Vigdis Hjorth

Portrait Vigdis Hjorth
Vigdis Hjorth [© Agnete Brun]

Vigdis Hjorth was born in Oslo in 1959. She studied philosophy, literature, and political science. She received the debutant prize of the Norwegian Department of Culture in 1983 for her debut children’s book »Pelle-Ragnar i den gule garden« [tr: Pelle-Ragnar in the Yellow House]. This was followed by four further children’s and young adult books that focus on love and sexuality. Hjorth has been praised by critics for her ability to approach issues from a child’s perspective without moral judgment. For example, the 2011 film »Jørgen + Anne er sant« [1984; tr: Jørgen + Anne = True] is about a ten-year-old, self-confident girl who often snubs her people with her headstrong behavior until she falls in love for the first time.

In 1986, Hjorth published »Gjennom skogen« [tr: Through the Forest], her first novel for an older audience, which is about a young woman exploring her sexuality. Combined with »Drama med Hilde« [1987; tr: Drama Surrounding Hilde], these novels allowed Hjorth to break through as an author of adult literature. Since then, she has published nearly thirty works that deal primarily with the existential problems faced by mankind. She cites Dag Solstad, Bertolt Brecht, and Thomas Bernhard as her literary models. »Om bare« [2001; tr: If Only] is considered to be her most significant novel. In »Hjulskift« [2007; tr: Tire Change], the author humorously follows the story of the relationship between an academic and a car salesman to reflect the problems of gender roles and class differences. In »Tredve dager i Sandefjord« [2011; tr: Thirty Days in Sandefjord], Hjorth describes her own experience in prison after a traffic offense. »Et norsk hus« [2014; Eng. »A House in Norway«, 2017] tells of a misanthrope who is pushed to her limits in her secluded retreat in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. »Arv og miljø« [2016; Eng. »Will and Testament«, 2016] is about a well-known playwright who survived her father’s sexual abuse as a child. In the novel, her trauma eventually escalates into a conflict with her siblings. The book sparked a debate in Norway after Hjorth’s relatives claimed it was autobiographical and felt it exposed them. It was also one of the most discussed books at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019. Hjorth’s latest novel »Er mor død« [2020; tr: Is Mother Dead] takes up family issues once again and deals with a traumatic mother-daughter relationship.

Hjorth is known in Norway for her essays, in which she calls out and criticizes racist behavior and sexism in everyday life. She has received numerous awards, including the Cappelen, Aschehoug, Dobloug, and Gyldendal awards. Her novel »Leve posthornet!« [2012; Eng. »Long Live the Post Horn!«, 2020] was chosen by »The New Yorker« as one of the 14 best books of the year.

After long stays in Copenhagen, Bergen, Switzerland, and France, the author now lives in Asker, Norway.

Date: 2022