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Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal Paperback – March 15, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


 "Like those two other great European novels of adultery, Lady Chatterley's Lover and Anna Karenina, Marta Oulie traces the interior life of a woman from the beautiful and expansive rush of her first love, to her swelling dissatisfaction with her ‘doll's house’ existence constrained by turn-of-the-nineteenth-century values, her growing distance from her adoring husband, her unconsidered entry into an affair, and finally to her ultimate disillusion, self-recrimination, and despair. Thanks to Tiina Nunnally’s nuanced translation, we can experience this strangely compelling novel in all the precise observations of Undset’s original Norwegian text."

—Susan Vreeland, author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Luncheon of the Boating Party

"A vote of gratitude is due to the University of Minnesota Press for bringing us, for the first time in English, this impeccably translated edition of Undset's early and remarkable novella." —John Banville

"Most of Undset’s later novels—including the medieval epic “Kristin Lavransdatter,” which earned her the Nobel Prize—took their cue from this blunt début, dealing in various ways with the social and familial constraints of women." —The New Yorker

"It’s unsurprising that Undset won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and I’m shocked that it took this long to become more widely known in the United States. I’d compare it to Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, or even The Scarlet Letter in its intensity." —Off the Book

"Undset’s writing is vivid, engaging, and fast moving. Never before published in English, this translation by Tiina Nunnally is clear, stark and gripping." —The Chronicle-Journal

About the Author

Sigrid Undset (1882–1949) is considered one of Norway’s greatest writers. She is best known for the epic medieval trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, published between 1920 and 1922, and the four-volume work Olav Audunssøn (translated in 1928 as The Master of Hestviken), published between 1925 and 1927.

Tiina Nunnally is the translator of more than fifty works of fiction, including Kristin Lavransdatter and Jenny by Sigrid Undset, The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist, and The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl (Minnesota, 2013).

Jane Smiley is the author of several books, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (March 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816692521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816692521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By the ReviewNotes TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 5, 2014
Format: Paperback
“I have been unfaithful to my husband” is one of the most sensational and dramatic opening lines ever penned for a novel. Set in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway, in 1902 Marta is a school teacher persistently courted by Otto, a partner in a business. They married and raise a family of two boys, Einar and Halfred, and a girl Ingrid. The birth of their daughter changes the equation in the family, resulting in an affair between Marta and Henrik, the business partner of Otto, and it lasts until Otto suffers from TB. Overcome by a deep feeling of guilt, Marta put an end to the affair but continues with the pregnancy, and a daughter Ase is born.

Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset, and translated from the original Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally, is a sweeping tale of infidelity, morality and belief. First published in 1907 as Fru Marta Oulie, this novel gives voice to the life of a woman from the dreamy days of her first love, to her growing frustration with her bored and restive life, her growing distance from her husband, her imprudent affair, and ultimately to her disgrace and despair.

Marta Oulie is the first novel by Sigrid Undset and enjoyed certain of degree. The novel which was first published in 1907 has much relevance in today’s complex society because fidelity and morality are still an issue, and we are still beset by double-standards. However, it has to be pointed out that Marta’s action is more about betrayal of self than anything. Feminism was considered revolutionary in those days, and over a century later the issue should have been resolved, dead and buried, and yet it is as much an issue even today and equality of the sexes is still a distant dream. Insightful and honest, Marta Oulie makes for an interesting and intriguing read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you were to tell me this book was written in 1906 when this author was only twenty-four years old, living in Norway, I would say you're crazy! She writes as if she is much older, and is able to get us to pull us right into this story immediately without even knowing she were so young if we hadn't been told. Remarkable.
In the beginning of the book, the introduction is written by Jane Smiley. The English translation (from Norwegian) is done by Tina Nunnally. This introduction explains that this author is known for being able to write stories about older women (with kids, too) even though it did not reflect her life, and they are very correct in saying that. It is said she has an ability to write with feeling and experience for any age. This holds true in what I read, although for what this young author has gone through in her young life would allow for this ability. She had a tough upbringing with her father dying at the age of forty, leaving her the daughter of a single mother. I have to say the writing in this book was so beautiful, right now I would go out and search for ALL of her books to read because of the beauty of her writing and how she captured my mind right into this story immediately. This was a page turner for me from the moment I started reading it.
This book, at least the galley, tells us about all of the books she has written, mostly historical novels set in the Middle Ages. Her father wrote about Norse themes, and she followed in his footsteps, also branching out into Women's Fiction.
The beginning of the book even tells us she has won the Nobel prize for literature in 1928, after many years of her writing, and I can see why.
In this book, we learn times don't change, and the very same things that haunt us today haunted us yesterday just as much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform on April 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
My prior experience with Undset was reading the epic Kristin Lavransdatter set in medieval Norway.* This work is very different.

Marta Oulie is an introspective (but not autobiographical) novel. Like many young authors in early works, Undset is exploring how she differs from those around her. Her perspective on the world is big, and her surrounding seem to constrain her. The conventional and expected life doesn't fit her.

Marta has the additional burden of being a woman in a world that hasn't yet accepted women working after marriage, much less being full participants in intellectual life. (Although early twentieth-century Norway was hardly as oppressive as many societies.)

While Marta is self-centered--hardly a rarity among author-surrogate characters, as authors tend to need to be self-centered to endure the obstacles to success--she is also acutely aware of how she hurts those around her, something not always found in this type of early, introspective, novel.

Marta tries at, fails at, yet again tries at love with her husband. But the pieces never completely fit together, because her inner life never completely fits with her outer life. She can dissect the problems with herself and her life analytically, but she can't impose solutions on herself emotionally.

This is a short but remarkable book. It provides an insight into Undset the person that a reader could never deduce from reading a work like Kristin Lavransdatter. Highly recommended.

I was provided a copy for review by the publisher.

* A more recent translation, which I have not read, is available: Kristin Lavransdatter.
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