“Piety and Hunger”: Nice intro essay on “Kristin Lavransdatter”

why not start your journey w/Kristin during Lent? Undset was an obsessive researcher, and her 14th-century Norway has texture down to the dirt of the smithy floor. She captures annual agricultural rhythms of shortage and plenty, obscure ecclesiastical laws governing punishments for adultery, and the way the men douse themselves in ice water to sober up for church after Christmas festivities. Her descriptions of food, decor, and clothing are precise: the way Kristin strews juniper and flowers on … [Read more...]

“Dismantling the Cross”: Patricia Snow on Renewing Honor for Celibacy

This is a fantastic, hard-fought essay. I don't know that every aspect of it works (see below) but it's countercultural and deeply worth your time. Plus it includes an angle on Kristin Lavransdatter which I had not even considered: Generally speaking, there are two principal vocations in the life of the Catholic Church: marriage on the one hand, and celibate priesthood and religious life on the other. Both are expressions of conjugal love. In the normal calling of marriage, an individual binds … [Read more...]

Kristin Lavransdatter as “The Great Augustinian Novel”

ooh: I’ve always thought of Kristin Lavransdatter as “the great Augustinian novel.” I’ve never read anything that conveyed more powerfully the Augustinian sense of lives that are fragmentary and damaged, which we can’t hold together in any rounded meaningful whole, but must entrust to a grace which is slowly drawing them into a pattern that we can’t see much of yet and won’t in this life.from an email from a friend via … [Read more...]

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. Lik … [Read more...]

From Sigrid Undset, “Marta Oulie”

Now I take a more lenient view of many things, but that's because I too am guilty. When I was young and innocent I was a harsher judge.We keep learning all our lives--but God help us what we learn. To understand everything is supposed to mean to forgive everything; if so, then may God spare me from those people who forgive too much. That's merely something we say to console ourselves when life starts to leave its mark on us, and we have done various things that we would have been ashamed of … [Read more...]

A Couple Best-Of Lists from Wesley Hill and Helen Andrews

Hill: ...I write often about the consolations of friendship, hospitality, and Christian community, but sometimes I wonder if I’m too sanguine, writing as if these were easily attainable and capable of straightforward engineering. These three books, in very different ways, puncture my naivety. more!Andrews: ...Any culture that bestows fame on fiery young radicals will see some of them punished with remorse in old age, but there are surprisingly few role models for writers who find t … [Read more...]

“In Between Insomnia and Scandinavia”: Gorgeous Paintings Inspired by Norwegian Family Novels

via Matt Frost. TMN:You’ve said the novel trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter was an inspiration for this latest series. Are you depicting scenes from the books, or something else?Carson Ellis:I read Kristin Lavransdatter for a long time. I took breaks between the three books to read other things, but I was sort of plodding through it on and off for nearly a year. For people who don’t know: It’s set in medieval Norway, written by Sigrid Undset in the ’20s, meticulously researched, sort of … [Read more...]