Friday, April 3, 2009

Norwegian Author Wins Prestigious Nordic Literary Prize

It was announced today that Norwegian writer Per Petterson has won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for his 2008 novel Jeg forbanner tidens elv. Petterson beat out 11 other authors from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland in the most prestigious literary competition in the Nordic region.

Petterson exploded onto the international literary scene in 2007 when his novel Out Stealing Horses was released in English. The book won a number of prizes in Europe and America and was named one of the top 10 books of the year by the New York Times.

Jeg forbanner tidens elv (“I Curse the River of Time”) won’t be available in English until 2010, but was praised by the Nordic Council for its “poetic and quiet language” that “brings across just how difficult it is to say to each other those things we feel are the most important." You can read a summary of the novel and find a sample translation of a chapter here.

Jeg forbanner tidens elv has already won the 2008 Brage prize, a Norwegian award. In an interview in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published shortly after winning the Brage prize in December, Petterson described winning as “a very nice confirmation for me, because I hadn’t read any of the reviews” of the book. Petterson added that being nominated for the Nordic Council prize made him “stressed out. I thought, ‘oh no, now the reporters will be starting up again.’”

Petterson appeared bemused at a press conference today, not least because the Council had accidentally called the wrong Per Petterson before getting a hold of the author. According to Dagbladet, author and jury member Trude Marstein thought she had the right number when she called up a completely different Per Petterson and informed him he had just won the literary prize. When the man on the other end of the line replied, Marstein thought she didn’t recognize his voice. “Uff, I’m glad that at least he wasn’t an author,” said Marstein.

The Nordic Council prize brings Petterson not only greater renown, but also a monetary award of 350 000 Danish kroner – more than US $60,000. Later in the same press conference, Petterson described the prize as a great honor. “Everyone who has anything to do with literature knows that this is the absolute biggest thing.” Still, the he remains ambivalent. “I’ve been the goose laying the golden eggs for a few years now, but at some point it’s all going to end” he said.

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