Tarjei Vesaas

Tarjei Vesaas was a modernist who maintained a degree of technical experimentation throughout his work. He is regarded as one of Scandinavia’s foremost twentieth-century writers and was the first Norwegian to win the Nordic Council's Prize.

Tarjei Vesaas was born on a farm in Vinje in 1897. He was the oldest of three sons, and as the oldest he was entitled to inherit the farm. But Vesaas understood early that he was set out to become a writer.

Vesaas started writing poems and articles for newspapers at the age of 23. The year after, he won a price for one of his poems, which led him to send some of his work to a publisher. He got turned down several times, but in 1922 he won a contest for short stories, and shortly after this, his first novel, The Children of Humans (Menneskebonn, 1923) was published.

After The Children of Humans, Vesaas published another eight novels, two plays, one collection of poems and one collection of short stories before he got a national break-through with the novel The great Cycle (Det store spelet, 1934).That very same year he married the Norwegian lyricist Halldis Moren Vesaas and settled down at Midtbø in Vinje. The year after, Halldis gave birth to their first born son, Olav.

Vesaas payed close attention to what moved about in modern literature and theatre, and he himself reinvented Norwegian prose. Some of his best novels he wrote at the end of life, such as the Ice Palace (Is-slottet, 1963), a story of two girls who build a profoundly strong relationship, and The Birds (Fuglane, 1957), a story of an adult of a simple childish mind, which through his tenderhearted empathy and imagination bears the role of a seer or writer. In the center of his literature you often find simple rural people that undergo a severe psychological drama and who according to critics are described with immense psychological insight. Commonly dealing with themes such as death, guilt and angst and other deep and intractable human emotions, the Norwegian natural landscape is a prevalent feature in his works. Among these you find The Seed (Kimen, 1940), that captures the drama in an isolated island society, which was the first of his symbolic novels, and The House in the Dark (Huset i mørkret, 1945), which is an allegory of Norway during World War II.

For his collection of short stories, The winds (Vindane, 1950), he won the Venice Prize in 1953, which resulted in his international break-through. In 1964 he was the first Norwegian to receive the Nordic Council's Prize.

His novels have been translated into 28 Languages.

Bibliography (Gyldendal)

The Seed (Kimen), 1940
The House in the Dark (Huset i mørkret), 1945
The Bleaching Yard (Bleikeplassen), 1946
The Tower (Tårnet), 1948
The Signal (Signalet), 1950
Spring Night (Vårnatt), 1954
The Birds (Fuglane), 1957
The Fire (Brannen), 1961
The Ice Palace (Is-slottet), 1963
The Bridges (Bruene), 1966
The Boat in the Evening (Båten om kvelden), 1968

The Winds (Vindane), 1952
One Fine Day (Ein vakker dag), 1959

The Sources (Kjeldene), 1946
The Game and the Lightning (Leiken og lynet), 1947
The Wanderer's Reward (Lykka for ferdesmenn), 1949
Land of Hidden Fires (Løynde eldars land), 1953
Be New, Dream of Ours (Ver ny, vår draum), 1956
Life at the Stream (Liv ved straumen), 1970


Tarjei Vesaas High resolution image

Credits: Rettigheter: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag