Olav Duun

The Beginning

I chose to start “Off the Bookshelves” with Olav Duun’s The People from Juvik – an eleven hundred and thirty pages long saga that tells about six generations of men and women of the Juvik family.

I have read a lot about Norwegian peasant life, in literature that is to say (Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil gives one of the most outstanding accounts on the struggles with the land and elements, and it would be wrong not to mention Gulbranssen’s mesmerizing Bjørndal trilogy.), but Duun is something quite different. His people, although Christians, are still very deeply drenched in paganism and see bad signs in everything around them – in polar light, in the stars, the birds, in the direction in which the wind carries the smoke of the burning hay, in clumsiness, in unwillingly making a hole in the bread dough – it is fascinating.. And, everything is bursting with life – the trees, the stones and the wind, the devil and the little elves as equally as men and women.. And they all speak very little and their speech has a quality of an ellipsis. Sometimes I have to read a particular remark or a comment twice to get the meaning, the allusion out of it. And it’s not just the speech – the style of the prose (except when he, Duun, is describing nature) is the same. Clear cut, sharp sentences… I have a feeling this will change with generations to come…

It’s the fourth day of November and I’m one hundred and sixty pages into the book. If I manage to keep this pace I will need some twenty days to read it; which means that I will, probably, be able to read only one book from the additional lists – Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis – before I move on to the December readings.

But, who knows, maybe there will be time for Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate after all…

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6 thoughts on “The Beginning

  1. The only translation of The People from Juvik was a 1930’s unbound edition, my quest shall not end there though! It sounds like an intriguing series and a cultural look into old Norway. I can’t help but…need this book now I have read your words. You always bring out the collector of wonderful works in me.

    1. I am very delighted to hear that.. The book is really worth the quest. I think I shall write more about it since I stepped into the fourth volume already and prose developed with characters.. You are quite right – it is a wonderful look into the old Norwegian culture and psyche..

  2. Stepped into the fourth volume, I like that phrase. I always find dive in is to dramatic but a sedate step in in more fitting for such a classy lady as yourself.

    1. Classy lady, I like that..
      It is interesting – when reading literature of eighteenth, nineteenth century I get all overwhelmed with the air of it and I feel more sophisticated.. I’ve noticed my motions to be slower and speech more polished.. Too bad I cannot adopt it for good…
      I think something similar happens to you, too.. With Marquez, if I’m not mistaken.

      1. I know what you mean about the sophistication, ignoring all the throwaway rubbish of today and getting to grips with something real has more substance to it. It does affect me as well, my language improves, especially as you say with Márquez. It does make me want to talk and write in a style that is more befitting of who I like to think I am lol.

        1. I read somewhere that a man is a creature defined from its future. Of course, he is what he is at the present moment and he is what he was, but mainly, he is what he strives to be.. So, who you like to think you are can very easily become your true self since you hold it within as a possibility. :D
          I am cheering for a person you like to think you are!

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