Funeral services were being held in Oslo on Monday for one of Norway’s most cherished authors and entertainers. Anne-Cath Vestly, who wrote popular stories for children, died just before the Christmas holidays at an age of 89.
Vestly was best known for her series about a grandmother who looked after and shared numerous adventures with a flock of eight children (Mormor og de aatte ungene). She also wrote a series of books about a little boy in Oslo named Ole Aleksander Filibom-bom-bom and she created a host of famous Norwegian characters like the stick figure Knerten.
Vestly, married to the late artist Johan Vestly who illustrated her books, also was a fixture on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) for years and the voice of the children’s radio show known as Barnetimen. She performed regularly with folk singer Alf Prøysen and had leading roles in a wide range of television comedies and films.
“We’re all very sad, but at the same time grateful that we had the privilege of being her publisher,” Eva Thesen, an editor at publishing firm Gyldendal, told newspaper Aftenposten. “She really was one of Norway’s greats.”
Vestly also was known for stirring controversy, such as when she told her young audience on national radio in the 1950s where babies come from. In the 1960s she sparked an outcry when she wrote that the father of one of her characters was the homemaker in the family. Male listeners weren’t pleased, but most of the criticism came from other women who felt sorry for a man who had to push a baby carriage. Åsleik Engmark, who is directing a film about Knerten scheduled for release later this year, called Vestly “one of the last century’s most important authors, not just for children but also for adults.” Nearly all Norwegians growing up in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s have nearly a personal relationship with Vestly, and her popularity continues with new generations.
“Her voice will always exist in my own subconscious,” Engmark said.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund