ANNA by Dagfinn Gronoset


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Gronoset, a Norwegian journalist, has constructed a fragmentary but moving book from the reminiscences of an elderly farm woman, Anna, who died in 1973 at Haugsetvolden, her farm in the harsh central mountains of Norway, matter-of-factly describes a life spent in the most dumbfounding hardship. From a destitute childhood she grew up to marry an ill-natured vagrant who hauled her on endless wanderings, letting her stop only long enough to earn him a few kroner by manual labor -- she suffered severe frostbite while working as a lumberjack. At last she freed herself by persuading her husband to ""sell"" her for 300 kroner to a struggling farm family. For nearly forty-five years she shared the backbreaking toil of her employers, until she was finally left along in possession of the farm. The sheer physical brutality of the farm labor will be a shock to many celebrators of the simple, earth-centered life, but what is amazing is the decency, civility, and sense of order which did not desert Anna through her harsh existence. She has the beauty and endurance of one of Willa Cather's Midwestern pioneers. The book's chief drawback is also its chief source of power; a baldness and lack of detail which leave most events hanging in a vacuum but create an effect of unromanticized spartan simplicity.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf