We are pleased to announce Ingeborg Arvola’s nomination to the Nordic Council Literature Prize for her riveting historical novel, The Knife in the Fire.
The novel is the first in the planned trilogy Songs from the Arctic Ocean / Ruijan rannalla. This is Ingeborg Arvola’s first nomination to the Nordic Council Literature Prize, the most distinguished honour amongst the nordic literary awards.
Ingeborg Arvola (b. 1974) made her debut as an author in 1999 and has since had a productive writing career. This fall saw her commercial breakthrough as The Knife in the Fire became an instant success with critics and audiences. The novel takes the reader back to 1859, to Northern Norway and Arvola’s own roots. Here, we meet the beautiful Brita Caisa, Arvola’s great-great-grandmother, as she emigrates from Finland with her two sons, after being shamed in church for having an extramarital affair. The destination of their journey is Bugøynes in Northern Norway, where the sea is said to be brimming with cod. The Knife in the Fire tells the story of Kven and Sami cultures, the hard worker’s life and community in the fishing villages in the north.
The Knife in the Fire published to rave reviews and massive media interest in August 2022. Since then the book has remained on the fiction bestseller lists for 29 consecutive weeks. It has been nominated for the Bookseller’s Award, the Norwegian Critic’s Award and the Youth Critic’s Award. It also won one of Norway’s most prestigious awards, the Brage Award in the category Best Work of Fiction. The nomination for the Nordic Council Literature Prize further speaks to the literary quality that sets this bestselling, historical novel apart.
The Knife in the Fire also marks Arvola’s international breakthrough. The Knife in the Fire has presently sold to 11 territories, many of which have acquired the rights in three-book deals sold on pre-empts or on auction.
Statement from the jury
Now and then critics and readers are in agreement, and one of the big success stories of 2022 is The Knife in the Fire. It’s easy to use words such as fantastic, epic and magical about Arvola’s novel, as it’s quite the story we as readers are thrown into. Yet, behind the main drama, Arvola has created a narrative voice that surprises, captivates and challenges. With skis on her feet and as the single parent to two children, Brita Caisa travels from Finland to Norway in 1859. Simultaneously as Arvola expands the journey to the Norwegian coast as an epic love story, she holds onto what characterises Brita Caisa: a belief in the supernatural and the knowledge of how to care for the sick and ailing. In this way, the novel is reminiscent of Mikael Niemi’s To Cook a Bear, with its close look at traditions and an open gaze towards knowledge.
It also strengthens the novel that the perspective always remains with Brita Caisa, and thereby on those who are often forgotten when the story of Norway is told. In The Knife in the Fire, Arvola gives a voice to those who were condemned for fornication and disciplined in church, those who lived nomadic lives and were forced to adjust to national laws and rules, the women who were left behind and had to get everything ready for when the men came back from the fishing season. This perspective does not only make the book original; it also makes the book resonate so well in a time with renewed interest for Sami culture and history.
Arvola also deserves praise for her composition of The Knife in the Fire. This is a novel that entertains without losing its literary qualities. With a steady dramaturgical hand, Arvola shows that also dramatic stories require a good narrative voice. She writes Brita Caisa to life with peculiar and supernatural observations, and a human stubbornness. It offers a different perspective on a part of Norway and a world that we thought we knew.
Our warmest congratulations to Ingeborg Arvola on this nomination, and to all other nominees. Click here to see the full list of nominees. The winner will be announced in October 2023.