Ørstavik, Hanne

(1969-)
   A Norwegian novelist, Ørstavik is considered one of the most interesting and promising writers of her generation, and she is one of several Norwegian writers who provided extensive discussions of family relations in their works from the 1990s. She had her debut with a collection of brief fragments entitled Hakk (1994; Pecks), and followed it up with a psychological thriller, Entropi (1995; Entropy), in which it is difficult to grasp the distinction between what happens in reality and in the protagonist s mind. The apparently simple story concerns a woman who refuses to go to work and stays home for an undetermined period of time; there is no way of telling how long, and no resolution to her conflict is offered. Kjærlighet (1997; Love), a minimalist story about a single mother who lets her son freeze to death because she is too busy with her interesting work and trying to find a man, is a poignant examination of the mother role in Norway toward the end of the 20th century. In Like sant som jeg er virkelig (1999; As If I Were Real) the story concerns the relationship between a mother and her adult daughter, a student of psychology who one day wakes up and discovers that she has been accidentally locked into her room. While waiting for her mother to return home, she reviews the various conflicts in her life through interior monologue.
   Tiden det tar (2000; The Time It Takes) portrays family dynamics at their worst. The protagonist, Signe, appears on two narrative levels, as a 13-year-old girl and as a 30-year-old mother of a small child. Life in Signe's family of origin is characterized by dissimulation, manipulation, and violence, and Signe s challenge is to not perpetuate these traditions in her relationship with her own child. In Uke 43 (2002; Week 43) a young literary scholar tries to find meaning in life by cultivating a relationship with an older colleague but finds herself without any kind of center to her personality. Presten (2004; The Minister) tells the story of a woman who has been appointed the new state church minister in a small coastal town in Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway. She has to provide comfort for suffering parishoners and try to come to terms with the lingering oppression of the Sami people by the area's ethnic Norwegians. Presten also has an interesting historical dimension, as Ørstavik weaves the story ofa Sami rebellion in the 1840s into her narrative.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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