If Albert Camus had lived in an age when people in remote Norwegian fishing villages had e-mail, he might have written a novel like this. Kathrine, a customs inspector, abandons husband and son, because she's unsure whether she has "missed anything or not." In Paris and beyond, she connects with a series of men, and, after finding the world much as she expected (a garden café in Paris looks "the way a Norwegian who has never seen a garden café might imagine one to look"), returns to her fjord in Finnmark. In Stamm's portrait, a scenario that could have been half-baked captures what seems a particularly Nordic view of adult life: austere pragmatism mixed with mordant wit.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Twentysomething Kathrine lives in a small village on the northeastern coast of Norway, Land of the Midnight Sun. There the seasons are marked by long periods of light and darkness, the aging of residents by increased impatience and frustration with the dark and the cold. A trip on cross-country skis to visit the keepers of the lighthouse constitutes an outing. As a customs inspector of the fishing boats docking there, Kathrine, though she has never been south of the Arctic Circle, touches the lives of far-travelers. She lives with the boy born of her short-lived marriage to a man she sees routinely and comfortably about the village. Her second marriage to cold, officious Thomas, who doesn't touch her, leads to his family's condemnation of her and her subsequent journey away from home, son, job, parents, and townspeople. Hofmann's translation of Stamm's clipped German flows smoothly yet as powerfully as the waters that surround Kathrine's restrictive life and carry her far away but closer to herself than ever. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved