2015 Svare-Toven Lecture: Sigred Undset

Thursday, April 30, 2015, 7:00 p.m.

The name Sigrid Undset is most often associated with the author’s masterpiece historical novel Kristin Lavransdatter (1920-1922), her polemical essays and her status as one of only three Norwegian writers to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Seldom do we associate Undset with exile and narratives of a temporary home in America. In her lecture April 30th, Svare-Toven Professor Claudia Berguson explores the well-hidden life of Sigrid Undset during her exile years in Brooklyn during World War II.

Forced to flee her home in the first weeks of Nazi occupation of Norway, Undset arrived in the U.S. in August 1940. She declared at once that “war is no time for literature” and turned her talents to writing essays and speeches. In the common narrative of World War II, Undset was a stalwart “information soldier” who brought awareness to the Norwegian cause and to victims of war in Europe. But is this the entire story of her life in exile? Letters exchanged with American authors Willa Cather, Marjorie Rawlings and Hope Emily Allen form a story in which a “time for literature” and even an occasional wish to forget the war entirely emerge. As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II is observed this year, the lecture brings to light one among many well-hidden stories of individuals in wartime.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.