Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Kristin Lavransdatter (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1-3)

In her great historical epic Kristin Lavransdatter, set in fourteenth-century Norway, Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the life story of one passionate and headstrong woman. Painting a richly detailed backdrop, Undset immerses readers in the day-to-day life, social conventions, and political and religious undercurrents of the period. Now in one volume, Tiina Nunnally’s a
Lisa

Jun 25, 2014

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“All my days I have longed equally to travel the right road and to take my own errant path.”

I am not a great fan of historical fiction, especially not if the main characters are deeply religious to the point of sacrificing themselves and their happiness in order to be forgiven for their sins (their moments of passion and life, that is!).

So I was not expecting to like Kristin Lavransdotter at all when I started reading the hardback copy I bought for some coins in a secondhand store. I wanted to

I am not a great fan of historical fiction, especially not if the main characters are deeply religious to the point of sacrificing themselves and their happiness in order to be forgiven for their sins (their moments of passion and life, that is!).

So I was not expecting to like Kristin Lavransdotter at all when I started reading the hardback copy I bought for some coins in a secondhand store. I wanted to read it because it is part of the Scandinavian cultural heritage, because it is written by the Nobel Laureate and outstanding storyteller Sigrid Undset, because it is good to move outside your comfort zone sometimes …

What I didn’t expect was the sympathy I all of a sudden developed for the characters. They acted according to beliefs I found ridiculous, and yet their human thoughts and feelings were so clear, so typical, so universal that I couldn’t shake them off. They moved in fictional Middle Ages, and yet, modern Scandinavian behaviours and customs shone through each event, and the strange and exotic experience of the harsh geography and climate affected the Medieval cast in the same way it affects busy city dwellers of today.

Kristin herself, stuck between the wish to do the right thing by her father and her faith and to experience true passion, could be living in any place and any time. She is a symbol for a timeless female dilemma, and her choices mirror countless women’s lives.

Unable to resist the strong, powerful charisma of a “bad guy”, Erlend, she experiences both the bliss of passion and the drudgery of life shared with an irresponsible, happy-go-lucky man – instead of stable, yet boring companionship with a man of her father’s choice.

Driven by her fear of her god and her belief that she has to atone for the sin of unlawful love, she eventually ends her life as a nun, dying while trying to help other people during the plague, a kind of late punishment for allowing herself a moment of freedom of choice beyond the limits of conventions.

What makes Kristin interesting to me is her strong will, her power to fight for what she thinks worth fighting for, her willingness to face the disappointments in life and to accept the consequences of her own decisions. Within the framework of a Medieval melodrama, Sigrid Undset manages to create the portrait of a strong woman ready to cope both with her own shortcomings and with those of the men in her care.

Even though Erlend is weak, there are valid reasons why Kristin felt attracted to him, and she acknowledges that facet in herself and dares to act on her feelings. I like that!

Recommended -despite myself!
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Dolors

May 14, 2015

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Recommends it for:
Those who don’t shrink from the cross they have to bear
Shelves:
read-in-2016

A historical epic divided in three installments – The Wreath, The Wife and The Cross – that unfolds the life of Kristin Lavrandsatter, a woman of noble ancestry in Medieval Norway, from birth to death. Undset paints a faithful portrayal of an era marked by turbulent dynastic wars and the latent paganism ingrained in the Christian values of a very rigid society, representative of its time. The three novels probe deep into the human, moral and religious conflicts that befall on the protagonist and

Undset’s prose is technically irreproachable: a traditional structure, archetypal of the 19thC realistic tradition, with an omniscient third-person narrator that uses relatively short chapters following a linear timeline. The narration focuses on the central heroine of the saga, around which orbits a constellation of secondary characters that presents a full display of the myriad tonalities of human nature depicted from the perspective of the classical struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, punishment and exoneration.
Ambition and the unquenchable thirst for power; the eternal dichotomy of aspiring purity and the repressed carnal desire or the growing sense of estrangement between parents and children saturates the plotline with an unshakable, almost suffocating, sense of guilt, which is the main reason for my lack of enthusiasm for this epic tome.

The resigned attitude showed by Kristin whenever she is delivered a tragic blow brings digressive inner monologues that circle around God-fearing arguments that, in my opinion, taint the luscious descriptions of the Scandinavian landscape and its powerful symbolism. That feature alone prevented me from fully enjoying the indisputable quality of Undset’s descriptive skills. Also, the subtly censorious arguments against natural impulses such as sexual drive and healthy resolution seemed so old-fashioned and anchored in the past that it was incredibly difficult for me to empathize with the characters’ plights, even if such thoughts were according to the era.
In the end, I got the feeling that Undset was somehow impugning the prevailing naturalistic doctrines in the 19thC that vouched for a positive socio-cultural determinism. Her continuous defense of pious sanctity and repentance as means to accept God’s will in a magnanimous, almost sermonizing undertone, endorses the idea of the original sin and prosecutes mankind, leaving no space for historical progress.

Those who dominate the medieval hermeneutics and the biblical allegory will find countless references in Undset’s art and literature. Life, like the river that inexorably advances and drags away the dust of faceless generations, looms larger when it reaches the end.
Even the floral wreaths worn by virginal Norwegian maidens wither with the erosion of lifetimes spent in obsessive repentance; and a thorny cross is all that is left of their testimony.

To blossom in the face of Death, like Undset’s characters do, requires blind faith and that is something an incredulous dilettante like myself can’t indulge in; and so to all those daredevils who think like I do, I toast to life, while it lasts, and to its paradoxical absurdities, which I embrace without pretensions, hoping to reach the end of this bumpy journey with a full heart rather than fearful hope.

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