Norwegian author Linn Ullmann has been busy promoting her new novel in Scandinavian media lately, and landed a spot on the popular talk-show Skavlan Friday night. Meanwhile, two of her earlier novels look set to be made into movies.
Ullmann, age 45, says she spent five years working on her fifth novel, called Det dyrebare in Norwegian (which translates as “The Precious” but will be called “The Cold Song” in English). It’s said to be an intense examination of “modern family life” that sounds dysfunctional at best and burdened with what one reviewer called a huge pile of family secrets and lies. The story involves murder, unfaithfulness, troubled teens and an aging grandmother who resumes drinking on her 75th birthday.
“I really worked hard on this book, it’s the most personal and ambitious I’ve done,” Ullmann told newspaper Dagbladet, where she once worked herself as a literary critic. Now she seems anxious to hear what the critics will say about her.
“I can tell that I’m getting nervous,” she told Dagbladet. “I have full control when I’m writing, then I decide everything. But now (once the book has been published), I don’t decide anything.”
Reviews have generally been positive and then comes news that two of her earlier books seem destined for the silver screen: Nåde (Grace) from 2002 and Et velsignet barn (A blessed child) from 2005. Ullmann told newspaper Aftenposten, where she also briefly worked as a commentator, that an American production company has bought the rights to Et velsignet barn and “a well-known female director” will make it into a film. A Danish production company bought the rights to Nåde. Ullmann didn’t name any names.
She certainly has connections to the film world, as the daughter of the late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann. She also has been on the jury of the Cannes International Film Festival. Linn Ullmann’s novels have been translated into a variety of languages but this seems to be the closest she’s come to breaking into the film business herself.
She didn’t talk much about any of that, though, when appearing on Skavlan Friday night. She instead appeared to be a fairly shrill, determined and opinionated woman who admitted to keeping a “black book” (as her father did) to list her enemies. She also stressed a compulsion for order in her life, and revealed that she has no driver’s license because she could never learn to drive a car.
Ullmann, who grew up in New York and graduated from New York University, has spent most of her adult life in Oslo, where she’s married to fellow Norwegian author Niels Fredrik Dahl. She has two children.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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