Norvik Press is thrilled to announce the publication of its English translation of Johan Borgen’s Norwegian classic Little Lord.
Johan Borgen’s Little Lord is the story of the adolescent Wilfred Sagen, nicknamed Lillelord (Little Lord) by his mother, who is growing up in Kristiania, later to become Oslo, in the years just before the first World War. The novel focuses on a period of about 18 months, from early 1912 to autumn 1913, when Wilfred is 14-15 years old, although there are many flashbacks to his earlier life. He is a precocious only child, the darling of the family, intellectually far ahead of his class, a gifted piano player and sophisticated art lover. Yet behind this polished façade there is another Wilfred, an adventurer who seeks out risk, who steals out of the house at night and roams the streets of Kristiania, the leader of a band of boys who steal, capable of violence and of arson. As time goes on it becomes increasingly difficult for him to keep the two sides of his personality distinct, and he eventually has a breakdown, which leaves him incapable of speech, literally silences him. He is taken to Vienna to see a psychiatrist – whose name is not mentioned, but who bears a striking resemblance to Freud – and is seemingly cured, though the psychiatrist warns him that his neurosis needs long-term therapy if he is to be properly healed. Wilfred returns to his old double life, but his desperation is only repressed, not resolved, and eventually the past catches up with him and he runs out of places to hide.
Borgen’s novel is a Bildungsroman, a study of a young boy growing up and his intellectual, emotional and sexual initiation into adulthood. It is a study of psychosis, and a portrait of the artist as a young man. It is a city novel; the reader can follow Wilfred’s excursions around the map of Kristiania/Oslo from the comforts of his upper-middle-class home on Drammensveien, across the bay by ferry to the pastoral idyll of Bygdøy, by tram to the east-end poverty of Grünerløkken or in Uncle Martin’s automobile up to the open-air display ground in Etterstad. It is also a cultural and historical study of a whole society, one on the brink of a devastating upheaval which will change the lives of all its members irrevocably.
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