Me on “Marta Oulie,” Sigrid Undset’s First Published Novel

at the University Bookman:

Marta Oulie opens with the confession, “I have been unfaithful to my husband.” So it comes as no surprise that the novel depicts a woman’s sexual awakening: the obsessive thoughts of him, the thrill at his touch. “I suddenly felt scared and didn’t dare look at the scrap of chest visible below his throat, but then couldn’t resist glancing at it.”

What might be more surprising is that this is the sensual passion of a virgin for the man who will become her husband. Like Sigrid Undset’s best-known novel, Kristin Lavransdattera trilogy set in the fourteenth century and published in the 1920s—this earlier and much slimmer book, in its first English translation since publication in 1907, depicts a marriage of untutored hearts. The match is made by Eros, the laughing god; with time his laughter turns from delight to mockery. Both Marta and her husband Otto must discover whether they can submit to a gentler god while they still have time.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!