NILS HENRIK SMITH: FIRE IN YOUR HEART

 

FIRE IN YOUR HEART (SE ILDEN LYSE OVER JORD)

A man’s self-examination, torn between feelings of shame, regret and longing for love

A sixty-year-old man wakes up in a hotel room. He has been dreaming about the men’s cross-country skiing relay at the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994, which was closely linked to a dramatic event in his own life. In the winter of 1994, the same day as the relay took place, he lost his eldest son. Later he became divorced.

The man is a road engineer, lives alone and is determined to carry on doing so. But when his daughter persuades him to create a Facebook profile, he ends up on a dubious page that offers contact with East European women. He gets acquainted with Kataryna from Belarus, and feels a lust he cannot control. He travels to Minsk, determined to seduce this woman he has never met, but whom he believes he loves. Smith has written an intense and elegant novel about loss, loneliness and living in constant anxiety.

Nils Henrik Smith’s novel was selected by NORLA’s program for talented authors, 2017.

Nils Henrik Smith (b. 1980) studied at the University of Bergen and attended the creative writing academy Skrivekunstakademiet. He received the Tarjei Vesaas’ Debutants’ Prize in 2007 for Manhattan Skyline. The reviewer in Dagbladet wrote: ‘Manhattan Skyline has an impressive drive and tempo. Moreover, Smith appears to be a knowledgeable author who uses all his skills effectively and confidently. […] Manhattan Skyline is such a smart, perceptive and proficient debut that I already look forward to Nils Henrik Smith’s next book.’ His début was followed by the critically acclaimed novel Austria (Austerrike, 2009).

 

OLAV H. HAUGE – poems

Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994)

Poetry that opens luminous spaces by a World poet

Olav H. Hauge was born on 18 August 1908 in Ulvik, the fjordside village where he spent almost his entire life. While his mother Katrina had deep roots in Ulvik, his father Håkon came from Sogn, several mountain ranges and one fjord farther north.

The young schoolboy became good friends with the town librarian, who guided him to the classics of national and world literatures. He would sneak away from farm chores, climbing a nearby pine tree to immerse himself in worlds opened up by the printed word. He learned English and German in school; his uncle sent him books from America. And Hauge, a master autodidact, taught himself French just by reading.

Due to health issues and his struggles with math, Hauge’s formal education ended with junior high school. In 1929, Hauge enrolled in the horticultural and agricultural school at Hjeltnes. In his journal he lamented: “I guess I had better put literature and language on the shelf. Soon I shall have forgotten it all.”

His oldest brother inherited the family farm – as was the custom in Norwegian farming society. Olav later inherited a smaller plot of land, with a new house that his father built. For the rest of his life, he made a meagre living as an apple grower on his five acres, on which he had roughly 200 trees. The panoramic view from this farm, perched above the village, takes in the changing seasons and the many moods of the fjord and surrounding mountains.

His first book, Embers in the Ashes, published in 1946, may be read as an image of hope. After five years’ occupation by Nazi Germany, with many cities and towns bombed or torched, Norway faced the daunting task of reconstruction.

Ulvik is at the heart of Norway’s apple-growing region, the sheltered fjordscape of Hardanger. A mild climate and long summer days – with up to 20 hours of sunlight – result in exceptionally aromatic fruit. The first apple seeds were planted by Cistercian monks in the 13th century. There is nothing romantic about being an apple grower. In his journals, Hauge speaks repeatedly of how the chores in his orchard would get in the way of other things he preferred to do – his reading and his writing.

On the Eagle’s Perch, published in 1961, won the Norwegian Critics’ Award. His next volume, Droplets On the Eastern Wind (1971), won even wider praise, especially from younger Norwegian poets. These were taken by his “thing” poems such as “Sledgehammer”, “Saw” and “Scythe”. “The Cat” is shaped like a cat. Hauge touches on the immediate – whether tools and other objects, the landscape, or farm tasks such as haying. Yet he chafed at the idea of being categorized, hence his self-ironic poem “Old Poet Tries His Hand as a Modernist”.

Hauge is a master at erasing the distance between his reader and the subject matter. In “Swine”, from his next collection Ask the Wind (1971), his vivid details of the darker aspects of history, such as the aftermath of Gettysburg, create an overwhelming immediacy.

Only at a late age did Hauge find the woman in his life. In 1975 Bodil Cappelen, an artist and master weaver, moved to Ulvik. Soon he built an annex with a studio for her. When they were married three years later, Hauge was 70 years old. He penned a number of poems to her, including “Carpet”.

