The artist has her own house, and feels invaded when other people move in – how is she going to work, now? Nordic people need their space, and women need room of their own to create. The forest grows right up to the door, but how can you get past the other occupants of the house to reach it?
So far, so similar to The True Deceiver. But Vigdis Hjorth’s The House in Norway, translated by Charlotte Barslund, is written in a different time. The lodgers are not from the same village, or even the same country; they are Poles, coming here to work. First the man, then his woman, and then one dark midwinter night he knocks on the artist’s door in drunken delight: their baby has just been born!
That was more than enough contact with the lodgers for a good long while: the artist needs to get away from this family to work. She also needs to get away from her own family, too – the partner who wants to have dinner with other couples, the daughter who moves back in, the children and their friends who use up all the hot water and eat up all the food… so she rents another place to make her Big Commission and doesn’t come home until it is
Once she comes out of her creative lockdown, she realises that all sorts of things have been happening around her that she simply hasn’t noticed:
It is easy to be critical of the artist at this point; but not without taking a long hard look at oneself, and how one looks at one’s neighbours. Rather ordinary family stories are not what they seem, and something else might be going on behind closed doors. That’s very much the subject of Hjorth’s latest book to be translated into English, also by Charlotte Burslard. Arv og miljø/Wills and Testaments caused such a furore in Norway that her sister published her own version of the story.