Don’t miss this opportunity to experience a one-of-a-kind evening of Nordic music in Los Angeles. On Friday, September 14, Wardruna will be joined by Eivør for an evening like no other. They will be performing at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA. Enter my giveaway for a chance to win a pair of tickets to their concert! Keep reading for giveaway details.
I love hearing news of Norway’s influence, or Scandinavia’s in general, out in the big world, especially in the U.S. and when it gets close to home here in Los Angeles. The winter Olympics is always a fun time to be Norwegian. Lately, though, Norway is making a name for itself in other areas as well. Whether it’s film, podcasts, books, music, or sports (besides skiing), there’s something for every Scandinavian enthusiast right now. Here’s a round-up of various Norwegian “sightings” outside of Norway and Scandinavia. How many are you already familiar with?
Right now Angelenos can see The 12th Man, a film about Norwegian history by Norwegian director Harald Zwart. It has a limited engagement at Arena Cinelounge in Hollywood (released in the U.S. on May 4). It is a World War II-set thriller based on the true story of Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian resistance fighter who was the only one of his 12-member group to escape the Nazis when their sabotage mission failed. The movie follows him as he tries to make his way to neutral Sweden through the Arctic landscape. The Los Angeles Times writes, “World War II-set Norwegian thriller ‘The 12th Man’ has the right stuff.” Catch it before it moves on… There’s even a book, Defiant Courage: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by Astrid Karlsen Scott and Dr. Tore Haug, for those who are particularly curious about Jan Baalsrud’s experience.
Another movie to feature Norway is soon-to-be-released Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Norway’s iconic mountain plateau Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) in Western Norway is where Tom Cruise does a spectacular stunt. The movie opens in the U.S. on July 27. View the official trailer with a glimpse of the scene at Preikestolen. A hike to the top of Preikestolen is actually on my Norway bucket list so I’ll be eager to see this movie.
The Rain isn’t a Norwegian creation but rather a Danish one. It’s a brand new original 8-episode Netflix series that was released May 4. It’s about two siblings who, six years after a brutal virus wipes out most of Scandinavia’s population, join a band of young survivors seeking safety and answers.
And just in case you aren’t aware, there’s a relatively new Norwegian series currently available on Netflix as well. Borderliner, released March 6, is about a police detective who covers up a murder case to protect his family, but then his partner suspects foul play. Newsweek writes, “New Netflix series ‘Borderliner’ is the perfect Scandinavian noir gateway drug.”
Also going on right now is the new podcast Death in Ice Valley. It explores the still unsolved mystery surrounding a female body found in Norway’s Isdalen (Ice Valley), near Bergen in Western Norway, in 1970. Producers hope to solve the mystery with the help of modern technology that wasn’t available back then and with input from listeners from around the world. There’s even a Facebook group where members can view and further discuss the evidence provided in each episode. The first episode was released April 15, and a new episode drops every Monday.
If true crime, cold cases, mystery, and intrigue are your thing, especially with a foreign touch, then this podcast may be of interest. I’m currently listening to it as the episodes drop and am curious to see how/if this case is resolved.
Authors & Books
Norwegian authors are also making a name for themselves outside of Norway.
- Åsne Seierstad, an award-winning Norwegian journalist and author, recently wrapped up a U.S. book tour promoting the English release of her latest book Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad. One of her stops was Los Angeles where she participated on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books discussing the rise of extremism. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak and meeting her at the book signing afterwards. Coincidentally, my Scandinavian Book Club choose this book to read in the fall and I couldn’t be more eager to read it.
- Demian Vitanza is a Norwegian author and playwright who recently participated in the literary event 2018 PEN World Voices Festival: Resist and Reimagine in New York City. In his latest book, This Life or the Next (to be released in English on October 9, 2018), he tells the story of a young Norwegian-Pakistani man imprisoned for traveling to Syria and taking part in terrorist actions. “I want you to write my story,” the young man told Vitanza in 2015 when Vitanza was teaching a writing class in one of Norway’s high security prisons, “but it needs to be in the form of a novel.” (Source: NORLA). My parents recently gave me this book in Norwegian and it seems like it will be the perfect companion read to Åsne Seierstad’s Two Sisters.
