The Birds - Tarjei Vesaas

Archipelago Books


The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas, translated by Torbjorn Stoverud and Michael Barnes / 300-page paperback with flaps from Archipelago Books / ISBN 9780914671206


“Tarjei Vesaas has written the best Norwegian novel ever, The Birds — it is absolutely wonderful, the prose is so simple and so subtle, and the story is so moving that it would have been counted amongst the great classics from the last century if it had been written in one of the major languages.” — Karl Ove Knausgaard

The Birds tells the story of Mattis, a deeply sensitive, intellectually disabled young man living in a small house in the Norwegian countryside with his sister Hege. Eking out a modest living knitting sweaters, Hege encourages her brother to find work to ease their financial burdens, but his attempts come to nothing.

When he finally sets himself up as a ferryman, the only passenger he manages to bring across the lake is a lumberjack, Jørgen. But when Jørgen and Hege become lovers, Mattis finds the safety of his familial life threatened and his jealousy quickly spirals.

In The Birds, Norway’s most celebrated writer of the twentieth century allows us to rediscover the world. By turns frightening, beautiful, confounding, and full of mystery, it is a world we come to see more vividly through Mattis’s eyes.

Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970) was a Norwegian poet and novelist whose sparse, poetic, and figurative style won him international acclaim and three separate nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Best known and best loved of his works are The Ice Palace, for which he won The Nordic Council's Literature Prize; The Birds; and The Bridges. Vesaas is an enduring literary figure in his native Norway where his home has become a site of pilgrimage. Elizabeth Rokkan was awarded the St. Olav Medal for her efforts to make Norwegian literature available to English speakers.

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