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THE UNKNOWN SIGRID UNDSET by Sigrid Undset

THE UNKNOWN SIGRID UNDSET

Jenny and Other Works

By Sigrid Undset (Author) , Tim Page (Editor) , (Translator)

Pub Date: May 15th, 2001
ISBN: 1-58642-021-6
Publisher: Steerforth

The early work of the great Norwegian Nobel laureate (1882–1949) is showcased in this attractive collection of Undset’s fiction and correspondence. The latter is represented by letters to a lifelong “pen pal,” in which the fledgling realist reveals her literary ambition, unabashed feminism, and determination “to be, a woman artist, and not a pen-wielding lady.” This credo is fulfilled in the naturalistic tales “Simonsen” (an aging widower’s second chance at happiness is frustrated by his disapproving son) and “Thjodolf” (a moving portrayal of a selfless foster mother who’s betrayed by those who exploit her simple loving nature). Undset’s first full-length novel, Jenny (1911), newly translated by Nunnally, is more problematic: a frank analysis of a young woman painter’s conflicted pursuit of artistic and personal freedom and domestic fulfillment, it’s a vivid and energetic work, though rather too relentlessly downbeat to be the realistic masterpiece some have called it.

Nevertheless, Jenny and this welcome volume offer a refreshing new perspective on the woman who wrote Kristin Lavransdatter.