- Ellen Stokken Dahl and Dr. Nina Brochmann were recently on a U.S. book tour, including a stop here in Los Angeles, promoting the English release of their non-fiction book The Wonder Down Under: The Insider’s Guide to the Anatomy, Biology, and Reality of the Vagina. Daily News writes, “‘The Wonder Down Under’ book empowers women with myth-busting knowledge about sex.”
- Three Norwegian novels made it to the longlist for the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award: Seven Days in August by Brit Bildøen, translated by Becky L. Crook; The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen, translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw; and The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn, translated by Rosie Hedger. Danish novel One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, translated by Martin Aitken, and Swedish novel Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch, also made the longlist. The only Scandinavian book to move on to the shortlist was The Unseen. Winner will be announced June 13.
- And finally, Hanne Ørstavik’s novel Love got a shout-out from Oprah.com: “Love can change everything. And it does in this edgy, elegiac and beautifully written novel.”
It’s been a busy time for Norwegian musicians abroad as well! Kygo, Sigrid, Aurora, and Alan Walker all played at Coachella Music Festival in April in Indio, California. Coachella was apparently one of the biggest crowds Kygo has ever played for. Kygo is now wrapping up his “Kids in Love Tour” in Canada and Northeastern U.S. After Coachella, Sigrid was a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (watch appearance here). Kygo will be performing on The Tonight Show on May 14, and Aurora will be performing on Late Night with Seth Meyers on May 23.
Los Angeles’ Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy signed two Norwegian players for the 2018-19 season, Jørgen Skjelvik and Ola Kamara. The LA Galaxy also has Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so Scandinavia is well represented.
And in case you’re not already aware, in honor of Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17) and the signing of its two Norwegian players, LA Galaxy will be hosting a special Norwegian Heritage Night at Stubhub Center in Carson on Friday, May 25. For more information on this event and how to buy tickets, please visit Los Angeles Culture Challenge: May 2018 (17th of May Celebrations & LA Galaxy Norwegian Heritage Night!).
Norway is also making a name for itself in boxing, female boxing to be precise, with Cecilia Brækhus (5 fast facts you need to know). Earlier this month in Carson, California, Brækhus not only continued her whole career win streak and defeated her opponent keeping her titles, but Brækhus’ match was also the first female boxing match to be aired on HBO in the cable network’s 45-year history of boxing coverage.
I hope you enjoyed this eclectic round-up of recent Norwegian sightings in the bigger world. If I missed anything, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Experiencing shrimp the Norwegian way is a special treat. Nothing compares to it in the United States, but attending a Norwegian Shrimp Fest at a Norwegian Church gets you pretty close. And that’s what I had the pleasure of doing earlier this month.
This year’s Shrimp Fest at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro took place on St. Patrick’s Day so the ubiquitous green made its appearance. There were green napkins; otherwise, I would have expected red or blue napkins. Also, there was the occasional very green shrimp sitting on the edge of a shrimp bowl. Apparently, it was edible but no one near us was tempted to try it.
The evening was really a very simple and casual affair. Tables were set with large bowls of shrimp (in this case, Arctic Greenland shrimp), freshly baked bread, mayonnaise (real Norwegian mayonnaise!), fresh dill, lettuce leaves, and lemon wedges. Then it was up to the guests to handle the rest themselves. (And the hosts to refill the shrimp bowls, which they did gladly and diligently.)
It was very quiet to begin with as guests set to work peeling shrimp and making their open-faced sandwiches. There’s nothing really too gourmet about this meal. Some people might even be shocked at the amount of mayo that goes into a sandwich. It’s hard to eat fast at a shrimp fest because the shrimp are small and each one takes a few seconds to peel. But the result is certainly worth the effort.
