The 2023 Bjørnsonprisen (Bjørnson Prize) has been awarded to the Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad for the power of her writing, and for bringing important social issues into the public arena.
Åsne Seierstad has written a number of critically acclaimed books. The Bookseller of Kabul spent over a year on the bestseller lists of the New York Times in the US and the Sunday Times in the UK. One of Us was named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times in 2015. Two Sisters from 2016, has sold over 200,000 copies in Norway alone. Afghanerne (The Afghans), which came out in 2022, was nominated for the Brage prize for best non-fiction book and is soon to be launched to the world market.
The jury’s decision
The 2023 Bjørnsonprisen (Bjørnson Prize) has been awarded to the Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad for the power of her writing, and for bringing important social issues into the public arena. Shortly after her debut as a non-fiction writer in 2000 she travelled to Afghanistan where, as the first Norwegian journalist at the front, she delivered daily news to the entire Nordic region. Shortly after she published her second book The Bookseller of Kabul which in addition to becoming one of Norwegian literature’s biggest sales successes also changed Norwegian non-fiction through the discussions it provoked.
Not least amongst these discussions was the question of Seierstad’s method of writing: Where are the boundaries between fiction and fact? What can she really know about the people she writes about? What is true and what is not?
Seierstad has since published several books that have influenced both the Norwegian and international public. In the book Two Sisters, she documents the rise of radicalization in Norway and again shows how the major conflicts in the world also impact a single family. One of Us is a thorough study of the terrorist attack in Norway in 2011. With last year’s publication Afghanerne, she is back where her international writing really began, in a country which, since the invasion in 2001, has been a periodically overlooked arena for big politics, with a similarly forgotten people.
Over the years, Åsne Seierstad’s books have facilitated a breaking of the silence regarding some of the most important questions of our time. In this way, she has continued on the path she herself cleared more than twenty years ago. Always debated, and always relevant.
In the Bjørnson seminar we will discuss relevant topics in the works of this year’s winner of the Bjørnson Prize, the Norwegian writer Åsne Seierstad.
Panel discussion: Åsne’s method
Åsne Seierstad has developed a distinctive narrative style that has changed Norwegian non-fiction. She has authored books that have reached out to a large global audience, whilst also being the subject of debate themselves: Where are the boundaries between fiction and fact? What can she really know about the people she writes about? What is true and what is not? With the awarding of the Bjørnson prize to Seierstad, we have assembled a Scandinavian panel to discuss what she has achieved through her way of writing and what are the associated pitfalls.
In the panel: The Swedish critic and journalist Stig Hansén, the Norwegian author, colleague and critic Morten Strøksnes and from Denmark Rikke Hyldgaard, journalist, author and lecturer in narrative journalism. The conversation is led by author, former non-fiction editor and jury member for the Bjørnson prize, Birger Emanuelsen.
Festsalen, Thursday at 10.00-10.50
Panel discussion: Taliban violence in Afghanistan
“This is a book about the Afghans – by three of them – it is about how their country has shaped them, but also about how they themselves have tried to pull the country in their chosen direction.” Seierstad writes in Afghanerne.
What is the situation in Afghanistan two years after the Western withdrawal and the Taliban’s retaking of power? How is the country governed, what has happened to the opposition and how has life changed for ordinary people, especially for young women?
And how do we get our knowledge, we ask the panel, which is composed of Åsne Seierstad herself, the Danish-Afghan war correspondent and filmmaker Nagieb Khaja and one of Norway’s most renowned Afghanistan experts, professor at PRIO, Kristian Berg Harpviken. The conversation is led by political scientist and terrorism researcher Laila Bokhari.
Festsalen, Thursday at 12.00-12.50
The Bjørnson lecture
Åsne Seierstad gives the Bjørnson lecture.
Festsalen, Thursday at 14.00-14.50
The Bjørnson discussion
Meet Åsne Seierstad in conversation with critic and author Bernhard Ellefsen.
Festsalen, Thursday at 16.00-16.50