Published in 2001, ‘The Half Brother’ (Norwegian: Halvbroren) is a novel by the Norwegian writer Lars Saabye Christensen that won the 2002 ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize’. Despite being a Danish national, Lars Saabye Christensen was born in Oslo, grew up in Norway and writes in Norwegian. He made his literary debut with the collection of poems ‘Historien om Gly’, published in 1976. Christensen is a novelist, literary critic, scriptwriter, dramaturgist, translator, songwriter and is also a member of the ‘Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature’. The novel was published in Norway on 4 September 2001 through Cappelen and was translated to English by Kenneth Steven: Arcadia Books published it in the United Kingdom in 2003, and Arcade Publishing in the United States in 2004. ‘The Half Brother’ is a family drama of pleasure and of sorrow from Lars Saabye Christensen’s Oslo: the book is considered his life’s work, and it took him more than 20 years to write it. The novel begins with a description of three women and three generations: the grandmother, who is an old silent movie star, the mother Boletta and the daughter Vera. Men only lived there for a passing moment, the time it takes to conceive a child and then disappear. On 8 May 1945, when Oslo and the whole world rejoiced, Vera met a man she had never seen before: he rapes her, Vera becomes pregnant and gives birth to her son Fred, who is raised by the novel’s three solitary women. Four years later, Vera becomes pregnant again, now with Arnold the circus performer, and Fred’s half brother is born. The book gives a tender-hearted description of the relationship between the two half brothers and their different paths in life. According to the Adjudicating Committee, the richly nuanced novel spans the history of four generations and welds together reality and imagination. The story of Barnum Nilsen and his brother Fred has a keynote of distance, loss and grief but has a redeeming feature of humour, friendship and black hope. Beyond the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize’, the novel received other accolades such as the Brage Prize for Fiction for Adults and the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for best book of the year. Critical response was very positive: Øystein Rottem of Dagbladet made comparisons between the novel and the works of Knut Hamsun, Göran Tunström and John Irving, adding that the work “give the readers a wealth of sparkling moments”; Paul Binding of The Guardian described ‘The Half Brother’ as a “phenomenally successful novel”. He also wrote that “The Half Brother […] is a deeply felt, intricately worked and intellectually searching work of absolutely international importance”; Gerard Woodward wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “The Half Brother is the kind of big, ambitious, panoramic novel of the sort we tend to think only Americans write these days. It is […] a big, rewarding read.” Formal talks about an adaptation for Norwegian television started in 2002, the project was approved in 2010 and premiered in January 2013: produced for NRK by the production company Monster, the series consists of eight 50-minute episodes directed by Per-Olav Sørensen, and starring Frank Kjosås, Nicolai Cleve Broch, and Agnes Kittelsen.
Books, Culture, Literature, Norway, Scandinavia