By Chantelle Olson
On November 5th, international journalist and author Sigrun Slapgard of Norway will be visiting our campus to tell the inspiring story of Sigrid Undset and other Norwegian writers who challenged the Nazis before and during Norway’s occupation (1940-1945). Throughout the 1930’s Undset, a famous novelist and Nobel laureate, had been on the forefront of the struggle against fascism and Hitler’s Nazi regime. During five years of exile in the U.S. Undset continued as a leading voice of dissent. Her story is that of a great writer who put aside her writing for many years in the struggle against Nazism and personally had to pay a high price. Her books were banned and burned, her eldest son was killed, and she herself became a refugee. But Undset’s story is also of a writer who never gave up her voice.
In Scandinavia Sigrid Undset was called the queen of literature, due not only to novels like Kristin Lavransdatter, the work that earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature, but also her leading role as chair of the Writers Union. Sigrid Undset was among the writers and intellectuals who felt a responsibility to engage in public debate, and her viewpoints were often controversial. In Thursday’s presentation Slapgard will outline new findings regarding Undset’s involvement in, among other things, saving Jews during WWII. In this work Undset supported the efforts of the well known Norwegian war correspondent Lise Lindbaek. Both Undset and Lindbaek are subjects of biographies by Slapgard, and the work on Undset is currently being translated into English.
Since 1989, Slapgard has been employed by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (Norway’s biggest non-commercial TV-station) where she has worn various hats – most recently that of anchor and editor for “Urix”, a weekly TV programme covering international affairs. As a war correspondent, Slapgard covered the Iraqi (2003) and Kosovo (1999) wars, and was in Jerusalem for several periods between 1997 and 1999. Fluent in Spanish as well as English and her native Norwegian, Slapgard was also stationed in El Salvador (1983), Nicaragua (1986-89), Guatemala (1992), Namibia (1982) and Mozambique, and covered the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa (1984-86). She is also a member of the board for the Freedom of Expression Foundation (Fritt Ord) and a member of the Ethical Council of the Norwegian Press (PFU).
The event on November 5th is possible due to a generous grant from NORLA (NORwegian Literature Abroad), as well as the Augustana Department of Humanities, and the 2009-2010 Augustana Theme Committee. Along with colleagues from Pacific Lutheran College and the University of Alberta – North Campus Ingrid Urberg, Associate Professor of Scandinavian Studies, applied for a multi-institutional grant from NORLA to fund this visit. During her stay in Camrose, Slapgard will also meet informally with Augustana students, including Urberg’s Norwegian language class and any students interested in careers in journalism and documentary film.
Sigrid Undset and Her Writing Compatriots: Norwegian Voices of Dissent will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday November 5th in the Faith & Life chapel. Admission is free, and a short wine and cheese reception will follow.