Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway and Other Scandinavian Countries

The tragedy in Norway happened last Friday was a very shocking and sad event.  It is almost unfathomable to think that a tragedy of such magnitude would have taken place in Norway, or any peaceful and distant Scandinavian countries.

However, the distance is only a relative word.  It is not an isolated world and definitely not a remote place for the people who live there and nearby. 

I have always wanted to visit Scandinavian countries - Norway, Denmark and Sweden.  Someone would argue that Finland is part of the Scandinavia, as well as Iceland.  Though I know very little about Scandinavia; however, since I grew up in a cold region (not as cold, though), I felt an affinity to those stark lands.

To me, Denmark is famed for its favorite son Hans Christian Andersen, and Sweden is well known to me through its immense influence in Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) and IKEA, while Norway has its Henrik Ibsen, and incidentally whose play A Doll's House made Madame Mao a famous stage actress in 1930s' Shanghai.  And of course Edvard Munch.

However, its was the two novels I read recently gave me better picture of what Norway had experienced in recent history in broad stokes.  One was the recent novel Out Stealing Horses (Ut og stjæle hester) by Per Petterson.  This sparse and extremely lyrical novel detailed through personal lenses of Norwegian's World War II past and its collective human psyche.  It was moving beyond description.  Another novel I just finished reading a couple weeks ago, was Growth of the Soil (1917) by Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun, who was praised as the soul of Norway.  This epic book detailed a family's coming into existence and its difficult but not unrewarding and consistent growing with the family farm on the Norwegian soil.  The style was very odd.  Biblical.  It was really like reading the Old Testaments.  By the end of the book, I gained more understanding of soil-toiling farmers, backbones and forefathers of many natures and the enormous strength and resilience of that wonderful nation.

Norway is wonderful and resilient.  We know.

Flag of Norway

Coat of Arms of Norway

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