For those of you who are curious about what makes this meal so special, it’s the shrimp. The shrimp enjoyed at Norwegian gatherings are a coldwater species caught at the bottom in the deep waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They are most often cooked and quick-frozen within a few hours of leaving the water.
While we all were enjoying our shrimp, with discussions of what body part to rip off first, the Slow TV program Saltstraumen minutt for minutt was playing in the background. Saltstraumen is the world’s strongest tidal current located near the city of Bodø (about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle). I was too busy with my shrimp so I didn’t see much of it, but the glimpses I did catch were a perfect accompaniment to the meal.
There were other highlights of the evening as well. When guests had started to slow down their peeling and eating, we did a sing-along of the Norwegian song “Rekevisa” (“The Shrimp Song”) as Sverre, the priest, played the guitar. It had the melody of a traditional children’s Christmas song (“Musevisa”, “The Mouse Song”), but the lyrics about a mouse family getting ready for Christmas had been replaced with lyrics about the joys of a shrimp fest. Another highlight of the evening was a quiz. It included multiple-choice questions on a wide variety of topics, some relating to the evening (like “How many species of shrimp are there?”), others totally unrelated (“How many times a day does a person touch their phone?”). It was really the luck of the draw as to who would win, which made it fun for all ages.
We finished off the meal with some vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel toppings. As we enjoyed our desserts, we went over the answers to the quiz. I believe I heard the winners came down from Santa Barbara for the Shrimp Fest. They deserved that bag of seigmenn!
When I return to Norway every summer, a shrimp meal is always on my wishlist of foods. The opportunity to enjoy one here in the States with like-minded people was wonderful, and I look forward to next year’s fest!
I seized the opportunity to see What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si) at AFI FEST 2017 in Hollywood this past November. I’ve read a lot of immigrant stories that take place here in the United States, but immigrant stories by own voices in Norway are unfamiliar to me. What Will People Say was a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo. Continue reading
Norwegian film has not been a stranger to Los Angeles these last few weeks, and its presence continues at American Film Institute’s film festival AFI FEST taking place now. AFI FEST is an annual celebration of international cinema “from modern masters and emerging filmmakers”. It takes place each fall in Hollywood and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes. AFI FEST is free to the public.
This year two Norwegian films are on the schedule. The first one is Thelma written by Norwegian duo Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt and directed by Joachim Trier. It is a psychological thriller that takes place in Oslo, Norway. It is Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission. The second film is What Will People Say written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq (Norwegian-born of Pakistani immigrants). Continue reading
The annual Southern California Scandinavian Festival took a hiatus last year, but it’s back again this April for the 42nd time. It’s one of my favorite Scandinavian events in the greater Los Angeles area. We’ve gone as a family throughout the years and enjoyed lots of family friendly activities and great food. And the setting in Thousand Oaks is lovely. But then sports began taking over our weekends making it more difficult to attend, especially since the outing required close to an hour drive each way.
At the last festival in 2015, I chose to spend a day there alone instead of squeezing in a visit by the whole family. First I volunteered at an entrance selling tickets for a few hours, and then I wandered the grounds for a couple of hours more. What I love about the festival is that there is something for everyone, whether you’re there as a family with kids (kids 12 and under are free) or as adults enjoying on your own.
When we went as a family, it was all about keeping the kids occupied and happy, which certainly wasn’t hard. During their many visits throughout the years, my kids have made wooden butter knives, created fish print totes, made braided bracelets, marveled at Viking life, been fascinated by Viking weaponry, dressed like Vikings, fought like Vikings, played Kubb and croquet, played bingo, and climbed rock walls. They’ve eaten Swedish meatballs and pancakes, Danish aebleskiver, and Norwegian lefser.
We’ve always had a great time, but I wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to explore the more adult offerings. During visits with the family, I always spotted out of the corner of my eye the booths that demonstrated Nordic arts and crafts and food, but I never had a chance to really take a closer look. The musical performances on the festival stage I only enjoyed from afar. My perusal of the shopping area was always very quick.
