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The Norwegian Feeling for Real

Speech by HM Queen Sonja at the launching of The Norwegian Feeling for Real, a collection of short stories by Norwegian writers, october 2005.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be present at the launching of The Norwegian Feeling for Real, a collection of short stories by 28 of Norway’s foremost contemporary writers. The anthology was commissioned for the centenary of the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden. It is an important contribution to our literary dialogue with the United Kingdom. I hope that British readers will enjoy the Norwegian voices represented in this book.

Norway and Britain share a long literary tradition. Almost 800 years ago, before the emergence of the novel itself, the Icelandic poet and historian Snorre Sturlason wrote his famous Sagas of the Kings. The unsentimental style of the sagas had considerable influence on writers in Britain and around the world – introducing a “feeling for real” if there ever was one.

It was not, however, until the 19th century that a major Norwegian voice became known in Britain. This voice belonged to the playwright Henrik Ibsen. Next year we will celebrate the centenary of his death with an extensive programme worldwide. Ibsen is often called “the father of the modern drama”, and is only surpassed by Shakespeare when it comes to popularity among theatre audiences and the number of performances staged around the world.

We might say that literature is an art form that inspires us to communicate – and learn from each other. The invaluable work of dedicated translators has made it possible for people of different nations to share the same experiences, thoughts and emotions. This is international communication in the true meaning of the word.

For a small country like Norway, with a language that is only spoken by fewer than five million people, translation of literature will always be important. A wide selection of English literature has been made available to Norwegian readers in translation. Ever since Shakespearean times, English literature has been one of our most important sources of intellectual and literary inspiration.

A publication like this one is the result of several years of dedicated work by publishers, the Office for Norwegian Literature Abroad, literary agents, critics and translators – truly a joint venture.

I hope that The Norwegian Feeling for Real will captivate – and perhaps even surprise –British readers. It will certainly give them a taste of some of the best new writing appearing in Norway today.

Thank you.


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