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In the footsteps of 

Meet the 2023 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Jon Fosse!

He was born in beautiful Strandebarm in Hardanger. No wonder he found inspiration for his works the lush nature by the fjord!

He is not the only Norwegian writer who has been inspired by such surroundings.

You've probably seen their name on the cover of a book somewhere ...

... these writers are acclaimed by readers all over the world, although their own stories start in Norway.

Brilliant writers draw inspiration from their surroundings and milieu. Walk in the footsteps of famous Norwegian authors, including Jon Fosse, Henrik Ibsen, Karl Ove Knausgård, Jo Nesbø, and more!

Jon Fosse
Photo: Agnete Brun

The Nobel Prize in Literature

You may have read some of his works or seen one of his plays.

Jon Fosse is a Norwegian novelist, poet, and playwright who has published some 40 plays, as well as novels, poetry, essays and children’s books. Not least, he is famous for winning the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable”.

Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, also praised “Fosse’s sensitive language, which probes the limits of words”.

Slow prose

"You don’t read my books for their plot," Fosse has said. But over the past two decades, his 'slow prose' and unique way of writing fiction has gained him a cult following in around 50 different languages. He has won almost every award going in Norway and the Nordic countries, and two of his former novels have been nominated for the International Booker Prize. As if that was not enough, he is also among the world’s most widely performed living playwrights.

His international readership has been growing, largely thanks to Septology, an extraordinary series of three novels that track an ageing artist's reckoning with the divine.

Former Norwegian winners

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded every year since 1901, with a few exceptions. It is 95 years since a Norwegian writer last won the prize. Fosse added his name to the legacy of former laureates Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1903), Knut Hamsun (1920), and Sigrid Undset (1928).

“Innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable”.

In the footsteps of Fosse

For those wishing to dive deeper into Fosse's life and works, a visit to the Fosse House in Strandebarm where he grew up by the picturesque Hardangerfjord is a must. It was here in the lush nature by the fiord that he first found inspiration in his early years. Today he commutes between his home in Frekhaug in the Western part of the country, and Oslo, where he lives in Grotten, a residence for artists located in Slottsparken, the Palace Park in Oslo.

The tranquil fjord landscapes in the Hardangerfjord region are also the perfect place to rent a cabin by the fjord and read his meditative, mesmerising poetry!

More famous Norwegian writers

Norway is home to many more intriguing writers who have left their mark on the world. Read more about legends like Henrik Ibsen and the great writers of today, including Nordic crime writer Jo Nesbø below.

Henrik Ibsen

The Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen sitting down. Black and white photo.
Photo: Daniel Georg Nyblinn

One of the most influential playwrights of all times is Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). Ibsen grew up at Venstøp farm in Skien in Telemark. When he was 15, he moved to Grimstad to work as an apprentice pharmacist. It was in Grimstad that he wrote his first play.

Although Ibsen lived in Italy and Germany for almost thirty years, many of his plays, including Peer Gynt (1867) and A Doll's House (1879), are set in Norway. Set in the Norwegian farming society of the 19th century and featuring music by Edvard Grieg, Peer Gynt shaped the nascent country's conception of its identity, which it shared with the rest of the world. Ibsen frequently used his hometown and the milieu in which he grew up as inspiration for his plays.

Make sure to look down when walking through the streets of Oslo. There are 69 Henrik Ibsen quotes in stainless steel carved into the pavement, including in the high street, Karl Johan.

It's not hard to find traces of Ibsen. His childhood home in Skien or the Ibsen museum in Grimstad are great places to start. Ibsen is buried at Æreslunden cemetery in Oslo.

Get to know Ibsen

Sigrid Undset

Drawed portrait of writer Sigrid Undset

Sigrid Undset (1882 – 1949) grew up in Christiania, which is today called Oslo. She separated from her husband in 1921 and moved to idyllic Bjerkebæk when she was pregnant with her third child. Bjerkebæk is located a short walk from downtown Lillehammer. She lived here with her children, writing the novels for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928, the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy that depicts medieval life in Norway.

Undset fled Norway in 1940 due to her opposition to the Nazism. She lived in the USA throughout the war and fought tirelessly for Norway and the allies through articles and lectures. After the war, she returned to her beloved Bjerkebæk, which had been vandalised by the Nazis. Today, Bjerkebæk is part of the Lillehammer Museum. You can visit it and learn about her tough personality through her home and wonderful garden!

Knut Hamsun

Portrait of norwegian writer Knut Hamsun
Photo: Alvilde Torp / Nasjonalbiblioteket

Although Knut Hamsun's (1859 – 1952) 1890 novel Sult, Hunger, is a pioneering work of European modernism, it was his novel Markens Grøde, The Growth of the Soil, that won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.

Hamsun spent his earliest years in the small house Hamsunstugu in Lom in Gudbrandsdalen. He was baptised in the stave church that is now a part of Norway's largest open-air museum, Maihaugen. When Hamsun was three, his family moved to Northern Norway to the island of Hamarøy in Salten, just north of Bodø. The northern nature inspired him to write books such as Pan, The Growth of the Soil, and Wayfarers. Today, you can visit his childhood home and the modern and very unique Hamsun Centre Museum, located in these very same surroundings. There is also an annual festival, Hamsundagene, in his honour. You should also visit idyllic Tranøy, where Hamsun lived and worked for years.

