Hans Herbjørnsrud
Hans Herbjørnsrud is a Norwegian
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 author of short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

. His works frequently play with the differences between Norwegian languages Bokmål
Bokmål is one of two official Norwegian written standard languages, the other being Nynorsk. Bokmål is used by 85–90% of the population in Norway, and is the standard most commonly taught to foreign students of the Norwegian language....

 and Nynorsk
Nynorsk or New Norwegian is one of two official written standards for the Norwegian language, the other being Bokmål. The standard language was created by Ivar Aasen during the mid-19th century, to provide a Norwegian alternative to the Danish language which was commonly written in Norway at the...

 and the various Norwegian dialects. His stories' characters sometimes playfully mix and invent languages, sometimes become caught up in their linguistic games and start losing their identity.

Herbjørnsrud grew up on a remote farm in Telemark
is a county in Norway, bordering Vestfold, Buskerud, Hordaland, Rogaland and Aust-Agder. The county administration is in Skien. Until 1919 the county was known as Bratsberg amt.-Location:...

 and became a farmer himself. After working as a teacher for some time, he started writing in his early forties and published his first collection of stories, Vitner (Witnesses), in 1979. This collection was recognized as the best literary début of the year with Tarjei Vesaas' debutantpris
Tarjei Vesaas' debutantpris
Tarjei Vesaas's debutantpris is a prize awarded annually for the best first literary work in Norwegian. It is awarded by the Norwegian Authors' Union, and the organisation's 9-member Literary Caucus constitutes the jury for the prize...

. Since then, he has published six more collections of stories, which have been well received by critics. Herbjørnsrud has been awarded several prizes for his work, including the prestigious Kritikerprisen
The Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature
The Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature is awarded by the Norwegian Literature Critics' Association and has been awarded every year since 1950...

 in 1997, the Dobloug Prize
Dobloug Prize
The Dobloug Prize is a literature prize awarded for Swedish and Norwegian fiction. The prize is named after Norwegian businessman and philanthropist Birger Dobloug pursuant to his bequest. The prize sum is . The Dobloug Prize is awarded annually by the Swedish Academy.-Prize winners:...

in 2005 and Aschehougprisen in 2005. He was nominated for The Nordic Council´s Literature Prize in 1998 and 2002. In 1999 Herbjørnsrud was nominated for the European Aristeion Prize
Aristeion Prize
The Aristeion Prize is a European prize, awarded for significant contributions to contemporary literature, and exceptional translations of contemporary literature. The prize is awarded in a different Capital of Culture each year...

. His short stories have been translated into several languages, including German, English, French, Russian and Hindi.

Herbjørnsrud's playful mixing of dialects poses great challenges to translators; his most prolific story, Kai Sandemo (1997), has long been considered untranslatable to any other language. It tells the story of a murderer who flees his home in Telemark and settles in Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 where he starts writing letters to people he grew up with - first in Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, then, as he remembers more and more dark secrets of his past, gradually switching to Nynorsk, Bokmål and the dialect of Telemark until at the end, virtually every sentence becomes a complex mixture of various languages and dialects. An ambitious project undertaken by the universities of Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 and Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 worked on a German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 translation of the story for several years and released a finished version in 2005. The team moved the story to Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and substituted standard German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Swiss German
Swiss German
Swiss German is any of the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland and in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy. Occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are grouped together with Swiss German as well, especially the dialects of Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg...

, Romansh and various Swiss dialects for the original's languages and dialects.

Hans Herbjørnsrud is married to Danish-born historian Anna Tranberg, currently an associate professor at Telemark University College in Bø. Their son, Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud is a Norwegian historian and journalist. He has been editor-in-chief of the Norwegian weekly left-wing periodical Ny Tid since 1 February 2008....

, is an author and journalist and currently an editor at the weekly news magazine Ny Tid
Ny Tid
Ny Tid is Norway's only international news magazine, published in Newsweek-format every Friday. Politically, its history and editorial line is on the left side of the political spectrum and, until its recent sale, it was founded and owned by the Socialist Left Party of Norway...



  • Brønnene (The Fountains, 2006)
  • Samlede noveller (Collected Short Stories, 2003)
  • Vi vet så mye (We know so much, 2001)
  • Blinddøra (The Blind Door, 1997)
  • Eks og Sett (1992)
  • Han (Him, 1987)
  • Vannbæreren (The Water Bearer, 1984)
  • Vitner (Witnesses, 1979)

External links

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