O Canada! … A Norwegian writer takes on our country’s features & foibles

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Gerd Bjørhovde (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
“(Canada) is a country and a culture that we have a lot in common with in Norway and that people should know more about,” says Norwegian writer Gerd Bjørhovde. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
Norwegian writer and retired literature professor Gerd Bjørhovde has always had a thing for Canada.

And there is only one person to blame for it, she says;  Canadian author Margaret Laurence.

“I was so fascinated with her writing,” Bjørhovde says.

“She is a wonderful storyteller for one thing. But it was also her interest in identity – I’m thinking of the novel The Diviners which, among many other things, is about Métis identity and the many ethnic backgrounds that people in Canada may have, and I felt that was fascinating.”

The discovery of Laurence’s work led Bjørhovde to a life-long fascination with Canada and Canadian literature.

The bookshelves of her home in the Arctic Norwegian city of Tromsø heave with Canadian literature ranging from Anne of Green Gables in Norwegian to English editions of books by Margaret Atwood and Emily Carr.

Norwegian-Canadian connections

Bjørhovde has now decided to turn her passion into a book project that explains Canada to Norwegians, encompassing everything from literature and politics to history and culture. Its publication is planned for 2017 to coincide with Canada’s 150th brithday.

“I really want to draw the attention of Norwegians to what Canada has to offer,” she says.

“We know so much more about the United States. (Norwegians) tend to think of Canada as just the same as the USA which really I felt was not right.

“(Canada) is a country and a culture that we have a lot in common with in Norway and that people should know more about.”

Feature Interview
To find out more, Eye on the Arctic spoke with Norwegian writer Gerd Bjørhovde about Canadian culture, writing and the three Canadian authors she’d recommend to Norwegians who want to better understand Canada:

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Re-reading the landscape – The importance of northern books, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: Denmark knights Arctic Canadian historian, Radio Canada International

Greenland:  Canadian artist explores Greenland’s past, Eye on the Arctic

Norway:  History revealed by WW2 wrecks in Norway’s Arctic fjords, Barents Observer

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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