Jan Kjaerstad at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church
Where: The Norwegian Seamen’s Church, 317 East 52nd Street (betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.), New York, NY
Meet the Norwegian author Jan Kjærstad at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church as he presents his latest novel published in the United States, “The Conqueror”. The event takes place on Tuesday April 28, 7:30 pm.
Kjærstad is one of Scandinavia’s most prominent contemporary authors. He made his debut in 1980 with a collection of short stories titled, “The Earth Turns Quietly.” Over the years, he has written a number of novels, short stories, and essays and received numerous prizes. He was awarded the Norwegian Literary Critics Association’s Prize in 1984 for “Homo Falsus” (“The Perfect Murder”). Kjærstad was also honored with the prestigious Henrik Steffens Prize in 1998, given to Scandinavians who have significantly enriched Europe’s artistic and intellectual life. In 2001, he won the Nordic Council’s Prize for Literature for “The Discoverer,” the last book in the Wergeland trilogy, which will be published in the United States in 2009.
Even though life is lived forward, it is always understood backward. You turn around and behold – in awe or fear – a pattern that you are not aware of having made,” Jan Kjærstad offers in his latest novel published in the United States, “The Conqueror.”
Jonas Wergeland is in prison for the murder of his wife – a beloved and celebrated television personality in Norway. Wergeland’s programs on the history of Norway hold the country in his thrall. A professor is hired to write the definitive biography of Wergeland, but finds himself unable to process the astonishing volume of contradictory information he unearths – until a mysterious woman appears on his doorstep. Possessing innumerable intimate stories about Jonas, the woman details the dark side of his rise to prominence, and through her stories tries to explain what made him a murderer.
Kjærstad’s latest novel offers a compelling story as well as insight into Norwegian cultural life during the past 50 years. With a series of references to historical characters and events, the novel serves as an introduction to contemporary Norwegian society. The rise of the welfare state and emergence of the mediated society are the backdrop to which this story is told. Although the novel plays on Norwegian cultural life, it remains appealing to a wider audience through its reflections on universal themes.
Combining the fictional with facts Kjærstad invites the reader to reflect upon the art of storytelling itself and consider all the elements that makes up a story. Fact, fiction, coherence, and contradiction melt together in a series of short, seemingly unordered chapters. This gives the narrative a form that reinforces the questioning and curiosity toward the given that is displayed throughout the novel.
“The Conqueror” is the second book in the trilogy about Jonas Wergeland that consists of “The Seducer,” “The Conqueror,” and “The Discoverer.”