Olav Duun

Sometimes it happens… After finishing a book I have to have it near me for a day or two. I am not quite sure why I feel this need. It is, naturally, not the case with all the books I read but with those that manage to entwine their world with my own and to make me think of humanity and life’s basic and universal truths. Occasionally, I open the book in question to glance through the noted passages, to read them once again. But mostly, the book just lies (sits?) beside me, shining its content quietly, like an open portal. I guess, having it close helps me (while being in a constant awe at how such a small object can contain a whole world! Ray Bradbury was right – it is magic.) think about what I have read.

So, I have been carrying around The People from Juvik the whole day yesterday. Not very practical but, as I had said, I had to. It has gotten a hold on me. The last three volumes – the history of Odin – left a particularly deep impression. Duun is a master in carving sentences and a perfect example of the art of literature. He reminded me of Gulbranssen – they both share the same vision of a person rising above the pressures and expectations of the community, above prejudice and small-mindedness, struggling with his own being, too and building himself into a Human – a creature of strong morality, of deep understanding and great spirit and soul.

But, I have to make a note of something else that surprised and delighted me – a mise en abyme, a passage mirroring the whole story of Juvik people; in Odin’s daydreaming words:

I want to portray the people as they come stumbling and groping through the ages of old, the ages of shadow and gloom, with the powers of darkness surrounding them all. I want to portray the man who wrestled with the devil and beat him, for that man is the greatest. Ah, I see them, how they come, the whole crowd. They throw off the darkness and free themselves from powers of evil, rush blindly into the light and stand there in confusion, hardly knowing where they are, hardly seeing anything. I sense that I am in their midst, that I have made the whole long journey with them, that I too was blind all the way. I will reveal you the time when they became conscious of each other and the time when an individual here and there became conscious of himself. Finally you shall see the struggle, the great struggle, when all are against one and the one against all. I shall show you the one who loses all things and yet wins.

A note from History of Norwegian Literature by Theodore Jorgenson:

Duun is interested in mankind only. To enter deeply into human nature, to find its laws and to make necessary adjustments in private and institutional livings, to understand the nature of progress, the needs of growth and function, to show the interdependence of the individual and the mass in that the great soul becomes a transvaluator and a savior of the kin which is part of him, to penetrate into the mystery of the making of ideals and the building up of the spiritual world – these are the problems which engage the attention of the mind of Duun.

6 thoughts on “Olav Duun

  1. A book does lie I think, although people do say sit…I have never debated the posture of a book at rest before. Having a book near at hand for a while after you have finished it probably means you can’t let go of the awesomeness for a while and why would you want to?

    1. “I have never debated the posture of a book at rest before.” You make me laugh..
      Somehow I feel it sitting if I’m sitting and it’s lying when I myself am horizontal.. :S

      Yes, that too – it is both hard and unnecessary to stay away from their appeal, I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Books mirror us, as we mirror their feelings, or at least I like to think. When I read a hardback I like to sit with a better posture though.

    I would love to carry my favourite book around with me all the time but as I can’t decide what it is from one day to the next then i would be carrying a whole lot of weight around with me.

    1. In that case it would be good to have miniatures of your most favorite titles (ones that are constantly high on the list) so you could have them on a key chain.. You would have to carry a small magnifying glass, too. That would be a sight!

      I agree with the mirroring.. A lot of times it proved so.
      And just this morning a friend wrote to me about a certain book coming just when she needed something like it – she felt it as a medicine because it spoke about things which preoccupied her thoughts lately. They shared a mutual feeling.. It is beautiful when something like this happens..

  3. Miniature ones…what a good idea, although my eye sight is bad enough without having to pore over a magnifying glass lol. Books are more like people than people…well they are n my ideal world, which is why I have more books than friends.

    1. Considering how much I read and how much time I am spending in front of the computer screen, I am surprised mine (eyesight) is not worst.. When I was a child (and a teenager), I always longed to wear glasses (borrowing my cousin’s whenever I visited her) and now that I have them I keep forgetting about them, leaving them wherever and not wearing them..

      I thought about books, characters as real people, too.. I wrote about it, but did not make it a blog post, yet… Some of them do seem like they have been there, with you, always. Some you feel you know better than real life friends.. The distinction between reality and fiction is very thin here. Scientific fact. Our brains feel their presence as of any person’s of flash and blood. It is amazing.

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