Saabye Christensen, Lars 1953-

views updated


PERSONAL: Born September 21, 1953, in Oslo, Norway.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Arcadia Books, 15-16 Nassau St., London W1 7AB, England

CAREER: Fictionwriter, scriptwriter, and poet.

AWARDS, HONORS: Tarjei Vesaas debutantpris, 1976, for Historien om Gly; Hørespillprisen, 1981-82, for Columbus Ankomst; Cappelenprisen, 1984, for Beatles; Rivertonprisen, 1987, for Sneglene; Hyperborean award for best book of the year, and Kritikerprisen, both 1988, both for Herman; Bokhandlerprisen, 1990, for Bly; Amandaprisen, 1991; Doblougprisen, 1993; Riksmålsprisen, 1997; Sarpsborgrisen, 1999; Aamodtstatuetten, Brageprisen, Bokhandlerprisen, and Norske leserprisen, all 2001, and Nordic Council Literature Prize, 2002, all for Halvbroren.


Historien om Gly: dikt/prosa, J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1976.

Amatøren (novel; title means "The Amateur"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1977, reprinted, 1994.

Ordbok (poetry; title means "Dictionary"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1977.

Kamelen i mitt hjerte (poetry; title means The Camel in My Heart), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1978.

Jaktmarker (poetry; title means "Hunting-Grounds"), J. W. Cappelen, (Oslo, Norway), 1979.

Billettene (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1980.

Jokeren (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1981, translated by Steven Michael Nordby as The Joker, White Pine Press (Fredonia, NY), 1991.

(Editor) Så stor du er blitt: 11 norske fortellere, (title means "You've Gotten So Big: Eleven Norwegian Story-Tellers"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1981.

Paraply (poetry; title means "Umbrella"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1982.

(Editor with Anita Sandberg) Når det tause får og på seg: studentnoveller, Universitetsforlaget (Oslo, Norway), 1983.

Beatles (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1984.

(With Nigel Rees) Graffiti, Ex Libris (Oslo, Norway), 1984.

Blodets bånd (novel; title means "The Blood-Bond"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway),1985.

Columbus' ankomst (play; title means "The Coming of Columbus"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1986.

Åsteder (poetry; title means "Crime Scenes"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1986.

Sneglene (novel; title means "The Snails"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1987.

Herman (novel), J. W Cappelen (Oslo, Norway, 1988, translated by Steven Michael Nordby as Herman, White Pine Press (Fredonia, NY), 1992.

Stempler (poetry), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1989.

(With Alf Oxem and Ove Aalo) Vesterålen: lyset, livet, landskapet (poetry), Grøndahl (Oslo, Norway), 1989, translated by Tim Challman as Vesterålen: Light, Life, Landscape, 1989.

Bly (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1990.

Hvor er det blitt av alle gutta: dikt i utvalg 1973-1990, J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1991.

Ingens (stories), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1992.

Den misunnelige frisøren (stories; title means "The Envious Hairdresser"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1992.

Gutten som ville være en av gutta (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1992.

Den akustiske skyggen (poetry; title means "The Acoustic Shadow"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1993.

Nordmarka (poetry), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1993.

Mekka (play; title means "Mecca"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1994.

Jubel (novel), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1995.

Den andre siden av blått: et bilde-dikt fra Lofoten og Vesterälen (poetry), photography by Trym Ivar Bergsmo, J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1996, translated by Tim Challman as The Other Side of Blue: Pictures and Poems from Lofoten and Vesterålen, 1997.

Falleferdig himmel (poetry; title means "Tumbledown Heaven"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1998.

Pasninger, J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1998.

Under en sort paraply: dikt i utvalg (title means "Under an Umbrella of Sorts"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1998.

Noen som elsker hverandre (stories; title means "Someone to Love"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1999.

Kongen som ville ha mer enn en krone (title means "The King Who Wanted More than a Crown"), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 1999.

Pinnsvinsol (poetry), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 2000.

Mann for sin katt (poetry), J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 2000.

Dracula (play; adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker), Solum (Oslo, Norway), 2000.

Halvbroren, J. W. Cappelen (Oslo, Norway), 2001, translated by Kenneth Stevens as The Half Brother, Arcadia Books (London, England), 2003.

Author of screenplays, including Brennende blomster, 1985, Telegrafisten, 1993, Ti kniver i hjertet (also known as Cross My Heart and Hope to Die), Vanguard, 1995, Horor du Ikke hva jeg Sier!, 1996, and Herman (based on his novel). Editor of Signaler (anthology), J. W. Cappelen, 1986-97. Contributor to periodicals, including Dikt og datt.

Christensen's books have been translated into over a dozen languages, including German, English, Polish, and Spanish.

SIDELIGHTS: Norwegian novelist, poet, and script-writer Lars Saabye Christensen was already in print by the time his first work Historien om Gly was released in 1976. Before that collection of verse, he had published in the underground periodical Dikt og datt. His first full-length novel, Amatøren, appeared in 1977. Five years later, in 1984, Christensen received much acclaim from his compatriots for Beatles, which developed a cult following, and three years later won the coveted Riverton Prize for the novel Sneglene. Since that time Saabye Christensen has gone on to capture many of Norway's top literary prizes, and his bestselling novel Halvbroren, which in translation as The Half Brother introduced him to English-speaking audiences on a wide scale, captured the coveted Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2002.

