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

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

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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