Of Norwegian Ways, by Bent Vanberg, illustrated by Henning Jansen
This book is part of a series that is likely very entertaining, with books about Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Irish, Scottish, and Swedish ways, that seeks to inspire pride in Norwegian Americans and also encourage genealogical tourism to the home country. There are a few things about this book that stand out, and key among them is the fact that the author is not at all lacking in pride about his homeland. There is also something else noteworthy, and that is that the author is particularly proud of Norway but had dwelt in the United States for about twenty years before writing this book in 1970. This suggests that the author left Norway in the aftermath of World War II, a trauma that he discusses somewhat obliquely as evidence of the grim sense of humor that Norwegians are known for. Yet the author moved to the United States and stayed here, even as he appears to have never entirely lost his identity as a Norwegian, suggesting that he may have been among those postwar Europeans who wanted to see America become more European, a curse that has haunted our own political system ever since then.
That said, the contents of this book do not delve into really political topics, or at least they are handled in a way that does not seek to inflame the partisan feelings of its audience. The author looks at history, at the emigration from Norway to the United States starting in the 1800’s, at religion, education, the press, tradition, ceremonies, food (some of which looks very appetizing, and some of which does not), language, legend, and literature, art, music, sports, travel, tourism, and genealogy. In total, the book, including a few interesting appendices that include obsolete Norwegian standard measurements and some very intriguing proverbs (“Brent barn skyr ilden” – A burnt child avoids the fire, “Smuler er ogsa brod” – Crumbs are also bread, “En dare kan sporre mer en ti vise kan svare” – A fool may ask more questions than ten wise men can answer), is about 225 pages or so, easy to read and full of thoughtful material, even if this book was written more than a decade before I was born and is definitely not up-to-date.
Although this is a book designed for English speaking people of Norwegian descent, to inform them of their glorious background, give them ideas on how to spend their tourist dollars and research family history, the book may be profitably read by those with little or no Norwegian background who nonetheless find the country and its culture to be of interest, whether that means reflecting on famous Norwegians  or the legacy of a small but fierce nation able to preserve its culture despite centuries of domination by Denmark and Sweden and its own traumatic experiences in World War II. Even if the book’s statistics may be out of date, this book is a monument to the way that Norwegians appear to feel about their country, at least from my own experience, and that is reason enough to read this book if you are interested in Norway, its history, and its people, or if you happen to be descended from the proud Vikings. This book is full of intriguing information and more than a little dry humor and ethnic pride.
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