Idar Stegane, a lifelong friend and leading expert on the poet, divides Hauge’s poetry and spiritual growth into three stages: “Fallen from grace”, “The solitary outsider”, and “At home on this Earth”. Certainly this third stage coincides with the happy years he spent with Bodil.

Olav H Hauge played a major role in the translation of world poetry into Norwegian. He wrote poems in homage to William Blake, Georg Trakl, Bertolt Brecht, Paul Celan, Gérard de Nerval and Emily Dickinson.

His literary horizon was hardly limited to the Western world. From an early date he sought inspiration from Chinese poetry and Japanese haiku. In addition, Hauge’s journals reveal a lifelong fascination with Eastern spiritual traditions.

His journals, published posthumously, span 70 years and run over 4000 pages. The entries complement and yield insights into Hauge’s life and poetry, and at times rise to pure poetry. But readers will look in vain for cultural gossip, confessions and accusations.

In many poems we sense Hauge’s heightened awareness of the moment, but he never turns his back on the ordinary. On the surface, the subject matter may seem mundane, but by pulling our awareness to the everyday and to the things that surround us, Hauge renews the world for us. The poet speaks from a luminous space and invites the reader to enter.

Likewise he lends a transcendent quality to ordinary tasks: “Opening the Curtains”, inspecting scythes, seeing “Two Rowboats on the Fjord”, or simply “Pausing Beneath an Old Oak on a Rainy Day”.

Like few others, Hauge brings the landscape alive: the nearby waterfall, the rotting tree stump, a wobbly boulder, mountain pastures and hayfields. And on a north-facing mountainside, the snowfield that never totally disappears.

It should come as no surprise that Hauge’s poetic awareness embraces the ancient – whether it’s a trapping pit, a stone grave, or the changing vegetation at an abandoned quarry or mountain farm. In many of his poems we can hear the music of the Norse bards!

Much has been made of Hauge’s struggles with madness, and for good reason. All in all he spent five years in Valen psychiatric hospital. The first time, in 1934, he was incarcerated for three and a half years. His journal entries speak of deep doubts and of “the other man”, who according to Hauge was everything he was not. “The Shadow”, from 1946, hints of this. Looking back at Valen, he wrote moving poems such as “The Wheat Field” about a print on the wall. “The Cell”, published posthumously, is one of the last Hauge wrote. Even here Hauge found a luminous space!

His most renowned and quoted poem, “It Is That Dream”, speaks of the yearning we all share.

This introduction is written by Olav Grinde. The full introduction is printed in “Luminous Spaces”, published by White Pine Press/Buffalo, 2016.                               Olav H. Hauge’s poems have been published in a number of countries, from USA via France and Germany to Korea.

 

Hilde K. Kvalvaag: HAVE A GOOD LIFE

Hilde K. Kvalvaag                                                                                                                   Lev vel, alle)                                                                                                              Published by Samlaget, 2015

Reluctantly, 16-year-old Knut goes on a trip to Canada with his mother Gunhild. The plan is to follow the footsteps of his great-grandfather who left his wife and six children in Norway, never to return. Knut has dropped out of school after a serious act of violence against his best mate. His mother’s aim is to make this trip into turning point. Moreover, she also has an urge to get away. The journey takes them into the great Canadian wilderness where nothing turns out t to be as they have planned or imagined.

Have a good life is an engaging drama about a complicated relationship between mother and son. This is an existential novel about belonging and separation, about finding your place in the world. The story is inspired by Kvalvåg’s own grandfather who left the family and lived the last 30 years of his life alone in Canada.

From the reviews:  “Electrifyingly good, about people as they are.” DAG OG TID                                   «A mesmerizing novel about belonging and liberation. Sharply nuanced, Kvalvaag portrays a mother’s need for connection as her son slips from her grasp and into something that is solely his own. The author breaks down the concept of trust and writes provocatively about letting go. For a mother and son, traveling through the vast unknown, it is a story simply about taking responsibility for one’s own life.»   Anne Catherine Straume, NRK Radio P2

Hilde K. Kvalvaag (b. 1968) has written several award-winning books. Among others, she won Brageprisen for young adult novels with her book Fengsla (Imprisoned) in 2008. Several of her books in this category are translated into German.

