalie and the Sea is a brilliant book for children, and is perfect for grown-ups too.”

(Reviewed by Gerd Elin Stava in Dagsavisen, 16 August 2017)

Bjørn Berge: NOWHERE LANDS. LOST COUNTRIES OF THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY

HISTORY/GEOGRAPHY

Bjørn Berge: Landene som forsvant/Nowhere LandsLandene som forsvant. 1840 – 1970
Published by Spartacus, 2016

A different kind of world history – told through stamps from countries that have been erased from the map

More than 1000 countries have issued their own stamps during the past 175 years since the first “Penny Black” was introduced in England in 1840. Most of them no longer exist. Some of their names will bring back associations, such as Biafra and “famine” and Bhopal and “environmental disaster”. Others, few of us will associate with anything, like Labuan, Tannu Tuva and Fiume. These lost countries have fascinating stories to tell , whether they were short-lived like Eastern Karelia, which lasted only a few weeks during the winter war of 1922, or more tenacious such as the Orange Free State, a Boer Republic which celebrated 50 years as an independent state in the late 1800s.

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Marianne G. Engedal: THE SAUSAGE BURGLAR

Cover of Marianne Engedal: The Sausage Burglar

Pølsetjuven
Published by Samlaget, 2019

Exciting about an unwilling burglar
Bill is a nine-year-old boy, born into a family of burglars. But Bill doesn’t want to be a burglar. One day he has to steal from his own friend, Sausage Sam. “But I don’t want to steal from Sausage Sam,” yells Bill, “He’s my friend!” What does he get in response? “A real burglar has to be able to steal from anyone at all!”

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Pål Brekke: THE STORY ABOUT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

NATURAL SCIENCE

Cover of "The Story About the Northern Lights"

Historien om Nordlyset
Published by Solarmax Consulting, 2018

Watching the northern lights or “aurora borealis” dancing overhead on a clear winter night is one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring sights that the natural world can offer. They differ from all other light phenomena by exhibiting an amazing variety of colours, structures, and movements. For people who have caught a glimpse of the northern lights will the sight often leaves memories for a lifetime.

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Åsmund H. Eikenes: A SINGLE DROP. THE SPECTACULAR SCIENCE OF BODY FLUIDS

NATURAL SCIENCE/BIOLOGY

Sprut. Sanninga om kroppsvæskene dine
Published by Samlaget, 2018

Once you read this book, blood tests, kisses and glasses of milk will never be the same.
In A Single Drop, Åsmund H. Eikenes spurts out funny stories about blood, sweat and tears, and mixes them together with grand revelations about more than 50 vastly different bodily fluids.The latest research tells us that our inner juices are far more important than you might think. Tiny little snot droplets can stay airborne for a whopping ten minutes after a mighty sneeze, mucus from the cervix guides healthy sperm cells on their way to the egg, and young people’s blood may contain the secret recipe to eternal life.

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Irene A. Ellefsen: JENS MUNK. THE HUNT FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

Cover of "Jens Munk. The Hunt for the Northwest Passage"

Jens Munk. Jakten på Nordvestpassasjen
Published by Humanist Forlag, 2019

What could convince a human being to embark on a long sea journey to an unknown place without a definite map, with neither sufficient funds nor medicine, with navigational equipment that is more than 400 years old?

Jens Munk (1579 – 1628), the son of disgraced gentry, was a captain and a discoverer. He grew up in Agder, Fredrikstad and Ålborg, and had already undertook a solo journey to Brazil when he was only 13 years old. Later he moved to Copenhagen where he became a captain in King Christian VI’s fleet.

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