The stunning directness and immediacy of the opening line of Sigrid Unset’s first novel, Marta Oulie, in this new and first English translation by Tiina Nunnally are sustained throughout its pages. Set in Kristiania (now Oslo) in the early Twentieth Century, the novel surprises and delights with its sensitivity to changes we continue to experience –human encroachment on the natural world, urban sprawl, the challenge of single motherhood, the threats career demands and childrearing pose to human and family relationships. At the same time, the arc of betrayal of self and love, the traps of vanity and boredom, the anguish of paradise lost are timeless themes conveyed in the same fresh, unsentimental, unself-pitying voice with which Marta Oulie opens her diary. There is nothing overtly political in this exquisitely spare novel except for some references to the author’s interest in women’s and intellectual issues, but like all great literature Marta Oulie, A Novel of Betrayal informs us about the present political moment and the human condition.
Marta Oulie, A Novel of Betrayal
Translated by Tiina Nunnally
Introduction by Jane Smiley
University of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis Minnesota, 2014, 128 pages