Kristina Leganger Iversen: IN THE RINGS

I ringane
Published by Samlaget, 2015

A disturbing, erotic and explosive novel

Jo lies on her bathroom floor undergoing a chemical abortion. How did it come to this? How could love transform itself into something so painful and impossible to offer ever again? Through fragmented images from her childhood and adult life, we see the way in which Jo reluctantly grows into a woman who feels her life ebb away from her. More…

Tore Kvæven: HARSH IS THE LAW OF MY LAND

Hard er mitt lands lov
Published by Samlaget, 2011

1010 AD. The Norwegian Viking ship, “Sea Wolverine”, is moored in Rome doing trade, following a sea voyage along the Spanish coast. Ulfr, an unknown Greenlander, comes aboard and challenges the chieftain of the ship. A bitter sword fight takes place and the stranger stands victorious. The crew wants to avenge their chieftain, but Ulfr appeases them by telling about a Phoenician trade route into the heart of Africa. The men are tempted by untold riches. Ulfr is given a task and proves to be a fierce warrior. He becomes the ship’s new chieftain and the “Sea Wolverine” leaves the Mediterranean and sets sail south down the endless coastline of Africa. They find the river they are seeking and as they go up her waters, they enter a new and strange world, where unfamiliar creatures, both animal and human, await them. It transpires that Ulfr is not who he said he was, and that the men have no idea what they have let themselves in for. Unexpected confrontations and betrayal lie in store for the survivors.

This rich and exciting novel provides a potent, brutal and epic portrayal of a Viking expedition to central Africa;  dramatic and realistic. The novel received enthusiastic reviews: “GREAT VIKING EPOS …The novel is an impressive piece of work: well written, exciting and captivating.   5 on the dice  It is exciting, no doubt about that. The book is written in a playful poetic language. Kvæven portrays strong literary characters. Some are archetypes –brave, strong, almost invincible — others are volatile and treacherous.”  (Tom Egeland, VG)  Weekendavisen, Denmark: “Despite its scope and size the book is easy to read. The thorough research is so well integrated that the text never feels laden with information. On the contrary, the entire adventure always seems to have something in reserve, because you never know what new wild beasts are to be found beyond the next bend of the Congo River. It´s seldom that you can say, without reservation, that a book is excellent, but Harsh is the Law of my Land is just that. Read it. It is Viking adventure at its best. “

About the author

Tore Kvæven (b. 1969) is a teacher, a hunter, a traveler and a writer. The Viking novel was his début work. He has previously written a novel for children.

Translations

Rights sold to Czech, Denmark.

Jan Roar Leikvoll: THE PREACHER

Forkynnaren
Published by Samlaget, 2015

When Jan Roar Leikvoll died in 2014, he left behind several manuscripts. One of these was The Preacher (Forkynnaren). Here we meet an old man called Hans who suddenly wakes up one day after a long spell of illness, convinced that he has a personal calling. Without knowing what lies ahead, he leaves his farm and rows his boat across the fjord, never to return. On his journey he takes on passengers who tell him about their longings and their life stories. The Preacher is a beautiful little narrative about loss, consolation and reconciliation. More…

Lars Mæhle: LINNÉ’S GRIM LESSON

Linnés dystre lærdom
Published by Samlaget, 2014

A new book in the series about the hard-hitting psychologist Ina Grieg. An invitation to a class reunion revives one of Ina Grieg’s repressed nightmares. When she was young, a 14 years old girl, Sonia Lerdahl, mysteriously disappeared from the small town where they lived. Sonia was in the same class as Ina, and she was a victim of bullying. In retrospect, Ina reproaches herself for not having intervened against the bullying. More…

Agnes Ravatn: THE BIRD TRIBUNAL

Agnes RavatnFugletribunalet
Published by Samlaget, 2013

TV-presenter Allis Nordavatn leaves her husband and job in the capital, following a public sex scandal. She goes into voluntary exile, with a single purpose in mind: to build herself up again as a person and professional, in order to return to her old life. A job as a housekeeper and gardener for a man who lives in a house well off the beaten track gives her the opportunity to retreat, and she looks forward to days filled with gardening, cooking and her own writing. But her employer is not an old man in need of help and care, as expected. It is Sigurd Bagge, a forty-year-old who wants her to look after his house and garden until his wife returns from her travels. He wants her to serve him three meals a day, look after the garden and apart from that, leave him in peace. More…

Erlend Flornes Skaret: NOMAD

Nomade
Published by Samlaget, 2016

A road novel about the highways and byways of existence.

Struck by the absurdity of it all, a man resigns from his job and buys a car. He drives south without a plan. He tries to free himself from daily life by constantly moving. But this nomadic lifestyle is challenged, raising the question: how long is it possible to keep running?

From the teeming street life of Tangier, via a research project about the special ivy found on Ånuglo, to the busy motorways of Europe, Skaret roams restlessly with the reader through a landscape of thoughts and physical geography.

Nomad is full of precise observations, absurd events and thought-provoking musings.

About the author

Erlend Flornes Skaret (b. 1976) is a civil engineer by trade. His first novel, Wrocław, was published in 2011, and was followed by Lucida in 2013.