Last year when I went alone, I still looked to see what activities were available for kids. Every third year my children’s elementary school has an International Day and I’m always on the lookout for activities that I can offer to highlight Norwegian or Scandinavian culture. I learned about Viking whipcord braiding, where weighted bobbins (in this case bottles) are swung back and forth to create a braid. It certainly looked like something we could do at our school’s International Day. Also, I saw the butter knife making station was as popular as ever.
Needless to say, I was able to leisurely visit the demonstration booths. I learned more about arts and crafts such as bobbin lace making and traditional Norwegian rosemaling. I visited the food demonstration booth while they were making rosettes.
At the Nordic Shopping Mart, I admired a great assortment of products such as jewelry, linens, woodwork, and other Scandinavian inspired items. I enjoyed food from the food court and performances on stage.
This year promises many of the same fun activities and experiences for all, plus more. Kids will want to pick up a Children’s Passport when they arrive and set out on a quest to complete a trip through the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Each country will offer a hands-on craft, and upon completion, the kids can get their passports stamped. In Norway, they will have a chance to make their own rock troll to take home. In Sweden, they can make straw ornaments, and in Denmark, paper fish are the main attraction. There will also be much happening on the Children’s Stage. The schedule includes songs, games, stories, puppet shows, and more. And of course, kids will also be able to visit Torsten the Troll, play Dala Horse croquet and Viking Kubb, make a wooden butter knife, and visit the Viking Encampment and Sami Village.
New for adults this year is a DNA and genealogy expert who will represent Family Tree DNA. DNA kits will be available for purchase if you wish to see how much Viking blood you have. There will also be local experts from the Conejo Valley and Ventura County Genealogical Societies to give advice and assistance.
The festival opens on Saturday, April 1, at 10:30 a.m., with a colorful parade of flags, along with dignitaries from the participating countries. Many will be in traditional costumes which will add a nice festive touch. The festivities then continue with a full schedule of performances, lectures, demonstrations of crafts and foods, and activities.
There will also be screenings of the documentary Yoik Fever, produced by Ellen-Astri Lundby (2013), both Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. It’s about “a young Sámi-Norwegian music major yearning to connect to her heritage through the dwindling Sámi singing tradition of yoiking. Part road trip, this wholly inter-generational journey undertaken by Ylva to master the art of yoik reveals the conflicted and courageous state of Sámi identity today… Filmed in an entertaining cabaret-style mash-up of film styles and genres, the film’s ending will leave you with a serious case of ‘yoik fever!'”
I will be returning to the festival this year again as a volunteer. Sports schedules are not set yet so I don’t know if the whole family will be able to go. Whether I go alone or the family joins me, I’m certainly looking forward to the return of the festival.
Recently, I read Roy Jacobsen’s Vidunderbarn (Child Wonder) for my Scandinavian Book Group. I always make a point of reading a Norwegian book in anticipation of (or during) our annual summer trip to Norway to brush up on my Norwegian, but I don’t often read another beyond that. I’m grateful for discovering this book group because it’s given me an added incentive to search out new (to me) Norwegian authors and carve out more time to read Norwegian.
I first became aware of Roy Jacobsen when I was home in Oslo during the summer of 2016. A Roy Jacobsen book, Hvitt hav (published 2015), was on the display of top 10 paperbacks at a local bookstore, and another of his books, De usynlige (published 2013), was on a table of popular books on sale. I was happy to find a contemporary Norwegian non-crime author who wrote novels set in Norway, and I made a mental note to consider him for a future read.
When it came time to pick the next read for the Scandinavian Book Group, the other members of the group were happy to make the next pick a Norwegian one in my honor (it was my first meeting with them). The only requirement was that it had to be available in English, and they preferred a non-crime book. They had already read Jacobsen’s The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles (Hoggerne, published 2005), so I suggested Child Wonder (Vidunderbarn, published 2009). The description and reviews sounded interesting, and it had received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2009 which made it even more promising.