Many of Saabye Christensen's poems are simple yet delightful. In "Jeg vil være det rolige regn" he writes: "I want to be the joyful rain/When my Love her umbrella has left behind./I want to be the heavenly drops/Which streaming, run over her brow." In his other poem, the timelessly cryptic and sensual "The Camel in Mine Heart" he writes. "The Camel in mine hath long journeys which before him lay/(Sand on my tongue/The Sun in my mouth)./* /All of the lakes are mirages/All the wells but a tear in the corner of the eye/The only rain a damp brow/But the Sun:/A fever in the blood/A fiery kiss from a naked heaven/Vicious heaven."

In 1981's Jokeren Saabye Christensen spins a detective yarn about a bank robber on the lam from the law who, while in hiding, reads a mysterious obituary with his name on it. Throughout the rest of the novel the criminal attempts to unravel the significance behind the mistaken obit. Reviewing the English translation of the novel in Library Journal, Ulla Sweedler compared Saabye Christensen to British crime novelist P. D. James, noting that within the fictional world of The Joker, peopled with petty criminals, drug addicts, and ordinary folk, the novelist creates "an exciting and plausible detective story with much realistic detail and local color" while confronting "social ills like gambling and drug trafficking."

Saabye Christensen's novels are often set in and around Oslo, the city of his birth and upbringing. The second of the author's novels to be translated into English, Herman concerns the troubled life of little Herman Fulkt, who is afflicted with alopecia areata, a disease causing the sufferer to go bald. Because he stands out at school due to the precocious baldness, Herman is taunted by bullies and regarded with suspicion by teachers. To vent his frustrations with himself and the world, Herman takes to acts of violence and vandalism. The main character's bald grandfather, to whom the little boy most relates, passes away and Herman is forced to grow up and confront the world with a newfound strength. While noting that the purpose of the novel is to illustrate the problems faced by a child with alopecia areata, Review of Contemporary Fiction contributor Brooke Horvath also found Herman to be "a humane, intelligent, and entertaining story, one of the loveliest adult novels of childhood I have read."

Halvbroren focuses on freelance film writer Barnum Nilsen and his relationship with his family: his former circus-performer father Arnold, his mother Vera, his grandmother Bolleta, and particularly his autistic older brother Fred, who was conceived during a rape. Barnum relates his life story as a series of impressions, recollections, asides, as memories are triggered by things around him and tied together by the presence of his brother and by the unknowable depths of those who touch his life. An alcoholic, Barnum has learned to deal with his life by resorting to lies and fictions to mask reality. Noted Anna Paterson in her review of the English translation in the London Independent, he is a "born confabulator, who turns misery into fantasy almost without noticing." Saabye Christensen uses Barnum's self-deception to show the protagonist's flaw as also the basis of his strength and his solace: his artistic creativity.

Calling Halvbroren a "complex tale of the remembered past," Paterson had praise for the efforts of translator Kenneth Steven: "Without warning, the narrative moves forwards and back, with flashbacks within flashbacks in a stream of reported dialogue, descriptive passages, discursive asides, anecdotes and puns." Through Steven's efforts Saabye Christensen's text remains not only "coherent" but "reads … grippingly." Also praising the translator for rendering the novel into "compulsively readable prose," Guardian contributor Paul Binding called The Half Brother "no mere interesting example of contemporary Scandinavian writing; it's a deeply felt, intricately worked and intellectually searching work of absolute international importance." Noting the influence of novelists James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Halldor Laxness, Julian Evans noted in his New Statesman review that Saabye Christensen confronts similarly universal truths about humanity. "How to restore that crucial sense of the importance of the human act was perhaps the greatest question hanging over the novel during the 20th century," reflected Evans, "ever since it lost its religious, or moral, certainty that even the most unimportant character exists in God's eye. It is exhilarating to find in [The Half Brother] … one answer to that question, delivered with such clarity, energy, and imaginative force."

Saabye Christensen has not confined himself to novels and poetry, but has also written for film. In 1985 he authored the screenplay Brennende blomster, as well as screen adaptations of his angst-ridden opus Herman. The 1994 Vanguard Films release of Saabye Christensen's Ti kniver i jhertet, directed by Marius Holst and featuring the actors Martin Dahl Garfalk, Jan Devo Kornstad, Kjersti Holmen, and Petter J Borgli, won a several awards, including the Berlin Film Festival's Blue Angel Award and top honors from the Montreal and Chicago film festivals. The screenplay was loosely based on his novel Gutten som ville være en av gutta.



Bookseller, October 25, 2002, Benedicte Page, "Secrets, Lies, and Dreams," p. 30.

Dagbladet, July 25, 2001, Sigmung Sørensen, "Tilbake til fortida" (interview).

Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 31, 2003, review of The Half Brother.

Guardian, May 24, 2003, Paul Binding, review of The Half Brother.

Independent (London, England), June 14, 2003, Anna Paterson, review of The Half Brother.

Library Journal, April 15, 1991, Ulla Sweedler, review of The Joker, p. 124; February 1, 1993, Ulla Sweedler, review of Herman, p. 110.

Multicultural Review, April, 1992, review of The Joker, p. 68.

New Statesman, June 16, 2003, Julian Evans, review of The Half Brother, p. 53.

New York Times, March 20, 1995, Stephen Holden, review of Cross My Heart and Hope to Die, p. C12.

Publishers Weekly, November 9, 1992, review of Herman, p. 78.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1993, Brooke Horvath, review of Herman p. 234.

Vagant, Volume 3, 1990, pp. 10-13.

Vinduet, Volume 38, issue 4, 1984, p. 48-53; Volume 40, issue 2, 1986, pp. 5-7.


Cappelen Web site, (March 21, 2002), "Lars Saabye Christensen."

Literary Moose, (January, 2003), review of Herman.*