Scandinavian literature has gained worldwide recognition for its captivating storytelling and unique style. From crime fiction to social commentary, the novels coming out of Scandinavia in the 20th and 21st centuries have a lot to offer readers from all over the world. Here are some of the best Scandinavian novels of the 20th and 21st centuries.
- “Out Stealing Horses” by Per Petterson (Norway) – This beautifully written novel tells the story of a man looking back on his life as he moves to a remote cabin in the woods. Through his memories, we learn about his youth, his relationships, and the events that shaped him into the person he is today. “Out Stealing Horses” was awarded the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2003 and has been translated into several languages.
- “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Høeg (Denmark) – This gripping thriller follows the story of Smilla Jaspersen, a half-Inuit, half-Danish woman who investigates the death of a young boy. The book is set in Copenhagen and Greenland and explores themes of identity, belonging, and the power of the natural world.
- “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai (Sweden) – This novel is set in the late 20th century and follows the lives of two characters – a retired judge living in the Himalayan mountains and his granddaughter who is studying in the United States. Through their experiences, the book explores themes of identity, belonging, and the impact of globalization.
- “The Quiet Girl” by Peter Hoeg (Denmark) – This haunting novel tells the story of a young girl who has the ability to see the world in a different way. Through her interactions with the people around her, we learn about the power of the human mind and the ways in which our perceptions shape our reality.
- “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun (1890) – This semi-autobiographical novel is considered a classic of modern literature and follows the story of a young writer struggling to survive in the streets of Christiania (now Oslo). The novel is known for its innovative style and its portrayal of the human condition.
- “Gift” by Jon Fosse (1997) – This minimalist novel is considered one of the most important works of contemporary Norwegian literature. It is a fragmented, non-linear narrative that explores themes of memory, loss, and identity.
- “The Wild Duck” by Henrik Ibsen (1884) – This play is considered one of Ibsen’s masterpieces and is a powerful commentary on society and the human condition. It tells the story of a family whose lives are shattered by a dark secret and is considered a classic of modern theater.
- “The Death of Kings” by Bernard Cornwell (1997) – This historical novel is set in medieval Norway and follows the story of a young warrior named Uhtred who must navigate the treacherous political landscape of 9th-century Scandinavia. The novel is known for its rich historical detail and its fast-paced, action-packed narrative.
- “Under the North Star” by Väinö Linna (1959) – This epic historical novel tells the story of Finland from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, and is considered one of the greatest Finnish novels of all time. The novel is known for its vivid descriptions of rural life in Finland and its portrayal of the political and social struggles of the era.
- “The Year of the Hare” by Arto Paasilinna (1975) – This absurdist novel is a classic of Finnish literature and tells the story of a journalist who abandons city life to embark on a journey through the Finnish wilderness with a hare as his companion. The novel is known for its wit and humor, and its exploration of the human condition.
- “The Barber of Könönen” by Pentti Haanpää (1961) – This novel is set in a small Finnish village in the early 20th century and follows the story of the town’s barber as he tries to come to terms with the changes that are transforming his world. The novel is known for its portrayal of rural life in Finland and its exploration of the impact of modernization on traditional ways of life.
- “The Heart of the Bear” by Sofi Oksanen (2010) – This novel is set in Estonia during the Soviet occupation and tells the story of two women who are forced to confront the past in order to come to terms with the present. The novel is known for its powerful portrayal of the effects of war and oppression on women’s lives, and its exploration of the themes of love, identity, and family.
- “Barbaren” by Peter Høeg (1992) – This novel is a classic of modern Danish literature and tells the story of a young woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in the Danish countryside. The novel is known for its rich descriptions of the Danish landscape, its exploration of the themes of identity and belonging, and its innovative narrative style.
- “The Girl with the Red Scarf” by Martin Andersen Nexø (1918) – This novel is a classic of Danish working-class literature and tells the story of a young girl who grows up in poverty and struggles to survive in the slums of Copenhagen. The novel is known for its powerful portrayal of poverty and its exploration of the themes of love, friendship, and social justice.
- “Denmark, My Denmark” by Henrik Stangerup (1976) – This novel is a powerful meditation on the Danish national identity and explores the cultural and political forces that have shaped Denmark over the course of the 20th century. The novel is known for its insightful commentary on Danish society and its exploration of the themes of national identity, history, and memory.
- “The Road to Jerusalem” by Jan Guillou (1998) – This historical novel is set in the 17th century and tells the story of a young man who sets out on a journey to find a new life in the New World. The novel is known for its rich historical detail and its exploration of the themes of adventure, identity, and the search for meaning.
These are just a few of the many fantastic Scandinavian novels that have been published over the last century. Pick one up today and discover the magic of Scandinavian literature for yourself.