Child Wonder takes place in Norway in the early 1960’s and is about 10-year Finn who lives with his working mother in an apartment complex in a working-class suburb of Oslo. He is a boy who does well in school and enjoys playing outside with his friends. He and his mother get along well. Then their world begins to change. First, they convert Finn’s bedroom into a room that they can rent out, and soon a lodger is staying with them in their apartment. And he brings along a television that ends up in the shared family room. Next, they welcome Linda, Finn’s unknown 6-year old half-sister, into their family.
The book looks at their life together for a little over a year through the eyes of Finn. We see Finn’s relationship with the lodger take shape. We see Finn being a surprisingly mature support and help to his new half-sister. We see his relationship with his mother progress. We see Finn wonder about his worth and place in the family. We also begin to understand that the mother is struggling with something unknown to Finn.
My favorite part of the book is the summer they spend on the island of Håøya, the largest island in the inner Oslo Fjord. The lodger lets them borrow his 6-person tent that is set up on the island. Finn and his half-sister spend a few weeks there enjoying the “green paradise”.
One of the things that makes this book interesting is that Finn is an unreliable narrator. He is young and obviously doesn’t know or understand everything yet. He also doesn’t share everything he experiences. We are left to question and wonder about what we read, in particular about the half-sister (there’s something not right about her), the lodger and the mother’s relationship with him, and the nature of the mother’s struggle. It makes for a good discussion with others who have read the book.
I actually read part of the book in English (the e-book is available through Los Angeles Public Library). Jacobsen’s writing style consisted of very long sentences with very few periods and it slowed down my reading pace, so I had to switch over to English for a few chapters to get through it a little faster in order to finish in time for the book group meeting.
It was interesting to read part of it in translation. It was a British English translation so I had to think twice about some translated words and phrases. In particular, the British word “estate,” used very often, did not suggest the right meaning to me, but I understood what was meant. I found the translation to be consistent with Jacobsen’s writing style. One thing that shocked me, however, was that the translator didn’t just translate, he actually added to the English text. I noticed it in one case, but since I only read a small part in both languages, it made me wonder what other additions or changes the translator may have made in the rest of the book.
I enjoyed the book very much. This was a character-driven story that was both heart-warming and heart-breaking at times and that kept me questioning and wondering, even after finishing the book. I’m open to giving one of his newer books a chance. Norwegian readers, please let me know if you have a recommendation – whether it’s one of Roy Jacobsen’s books or another Norwegian read.
- Norwegian Title: Vidunderbarn
- Author: Roy Jacobsen (born 1954)
- Norwegian Publication Date: 2009
- English Title: Child Wonder
- Translator: Don Bartlett with Don Shaw
- US Publication Date: 2011
- Awards: Norwegian Booksellers Award (2009)
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The 18th annual Scandinavian Film Festival LA is around the corner. It is one of my favorite annual Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area. The festival takes place over two weekends in January (14th and 15th followed by 21st and 22nd) at Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. Continue reading
This year I switched things up and volunteered at the Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar instead of just attending as a guest. My day was all about food which suited me perfectly.
For me, food has always been a main reason for going to the event. I come to eat foods I only eat once a year, to buy freshly baked goods from the bakery, and to stock up on foods and drinks for Christmas time. On this occasion, I was assigned to the kitchen and café, and that was an assignment I appreciated and enjoyed greatly.
My day started out with getting wienerpølser (Norwegian sausages) in a pot for simmering, stirring lapskaus (meat stew), and slicing geitost (goat cheese) for julebrød (sweet bread with raisins). Once the event officially began, I headed out to the café and served cake and sandwiches to eager guests. Continue reading
Norwegian is not in high demand so opportunities to learn and use the language here in Los Angeles are very limited. There are, however, two establishments that stand out as centers for Norwegian language and culture here in the Los Angeles area: Norwegian Church in San Pedro and Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks. At both places, you can not only pursue your interest in learning Norwegian, but you can also learn about Norwegian culture and customs. Continue reading