Sigrid Undset

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Undset, Sigrid


Born May 20, 1882, in Kallundborg, Denmark; died June 10, 1949, in Lillehammer, Norway. Norwegian writer.

Undset was the daughter of an archaeologist. The emancipation of women is one of the principal themes of her works. She first treated this theme in the novella Fru Marta Oulie (1907; Russian translation, 1910) and later dealt with it in such novels as The Happy Age (1908). Undset interwove romanticism with realism in the novella Gunnar’s Daughter (1909; Russian translation under the title Vikings, 1916), in the novels Jenny (1911; Russian translation, 1917) and Springtime (1914; Russian translation, 1928), and in the collection of short stories Poor Fates (1912; Russian translation, 1928). The heroes of Undset’s psychological novels and of her short stories about contemporary life are minor office workers, residents of outlying areas of cities, or people suffering from weariness or lack of good fortune. In most of her works of this kind, the central characters become reconciled to their circumstances or perish.

Undset’s most important work is the historical trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter (1920–22; Russian translations: vols. 1–2, 1935–39; vols. 1–3, 1962). The humanism that underlies the trilogy is linked with an affirmation of social equality. Kristin Lavransdatter won Undset a Nobel Prize in 1928. The Bridal Wreath and The Mistress of Husaby, which constitute the first and second volumes of the trilogy, portray the heroine’s struggle against outmoded customs. The third volume, The Cross, reflects Undset’s interest in religion. The story of Kristin Lavransdatter unfolds in the first half of the 14th century, which was a time of social stagnation and passivity. The author’s depiction of the period is detailed and comprehensive.

Undset’s quest for an ethical ideal and for a resolution of the contradictions inherent in society led her to Roman Catholicism. Her conversion is manifest in her historical novel The Master of Hestviken (vols. 1–4, 1925–27), in her essays Stages on the Road (1929), and in her novels The Burning Bush (1930) and Ida Elisabeth (1932). Undset’s social concerns changed during World War II and the German occupation of Norway. By way of protest, she emigrated first to Sweden and then to the United States, where she engaged in antifascist activities. Undset returned to Norway in 1945.


Samlede romaner og fortellinger fra nutiden, 2nd ed., vols. 1–5. Oslo, 1935.
Romaner og fortellinger fra nutiden, vols. 1–10. Oslo, 1949.


D’iakonova, N. “Istoricheskaia trilogiia S. Unset.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1962, no. 8.
Steen, E. Kristin Lavransdatter: En kritisk studie. Oslo, 1959.
Deschamps, N. Sigrid Undset ou la morale de la passion. Montreal, 1966.
Krane, B. Sigrid Undset: Liv og meninger. Oslo, 1970.
Haffner, H. J. Forsøk til en Sigrid Undset bibliografi. Oslo, 1932.
Øksnevad, R. Norsk litteraturhistorisk bibliografi 1900–1945. Oslo, 1951.


References in periodicals archive ?
Raul and the Lola who wept never read the 92-word greeting that Nobel Laureate (1928 ) Sigrid Undset sent.
Three (!) Ian McEwan novels mentioned at the expense of titles like Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, Tim Winton's Cloudstreet, Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter, John Gardner's Nickel Mountain or Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being?
Sigrid Undset wrote 33 books and several hundred articles.
Fraser also has new insights on such well-known novelists as George Bernanos, Francois Mauriac, Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Sigrid Undset. Bernanos' strong sense of vocation as a writer has a close connection with his childhood vision of the world; Fraser considers the priest-hero of Diary of a Country Priest (1936) "an unsurpassed portrait of a modern saint." Mauriac, another victim of Jansenistic upbringing, was accused of collusion with evil because of the recurring pull of "the cross of flesh" in his early novels.
Reymont (Pol); 1925, George Bernard Shaw (Eng); 1926, Grazia Deledda (Ital); 1927, Henri Bergson (Fr); 1928, Sigrid Undset (Norw); 1929, Thomas Mann (Ger); 1930, Sinclair Lewis (U.S.); 1931, Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Sw); 1932, John Galsworthy (Eng); 1933, Ivan Gasse Bunin (Russ); 1934, Luigi Pirandello (Ital); 1935, none, 1936, Eugene O ' Neill (U.S.); 1937, Roger Martin du Gard (Fr); 1938, Pearl S.
Finally, we loved Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath; one of us even read the second and third Kristin Lavransdatter novels--and drank numerous bottles of mead--over the subsequent month.
The two authors concerned, Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75) and Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), are both outstandingly good writers with distinctive and curiously modern voices.
I would argue for a required reading list that, to some degree, embodied the Western Christian civilization that built on the intellectual legacy of Greece and Rome: the scriptures, a bite of Augustine, a taste of Thomas Aquinas, then more Dante, Luther and "modern" theologians and writers like Kung, Rahner, Newman, Dostoyevsky, Sigrid Undset. Gironella, Maritain, Merton, Bernanos, Cather, Copleston, Mauriac, O'Connor (Flannery and Edwin) and Greene.
Now LET'S LOOK at Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. In this case, there is only one previous English edition to consider, but I must say that it is one of the worst translations I have ever seen.
Author note: Some of the material for this essay appeared in a slightly different form in the "Translator's Note" to my translations of both Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales and Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter.
Rut's career as a painter is more successful than was the case with such literary predecessors as Sigrid Undset's Jenny or Cora Sandel's Alberte, but Rut experiences most, if not all, of the personal problems that are encountered by those two characters.