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.
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.
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.