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Marta Oulie

Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal

Introduction by Jane Smiley
Translated by Tiina Nunnally
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Marta Oulie
    Book Description:

    "I have been unfaithful to my husband."Marta Oulie's opening line scandalized Norwegian readers in 1907. And yet, Sigrid Undset had a gift for depicting modern women "sympathetically but with merciless truthfulness," as the Swedish Academy noted in awarding her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. At the time she was one of the youngest recipients and only the third woman so honored. It was Undset's honest story of a young woman's love life-"the immoral kind," as she herself bluntly put it-that made her first novel an instant sensation in Norway.

    Marta Oulie, written in the form of a diary, intimately documents the inner life of a young woman disappointed and constrained by the conventions of marriage as she longs for an all-consuming passion. Set in Kristiania (now Oslo) at the beginning of the twentieth century, Undset's book is an incomparable psychological portrait of a woman whose destiny is defined by the changing mores of her day-as she descends, inevitably, into an ever-darker reckoning. Remarkably, though Undset's other works have attracted generations of readers,Marta Ouliehas never before appeared in English translation. Tiina Nunnally, whose award-winning translation of Undset'sKristin Lavransdattercaptured the author's beautifully clear style, conveys the voice of Marta Oulie with all the stark poignancy of the original Norwegian.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4240-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
    Jane Smiley

    When she began her debut novella,Fru Marta Oulie,in the summer of 1906, Sigrid Undset had just turned twenty-four. She had submitted a previous historical work to a prominent publisher in Denmark and been rejected, so she took up a subject that was very current: how women are to arrange their lives, how they should think of themselves, and how their inner lives, both intellectual and emotional, should fit into their existence. Marta Oulie is a married woman in her thirties with four children who has been unfaithful to her husband with her cousin. She narrates her story as...

  4. Part I
    (pp. 3-82)

    I write that down and sit and stare at the words, which fill my thoughts. The same way I once wrote Otto’s name and stared at it:Otto Oulie, Otto Oulie, Otto Oulie.

    Otto’s letters arrive as precisely as Thursday and Saturday arrive. He’s in good spirits and writes that things are progressing well. After I read them, I’m always left with the same feeling of disappointment. They’re so impersonal, even though he almost always writes about the children and our home, and then a little about life up there in the sanitarium. But he might as well be talking...

  5. Part II
    (pp. 83-96)

    I’ve been sitting here, paging through what I wrote last summer. Only four months ago, but it feels as if it were at least four years. Back then I was so certain that everything would work out.

    In some ways the autumn has flown by faster than any period in my life, from one Sunday to the next, without my being aware of where the days have gone. I thought the school year had just started, and then Halfred said one day, “Mamma, today it’s only three weeks until Christmas Eve.”

    Einar and Halfred were very quiet on Christmas Eve...

  6. Part III
    (pp. 97-113)

    What sort of person am I, actually? I thought I was kind and clever. I committed a great sin, but I suppose I believed that it happened without any of the blame being rightfully mine.

    Now it looks to me as if I’ve been more blind and uncomprehending than anyone else. I don’t know anybody whose life has fallen apart as drastically as mine has. And surely that has to be the result of some fault inside me.

    When I look around the room and see the children as they lie sleeping, I think about what disappointments I’m going to...

  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 114-114)