Bjørn Sortland was born on the west coast of Norway in 1968 and worked as a journalist, reviewer and author until devoting himself full-time to writing books for children and young adults in 1998. Following his training at the Academy for the Art of Writing in Bergen, Sortland published his first novel ‘Det er ikkje natta’ (1992; Engl: It Is Not the Night). Since then he has produced a great number of books for children and young adults which have been published in Sweden, France, Spain, Italy as well as in Argentina, Canada and South Korea.
Gentle, charming and with a feeling for suspense, Sortland writes about family life that is not always harmonious, about the growing pains of puberty, the longing for freedom and love as well as the need for understanding and security. His characters embark on journeys of discovery through the history, geography, art and culture of Europe, survive adventures in distant continents and through this come to know much more about themselves and their fellow human beings. In his stories Sortland skilfully merges the everyday life of childhood and adolescence with the new world of experience and his young heroes’ thirst for knowledge. Thus little Oda, who visits an illustrious painting collection with her uncle, happens to enter into paintings by famous modern artists on her way to the bathroom. After slipping on a mysterious red coat she is able to converse with Munch, Cézanne, Magritte, Picasso, Warhol and Pollock. Sortland and the illustrator Lars Elling were jointly awarded the Prix Octogones (1994) and the German Young Adults Literature Prize (1996) for this playful introduction to modern art: ‘Raudt, blått og litt gult’ (1993; Engl: ‘Anna’s Art Adventure’, 1999).
Art works from different periods and cultures have remained the focus of many of Bjørn Sortland’s books for children and young adults. In his detective series ‘Kunstdetektivene 1-7’ (2000ff) the author accompanies the Bergvik family on all five continents. While the father, a travel writer, has to write a series about holidays with the family, the Bergviks face ever more fresh and dangerous adventures at the hands of an international group of art robbers, and it is up to the children alone to solve the puzzle of the adult world. Three sequels to this much-loved series have already appeared in German, among them ‘Entführung in Luxor’ (2003; Luxor-mysteriet, 2001) and ‘Das Rätsel der Dschungelstadt’ (2004; Angkor-mysteriet, 2002). Sortland’s novel for young adults, ‘Ærlighetsminuttet’ (2005; Engl: The Minute of Honesty) tells the story of seventeen-year-old Frida, who one day learns that she is losing her eyesight. She decides to break out of her intimate surroundings. During a trip through Europe she meets a young journalist, Jacob, in Florence and with him begins a discovery of great art works for the first and possibly last time.
Bjørn Sortland’s books for children and adults have been awarded many prizes, among them the Prize from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture (1997) and the Sonja Hagemann Prize (2005). His novel for young adults, ’12 ting som må gjerast rett før verda går under’ (2001; Engl: Twelve Things that I must do before the World goes under), was nominated for the Brage Prize. Sortland lives with his family in Bergen.
Translator: Dagmar Mißfeldt
© international literature festival berlin