He later moved from Hamarøy to the farm Nørholm in Grimstad in Southern Norway, where he lived until his death in 1952. In Grimstad, you can walk in his footsteps and visit his writer's cabin. Discover more in the list below.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Portrait of Norwegian writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
Photo: Anders Beer Wilse / Digitalt museum

Bjørnson (1832 - 1910) was an advocate for the those less fortunate in society and for small nations' right to freedom and independence. He wrote novels, plays, and nearly 400 poems – one of which is the Norwegian national anthem, Ja, vi elsker dette landet. He was born at the Bjørgan vicarage at Kvikne, but moved to the northwestern coast to Nesset vicarage, outside the city of Molde. In much of his poetry, we can find people, places and events from Nesset.

He later moved with his family to Aulestad outside Lillehammer in the Gudbrandsdalen valley. He is quoted as saying that his wife, Karoline had transformed the home into "one of the friendliest houses in the Nordics". They lived here until his death in 1910. Bjørnson was the third person in the world to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903. Aulestad is one of the best preserved artist's homes in Norway and is today a museum you can visit.

The writers of today

Norway is also home to contemporary writers that are internationally successful and whose works are closely connected to the Norwegian spirit in different ways. Walk in their footsteps to see what inspired them.

Lars Mytting

Portrait of the Norwegian writer Lars Mytting from Gudbrandsdalen
Photo: Mathias Fossum / Gyldendal

Both Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Sigrid Undset settled in Gudbrandsdalen. A century later, another major writer grows up there, Lars Mytting from Fåvang. Mytting got his breakthrough with the non-fiction book Hel ved (2011), Norwegian wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way. The book has been translated into more than16 languages.

In addition to his non-fiction hit, he has written the novel Søsterklokkene, The Bell in the Lake(2018), the first in a trilogy based on the legends and history of Gudbrandsdalen. The book is about a community on the brink of modernisation and the local resistance that is roused when a German architect and a young priest wish to tear down the stave church. Norway was once home to more than 1,300 stave churches, butmost where torn down. Today, only 28 remain. The church in the book resembles the Ringebu stave church in Gudbrandsdalen. The book gives a suggestion to why some original stave churches are still standing in Norway today. According to The Guardian, "The Bell in the Lake is a beautiful example of modern Norwegian folklore".

Maja Lunde

Portrait of author Maja Lunde
Photo: Oda Berby / Aschehoug

Maja Lunde is an author and screenwriter who was born and raised in Oslo, where she still lives. She has written several successful children's books and TV series. She's most famous for Bienes historie, The History of Bees (2015), her first novel for adults and the biggest bestseller in any  genre in Germany in 2017. In the sequel Blå, Blue (2017) the plot is set in Fjord Norway. This time the struggle concerns the most vital resource there is: water.

She is currently working to create a TV-series of her books, starting with Bienes historie, which is about family relationships and the importance of bees. If you want to walk in her footsteps, go to Bislettin Oslo, where she grew up. Many urban places in Oslo practice beekeeping to preserve the bees in the city (inspired by Lunde, perhaps?). If you ask, you might get to buy a jar of fresh, natural honey from the local beekeeper!

Jo Nesbø

Portrait of Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø from Oslo and Molde
Photo: Hanna Jordan / Aschehoug

Jo Nesbø is a musician and mountain climber, and, above all, one of the world's bestselling crime writers. His books have been translated into more than 50 languages and have sold over 55 million copies worldwide. Nesbø was born in Oslo and depicts the capital in his crime series featuring police detective Harry Hole, who lives and works there. The series now counts 13 books, including famous novels The Bat (1997), The Snowman (2007), and Police (2013), several of which have been adapted for the screen. 

When Nesbø was seven years old he moved from Oslo to the coastal town of Molde in the northwest, the same city in which Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson once lived. Nesbø played football for Molde but had to cut his career short due to injuries. He now lives in Oslo, where his protagonist Harry Hole may yet solve more crimes in the future.

Gunnar Staalesen

Gunnar Staalesen sitting by a table at restaurant Bien Basar in Bergen
Photo: Thomas Dalen / Visit Norway

Bergen is the setting for the crime novels about hard-nosed private detective Varg Veum, written by Gunnar Staalesen. Staalesen was born and raised, and still lives, in Norway's second biggest city, located in Fjord Norway. Outside the fictitious detective's office at Strandkaien 2, you'll find a statue of Varg Veum. The series is published in 23 countries and many of the novels have been has been adapted for the screen.

Wander the narrow alleyways and streets of Bergen together with Gunnar Staalesen as he reveals his top cultural spots below.

Karl Ove Knausgård

Portrait of writer Karl Ove Knausgård from Southern Norway
Photo: Sølve Sundsbø 2021 (for D2)

Knausgård is critically acclaimed for his six-volume autobiographical series Min kamp, My struggle.Although he didn't think anyone would be interested in reading about his life, it made him a worldwide sensation, and the novels have now been translated into 30 languages. He's been on the prestigious New York Times bestseller list and The Guardian has called him "the most famous Norwegian author since Henrik Ibsen".

He grew up in Southern Norway, both in Kristiansand and Tromøya in Arendal, from which he picked up the distinctive local dialect. His mother is from Hyllestad in Fjord Norway, a place which Knausgård has said has a special place in all the books he's written.

Knausgård was the Jon Fosse's student while studying in Bergen. He has said that Fosse was a very strict teacher, uncompromising when it comes to literature, but that in retrospect he is grateful as it made him a better writer.

Visit Southern Norway

Didn't find your favourite Norwegian author? The list of international writers from Norway is long, like Åsne Seierstad, Jostein Gaarder, Vigdis Hjorth and Per Petterson – all from Oslo. And there are so many more...

Stop by one of the many stunning libraries in Norway and immerse yourself in the Norwegian literary atmosphere. 

6 libraries you need to visit

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