Tarjei Vesaas

1964 Tarjei Vesaas, Norway: Is-slottet

About the author

Photo: gyldendal.no

Tarjei Vesaas (1897 - 1970) - Norway

Tarjei Vesaas was a prolific and multifaceted writer who wrote works in many literary genres. He was a farmer’s son from the Telemark, made his debut in the 1920s and continued to write realistic rural portrayals. In time, he developed a poetic visionary vein and wrote several symbolic and allegoric works, permeated by secretive chiaroscuro. He wrote in Norwegian Nynorsk.

About the winning piece

Is-slottet (The Ice Palace)

Published by: The publishing house Gyldendal Norsk Forlag
Publication year: 1963

The Ice Palace is a novel with two 11-year-old girls as the protagonists: extrovert Siss and quiet, introvert Unn. The day after a meeting of the girls at which Unn revealed that she is carrying a dark secret, Unn travels to the ice palace. This is a huge ice formation which builds up at a waterfall in winter-time. As it turns out to be made up of several ice rooms, she walks into the palace. Unn is enthralled by the beauty of the rooms, but in the seventh room she loses her way and cannot find her way out. She freezes to death with Siss’s name on her lips. The novel concludes with the story of Siss’s life and her reaction to Unn’s death. Siss now becomes the quiet and lonely one. She goes into an inner ice palace until she is finally redeemed and can move on into adulthood with a profound insight.

This is what the Adjudicating Committee had to say

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 1964 is awarded to Tarjei Vesaas for his novel The Ice Palace, rooted in the Nordic winter nature, which in a sensitive style, forms spiritual realities into a compelling vision of human loneliness and search for community.


Eit brak i isen einstad. Det rende bortover is-slettene og vart liksom borte i eit hol. Den tjuknande isen leika at han sprang sund i milevis. Siss sette i eit hopp ved braket.
Ute av likevekt. Hadde ikkje hatt noko trygt å byrje tilbake-turen med gjennom mørkret. Ingen stø fot å setje i vegen – slik ho hadde då ho sett til sprangs dermed var det gjort. I det same var ho prisgjeven det ukjende, det som i slike kveldar er bak ryggen.
Fullt av det ukjende.
Samværet med Unn hadde jaga henne opp – og endå meir etter ho hadde sagt farvel og komi ut. Alt med dei første sprang-liknande stega vart ho redd, og det auka som eit ras. Ho var i hendene på dette ved sidene av vegen.
Mørkret på sidene av vegen. Det har ikkje form og ikkje namn, men den som ferdast her kjenner med det kjem fram og fylgjer etter og får det til å gå som rislande bekker etter ryggen.
Siss var midt i det. Skjøna ingen ting av det. Var mørkredd.
Eg er heime snart!

(s. 28-29, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1971)

A noise somewhere down in the ice. It ran along the flat expanse and seemed to disappear into a hole. The thickening ice was playing at making mile-long cracks. Siss jumped at the sound.
Out of balance. She had not had anything safe with which to set out on the return journey through the darkness, no firm footsteps striding along the road, as she had when she walked to Unn. Thoughtlessly she had started running, and the damage was done. At once she had been abandoned to the unknown, who walks behind one’s back on such evenings.
Full of the unknown.
Being with Unn had made her over-excited – even more so after she had said good-bye and left. She had been afraid when she took the first steps, half-running, and her fear had increased like an avalanche. She was in the hands of whatever it was at the sides of the road.
The darkness at the sides of the road. It possesses neither form nor name, but whoever passes here knows when it comes out and follows after and sens shudders like rippling streams down his back.
Siss was in the middle of it, understanding nothing, simply afraid of the dark.
I’ll be home soon!

(p. 32-33, The Ice Palace, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, Peter Owen Limited, 1966)

See all nominated in 1964  


  • Leif Panduro - Fern fra Danmark
  • Tove Ditlevsen - Den onde lykke


  • Veijo Meri - Sujut
  • Eeva-Liisa Manner - Lekar för enslingar


  • Hannes Pétursson -  Stund og staðir


  • Tarjei Vesaas - Isslottet
  • Finn Alnæs - Koloss


  • Sivar Arnér - Tvärbalk
  • Sven Fagerberg - Svärdfäktarna