The Unknown Sigrid Undset.
(2001) The Unknown Sigrid Undset is a re-publication of some of Sigrid Undset's early works (unfortunately with a pretty ethnocentric introduction). Jenny, first published in 1911, is the most important piece published again here. The original translation of Jenny, a really magnificent book in Norwegian, was almost horrendous, with bad English and whole passages deleted (censored). In this edition, beautifully translated by Tiina Nunnally, the book has been restored to its real glory in terms of writing as well as content. Here we meet the Nobel Prize winner Sigrid Undset as she should have been presented to English from the start..
Jenny tells the story of two people who meet on the street one evening in Rome, in the beginning of the last century: researcher Helge Gram and painter Jenny Winge. They embark on an affair, and when they meet again in Kristiania, Helge introduces Jenny to his family. Helge’s parents are living in a sinister marriage, something Helge is clearly marked by. This becomes a heavy burden to Jenny’s and Helge’s relationship, and after a while, they split up. Jenny, however discovers that she has much in common with Helge’s father; something which in turn leads him to leave his wife. This new relationship is soon to have tragic consequences for Jenny’s life.
Jenny is the novel that marked Undset’s breakthrough as a modern writer. It is an intelligent novel about a woman’s dream of love and her tragic fight to make that dream come true. Undset reveals a truth that is hard for the modern individual to accept; that there is no necessary connection between freedom and happiness.
In addition to Jenny, The Unknown Sigrid Undset contains two great short stories, "Thjodolf" (from The Happy Age - 1908) and "Simonsen" (from Fates of the Poor - 1912). These are two of the best short stories Undset wrote in her early career, and really a great choice for inclusion in this excellent book.
Finally, the book also contains a collection of letters from the young Sigrid Undset.
Overall, The Unknown Sigrid Undset is a great book, an excellent work, and very important in restoring Undset to the position in the world literature that she deserves.
Gunnar's Daughter, by Sigrid Undset
Set in Norway and Iceland at the beginning of the eleventh century, Gunnar's Daughter is the story of the beautiful, spoiled Vigdis Gunnarsdatter, who is casually raped by the man she had wanted to love and delivers an illegitimate child.
A woman of courage and intelligence, Vigdis is toughened by adversity. Alone she raises the child conceived in violence, repeatedly defending her autonomy in a world governed by men. Alone she rebuilds her life and restores her family's honor, until an unrelenting social code propels her to take the action that again destroys her happiness.
More than a historical romance, Gunnar's Daughter depicts characters driven by passion and vengefulness, themes as familiar in Undset's own time - and in ours - as they were in the Saga Age. A strong, unsentimental book by Undset. Gunnar's Daughter is a surprisingly fresh tale of love in medieval Scandanavia. This new translation is very fast-paced and gripping, guaranteed to keep a modern reader turning the pages to the end!