Olav Audunssøn III

III. Crossroads

2022
Author:

Sigrid Undset
Translated by Tiina Nunnally

The third volume in the Nobel Prize–winning writer’s epic story of medieval Norway, finely capturing Undset’s fluid, natural style in the first English translation in nearly a century

The third volume of Olav Audunssøn finds Olav heartbroken by loss and further estranged from his son. Set in a time and place where royalty and religion vie for power, and bloodlines and loyalties are law, Crossroads summons a powerful picture of Northern life in medieval times—a moving re-creation of a vanished world tainted by bloodshed and haunted by sin and retribution.

In the early fourteenth century, Norway is a kingdom in political turmoil, struggling with opposing forces within its own borders and drawn into strife with neighboring Sweden and Denmark. Bloody family vendettas and conflicting loyalties sparked by the irrepressible passion of a boy and his foster sister (also his betrothed) have now set in motion a series of terrible consequences—with a legacy of betrayal, murder, and disgrace that will echo down through the generations. Crossroads, the third of Olav Audunssøn’s four volumes, finds Olav heartbroken by loss and further estranged from his son. To escape his grief, Olav leaves his home estate of Hestviken and agrees to serve as captain on a small merchant ship headed to London. There, separated from everything familiar to him, Olav begins a visionary journey that will send him far into the forest and deep into his soul. Questioning past decisions and future plans, Olav must grapple with his own perceptions of love and guilt, sin and penitence, vengeance and forgiveness.

Set in a time and place where royalty and religion vie for power, and bloodlines and loyalties are law, Crossroads summons a powerful picture of Northern life in medieval times, as the Swedish Academy noted in awarding Sigrid Undset the Nobel Prize in 1928. Conveying both the intimate drama and epic sweep of Olav’s story as grief and guilt drive him to ever more desperate action, Crossroads is a moving and masterly re-creation of a vanished world tainted by bloodshed and haunted by sin and retribution.

As with Kristin Lavransdatter, her earlier medieval epic, Undset immersed herself in the legal, religious, and historical documents of the time while writing Olav Audunssøn to create astoundingly authentic and compelling portraits of Norwegian life in the Middle Ages. And as in her translation of Kristin Lavransdatter, Tiina Nunnally does full justice to Undset’s natural, fluid prose, in a style that delicately and lyrically conveys the natural world, the complex culture, and the fraught emotional territory against which Olav’s story inexorably unfolds.

Sigrid Undset (1882–1949) was a prolific Norwegian writer and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. From 1940 to 1945, she lived in the United States in exile during the German occupation of Norway. She is best known for her epic medieval trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter and the tetralogy Olav Audunssøn. Her novel Marta Oulie is also published in translation by the University of Minnesota Press.

Tiina Nunnally is the award-winning translator of many works of Scandinavian literature, including Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, which was awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club translation prize. She has translated books by Tove Ditlevsen, Ola Larsmo, Vidar Sundstøl, and Per Olov Enquist, as well as The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjørnsen and Moe (Minnesota, 2019).

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