cover image Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows

Olav Audunssøn: I. Vows

Sigrid Undset, trans. from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. Univ. of Minnesota, $17.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-5179-1048-8

This sweeping epic of 13th-century Norway by Nobel winner Undset (1882–1949), the first in a tetralogy, sets a love story against the country’s upheaval. The bonds of kinship supersede the laws of church and state in Undset’s story, which begins with the betrothal of two children, Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinssdatter, aged seven and six. After Olav’s father, Audun Ingolfssøn, dies from an illness, Olav is raised by Steinfinn Toressøn on the remote mountain estate of Frettastein, where Olav becomes Ingunn’s foster brother and is expected to marry Ingunn when the children come of age. As young adults, Olav and Ingunn fall in love, only to learn that the dying Steinfinn is no longer in a position to protect the agreement he made with Audun. When the new masters of Frettastein refuse Olav’s suit for Ingunn, the young couple escape to seek protection from a bishop, setting in motion a series of dramatic events. Modern readers may chafe at the characterization of Ingunn as weak and “in need of the protection and support of men,” but Undset brings the setting to life with rich descriptions of the natural world, well-captured in Nunnally’s stunning translation. Those interested in Norse history will appreciate this modern classic of Norwegian literature. (Nov.)