“…the sun and the sifting shadows…”

September 25, 2012 @ 7:43 pm | Filed under:

From Tiina Nunnally‘s introduction to her translation of Kristin Lavransdatter:

Sigrid Undset’s great gift as a writer might best be described in her own appraisal of Charlotte Brontë, whom she much admired: “[Her] sense of self is grounded in her awareness that her art is bitterly true, that her talent is merely the courage to look honestly into her own heart. [She] wished to depict life and reality the way they are—life and reality as they existed in her own heart, in the limitless possibilities of her heart, in her dreams and yearnings, in the mirages of hunger and thirst—and in all the tiny gray-pebble days over which life flows.”

And this:

Undset had been an avid botanist. As an eighteen-year-old she described in a letter her love of nature as “that hypnotic immersion in the corolla of a rose when you have stared at it for so long that all outlines are erased and you become dizzy with crimson.” She said that she longed to “disappear into nature so that you cease to feel or think, but with all your senses you greedily draw in the light and colors, the rustling of leaves and the trickling of underground streams, the sun and the shifting shadows—that is happiness, nirvana.”

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14 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Leslie in VA says:

    Oh! Oh! (I dont think I can type fast enough. . . ) Does this mean that you are reading Kristin? Beware! The children will be off in the shadows, eating crackers and dry cereal for three days while you are buried deep in Kristin’s life. Cannot wait to hear how you like it! Just starting Ida Elisabeth myself. Enjoy!

  2. Emily says:

    Kristin…what good stuff. If you’re reading it, enjoy.
    I really didn’t like Ida Elisabeth as much, but really, how does anything compare to KL?

  3. Ellie says:

    My grandmother loved Kristin with all her heart; I, adoring my grandmother, read them when I was in my teens. Periodically, I wonder if I am ready for an adult reread. Maybe, maybe so ….

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ellie, I recommend the Tiina Nunnally translation. I tried another translation years ago and couldn’t seem to keep any momentum up. Last year I read about the Nunnally, liked the way she described her approach, and gave it a try. Devoured The Bridal Wreath–as Leslie said, other things fell by the wayside that week. 😉

    But then I was busy with Cybils reading or something and didn’t move on to Vol 2. We’ve been watching Wallander on Masterpiece Theater, and all those bleak Swedish landscapes (bleak in that series, at least; they’re nothing like the lush Lapland vistas I imagined during umpteen readings of Papa’s Wife) put me in the mood for more Scandinavian melancholy. 🙂 Undset’s scenery is just what I wanted: stark mountains, dark forests, green glens; and the world is so minutely and tenderly realized that I’ll be shivering under a blanket and Scott’ll walk in and look at me like I’ve gone mad—the string of scorchers we’ve had these past weeks. (Today was a bit cooler, though: ahhh.)

  5. Ellie says:

    Hee! I went and placed her translations on library hold last night!

    Papa’s Wife!!! Oh, Lissa, I loved those books so much. Bless my buttons, I haven’t thought of them in years: it is all flooding back … Okay, back to the library website …

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Papa’s Wife is one of those books that rooted so deeply in me I bet I don’t go three days without thinking of it. Lutefisk and midnight sun and Lucia candles—well you can see the latter bursting forth in my Hanna’s Christmas book, eh? 🙂 I may have to reread it too, just because!

    Oh, and the spider in the fire; and the scene when the younger sister serves as proxy for Button in the visit to Button’s fiance’s prospective employers; and shining the shoes; and on and on.

    I remember not enjoying Papa’s Daughter nearly as much—but I was quite young when I read it. I wonder if it would resonate more now that I’m older. I remember it as raw and honest and sad.

  7. Anne says:

    Love both of these! Can Mama’s Bank Account (Kathryn Forbes) count as Scandinavian even if it’s set in San Francisco?

  8. Haley says:

    Oh my! You’ve never read past the first book? You’re in for a treat! It gets better and better as you go.

    I read the KL trilogy with my book club a couple of years ago and can’t imagine reading it any other way. There is just so much begging to be discussed and savored and shared! My group sometimes talks about having a year where we only do re-reads, and those three books are at the top of my list for what I’d want to re-read with them. Also on that list for me: Crossing to Safety and Hannah Coulter.

  9. Emily says:

    KL definitely gets better as you go. I remember wanting to slap her the first time I read the first book. But wow, Undset pulls you in. Definite re-read for me this winter because they are awesoem winter books. I have the huge one-volume copy that Penguin put out a few years ago.
    For nonfiction–Undset’s bio of St. Catherine of Siena is wonderful.

  10. Lori B says:

    My then-16yod and I read all of the KL books last summer! What an experience it was- and even though it was almost a year ago, I feel the urge to re-read them this winter. For some reason, as I was reading the books, I felt I should be curled up under a warm blanket with a cup of tea 🙂

  11. Lori B says:

    That would be, “… even though it was ONLY a year ago… ”


  12. jen says:

    I just finished Kristin a few weeks ago, and cried through the last chapters. You don’t go 1000 pages with someone and not feel something for them.

  13. Amy @ Hope Is the Word says:

    I’ve never read KL, although I’ve read so many swoony reviews of it that I should’ve read it by now. BUT! I loved Papa’s Wife as a teen. In fact, I’ve been thinking lately about looking for a copy of it. Thanks for the nudge!