Thursday, 3 September 2015

Absalom’s Hair by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (5/5)

First published: -
Original title: -
Original language: Norwegian
Translation to English by: No info provided, but I downloaded this from Project Gutenberg

Page count: 97
GoodReads says: Bjornstjerne Martinus Bjornson (1832 - 1910) is one of "The Great Four" Norwegian poets. He was a 1903 Nobel Prize winner in literature. He wrote the lyrics for the Norwegian national anthem, "Ja vi elsker dette." During his lifetime Bjornson was considered Ibsen's equal, Since then his reputation as an author has diminished but his influence is still strong.

Absalom's Hair is the story of sixty year old Harold Kaas who has given up his bachelor ways to marry Kristen Ravn who is much younger than he. The town gossips that the marriage could not be a happy one since they live in separate wings of the house. The story proceeds from there to a disquieting ending with no easy answers and little hope of redemption for the characters. 

I say: First of all, this is the weirdest book so far because it can be bought and downloaded from several places, and yet, when I look through Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s bibliography, it is nowhere to be found.

The actual fuck!?

Ah well, whether he really wrote it or someone else did, I loved it. At the beginning of the novel we meet old Harald Kaas who has a great estate in Hellebergene, but no prestige left. For whatever reasons, the young and promising Kristen marries him, and this mismatched couple becomes the talk of the town. Soon enough a son, Rafael, is born and the relationship deteriorates along with the estate and their fortune. When Harald eventually dies, Kristina and Rafael spend many years abroad before finally returning to their native Norway.

And I think I gave away most of the plot, but not really.

What I really loved about this was the oddly riveting depiction of the strained and dysfunctional relationship between Kristina and Rafael. Although they had mostly relied on each other they still managed to constantly hurt each other through misunderstandings and bad-tempered behaviour. Yes, in many ways they were the same person, and a lot of conflict stemmed in Kristina’s inability – or unwillingness – to let her son live his own life. In most ways the ending was poetic, but also a tad sentimental, but I suppose that’s something I shouldn’t frown upon.

It was all so very sad and frustrating at the same time.

I remember my professor at uni going on and on about Bjørnson and I wish I had paid closer notice to what works to read, because I will definitely read more from him (if this is even his work). The writing was straightforward and without any linguistic acrobatics, but there was also a lot of poetry within its simplicity.

Ah, the bleak Scandinavian outlook on things, how I miss thee.


Another winner of the NobelPrize in Literature read for the challenge.

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