Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally

The book's description written by (because it seems the most accurate and no simple synopsis will suffice) Brad Leithauser in the introduction to the edition translated by Tiina Nunnally:

Kristin Lavransdatter's dense, decade-spanning plot might be summarized as the story of a daddy's girl who refuses daddy's choice of husband and marries for love, with often harrowing long range consequences. Kristin's father wishes her to marry Simon Andresson, an honorable thoughtful, devoted, and woefully unglamorous man. Kristin falls instead for Erlend Nikulausson, a proud, impulsive, fearless young knight who seems constitutionally unable to steer clear of scandal (...)

When you enter Kristin Lavransdatter, you enter a marriage, a contract expansively unfolding through time. Disturbingly, fascinatingly, it's a union of two people who share a proud, combative stubbornnes that ultimately undoes them. (p.XI)




I have so many thoughts about this most wonderful of all epics that I don't know where to start and I am certain that no matter what I write, will it do Kristin Lavransdatter enough justice. I'll write what I can and you decide for yourself whether you want to enter or, should I say, let the world of 14th century Norway enter your life. Sigrid Undset cetainly wrote about the country and the time, and the people in a way that will never let me forget this diamond of a novel.

There really isn't much I can do about it but mostly it's feelings and emotions that come to my mind when thinking of this masterpiece. There's no need to bother my head with proper character development, exceptional historical detail, the flow of the plot, etc. It's all there, yes, all in proper condition as even the most demanding would seek, but that's not what you pay attention to when reading about Kristin, about wild Erlend, about noble, goodhearted Simon, about the beautiful Norway with traditions and culture long gone (although hopefully not forgotten). You, instead, focus on the life itself, its trials and tribulations, tragedies and sadness, intermingled with happiness, joy and miracles it brings.

Kristin Lavransdatter is the ultimate coming-of-age story following the young girl from the days of her sweet, innocent childhood all through the end of her life ravished with sorrows, misfortunes, but also blessed with many good things that were not given to others. Even Kristin herself ruminates later in her life on how she lost sight of all the good things she'd been granted in life, because she could only think about the next tragedy to come along as a result of her wantonness.

If you're looking for the novel of motherhood, look no more. If you want a romance, this is a story that aces all other romances. and finally, if it's historical fiction you're after, you'll find Kristin Lavransdatter to be the one all other HF novels will be judged upon.

Kristin Lavransdatter is the masterpiece of literature. It's sublime. Just the thought that I've already finished it tightens my throat and almost makes me cry (I kid you not). I miss it, I'm nostalgic and I want to go back to it.

A word on translation: Tiina Nunnally is fantastic and she did a beautiful job, showing the full extent of Sigrid Undset's writing genius. For more in depth information, I'm directing you to the article about Nunnally's translation of Kristin Lavransdatter on Norway, the Official Site in the United States.

P.S.
Try to look for it at library sales or other used book's sales sites. Chances are you won't find it. At least I couldn't. And I visit tons of sales. That's because most people who've read Kristin Lavransdatter, do not want to part with it. Ever.

FTC: I bought this book.