Wassmo, Herbjørg

(1942-)
   A Norwegian novelist, poet, and playwright, the best-selling author Wassmo started out as a poet with the collection Vingeslag (1976; Beating Wings), which was followed by Fl tid (1977; High Tide), neither of which made much of an impression on the public. Many years later, however, came Lite bilde i stor bla ramme (1991; A Small Picture in a Big Blue Frame), which was well received and won her a prize. By then she was already one of Norway's foremost writers of her generation.
   The foundation for Wassmo's reputation is a trilogy about a girl named Tora who, fathered by a soldier of the German occupation force during World War II, is ostracized in her little island community in northern Norway. Tora's mother is married to the alcoholic Henrik, who sexually abuses Tora. In the trilogy's first novel, Huset med den blinde glassveranda (1981; tr. The House with the Blind Glass Windows, 1987), Henrik rapes Tora but is finally jailed for arson. In the second book, Det stumme rommet (1983; The Mute Room), Tora has left home to attend school but discovers that she is pregnant with Henrik's baby. The baby is stillborn and Tora buries it, thus keeping her secret. In the third volume, Hudløs himmel (1986; Sensitive Sky), Tora finally reveals the rape but breaks down mentally. Hudløs himmel garnered Wassmo the Nordic Literary Prize in 1987.
   Wassmo next embarked on another trilogy set in northern Norway, but a hundred years earlier. Its central character is a strong-willed and talented woman named Dina, who as a child caused the accident that took her mother's life. Rejected by her father, Dina finds it very difficult to relate to the men in her life, two of whom she murders. Dinas bok (1989; tr. Dina's Book, 1994) was followed by Lykkens sønn (1992; tr. Dina's Son), the nominal protagonist of which is Dina's son Benjamin, who as a child watches his mother kill her Russian lover. Benjamin studies medicine in Copenhagen and helps defend Denmark against Prussia in the war of 1864. He also fathers a child by a prostitute who dies in childbirth. The child, Karna, becomes the title character in the third novel, Karnas arv (1997; Karna's Inheritance), in which Dina burns to death after confessing her crimes.
   In Det sjuende møte (2000; The Seventh Meeting), which has a contemporary setting, the narrative perspective alternates between a male and a female protagonist, Gorm and Rut. Starting in childhood, they meet seven times. Flukten fra Frank (2003; The Flight from Frank), another story of love and betrayal, tells about the female protagonist's journey through Europe, which is also a kind of journey through her own past.
   Wassmo has also written a nonfiction book, Veien a ga (1984; The Road to Take), about a Norwegian family that fled to Sweden during World War II, as well as two radio plays. Some critics regard her as a practitioner of the realistic-psychological tradition in Norwegian literature; others find notable postmodern elements in her works.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Herbjørg Wassmo — (born Vesterålen, December 6, 1942) is a Norwegian author. She worked as a teacher in northern Norway until her debut as an author. Her debut work was a collection of poems, Vingeslag ( Beating of Wings ). Her major breakthrough was her first… …   Wikipedia

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