For the Love of Cod

A Father and Son’s Search for Norwegian Happiness

2021
Author:

Eric Dregni

For the Love of Cod

A journey to find Norway’s supposed bliss makes for a comic travelogue that asks, seriously, what makes Norwegians so damn happy—and does it translate?


Eric Dregni takes his son on a return trip to Norway—the country where he was born fifteen years earlier—to investigate whether it really is the happiest country on Earth. From a passion for dugnad or community volunteerism to sakte or “slow,” a rejection of the mad pace of modernity, this idiosyncratic tour shows readers how, or whether, Norwegian happiness translates.

Eric Dregni is the best kind of tour guide, bringing to life a country vis-à-vis its people, its (sometimes odd) customs, and its places. Brew some kaffe, get koselig (cozy), and settle in to do some armchair traveling to Norway. It’s a trip you’ll be lykkelig (happy) to take.

Lorna Landvik, author of Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)

Norway is usually near or at the top of the World Happiness Report. But is it really one of the happiest countries on Earth? Eric Dregni had his doubts. Years ago he and his wife had lived in this country his great-great-grandfather once fled. When their son Eilif was born there, the Norwegian government paid for the birth, gave them $5,000, and deposited $500 into their bank account every month, but surely happiness was more than a generous health care system. What about all those grim months without sun? When Eilif turned fifteen, father and son decided to go back together and investigate. For the Love of Cod is their droll report on the state of purported Norwegian bliss.

Arriving in May, a month of festivals and eternal sun, the Dregnis are thrust into Norway at its merriest—and into the reality of the astronomical cost of living, which forces them to find lodging with friends and relatives. But this gives them an inside look at the secrets to a better life. It’s not the massive amounts of money flowing from the North Sea oil fields but how these funds are distributed that fuels the Norwegian version of democratic socialism—resulting in miniscule differences between rich and poor. Locals introduce them to the principles underlying their avowed contentment, from an active environmentalism that translates into flyskam (flight shame), which keeps Norwegians in the family cabin for the long vacations prescribed by law and charges a 150 percent tax on gas guzzlers (which, Eilif observes, means more Teslas seen in one hour than in a year in Minnesota!).

From a passion for dugnad or community volunteerism and sakte or “slow,” a rejection of the mad pace of modernity, to the commodification of Viking history and the dark side of Black Metal music that turns the idea of quaint, traditional Norway upside down, this idiosyncratic father and son tour lets readers, free of flyskam, see how, or whether, Norwegian happiness translates.

For the Love of Cod

Eric Dregni is author of twenty books, including Vikings in the Attic, Weird Minnesota, and Let’s Go Fishing! As a Fulbright fellow to Norway, he survived a dinner of rakfisk (fermented fish) thanks to 80-proof aquavit, took the “meat bus” to Sweden for cheap salami with a crowd of knitting pensioners, and compiled his stories in In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream. He wrote about living in Modena, Italy, in Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy’s Culinary Capital. He is professor of English, journalism, and Italian at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in the summer he is director of the Italian Concordia Language Village, an experience he wrote about in You’re Sending Me Where? He lives in Minneapolis.


For the Love of Cod

Eric Dregni is the best kind of tour guide, bringing to life a country vis-à-vis its people, its (sometimes odd) customs, and its places. Brew some kaffe, get koselig (cozy), and settle in to do some armchair traveling to Norway. It’s a trip you’ll be lykkelig (happy) to take.

Lorna Landvik, author of Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes)

For the Love of Cod

Contents


Lykkelig


Happy Go Lucky


Voksenpoeng


Adult Points


Selklubbing og Hvalburger


Clubbing Seals and Whaleburgers


Flyskam


Flight Shame


Svartmetall og Stavkirker


Black Metal and Stave Churches


Oljefondet og Velferdsstaten


The Oil Fund and the Welfare State


Å gå viking


To Go “Viking”


Tunnelfeber


Tunnel Fever


Kooperativer og Konformitet


Cooperatives and Conformity


Påskekylling


The Easter Chicken


Russ


Redhats


Kulturhuset


The Culture House


Arbeidsglede og Naver


Work Happiness and Living off the System


Berserkergang og Helgefylla


Blind Rage and Weekend Drunk


Folketrygden


The People’s Insurance


Alien Var Her


Aliens Were Here


Sakte


Slow


Mørkved


The Dark Side


“Ute på tur, aldri sur”


Out on a walk, never cross


Frisk som en fisk


Fresh as a fish


Naken og Sikker


Naked and Safe


En Natt på Nobel


A Night at the Nobel


Fremmedspråk


Stranger Language


Miljø


Environment


Dugnad


Volunteering


Takk for Alt


Thanks for Everything


Glossary: Norwegian Words to (Maybe) Live By


Acknowledgments