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Lectures & Literary Lectures & Literary Programs

For reservations, call 212.847.9740 or email

Upcoming Lectures & Literary Programs

The Immigrant and the University:
Peder Sather and Gold Rush California
Book Talk with Karin Sveen

Monday, October 27, 6:30 pm

Norwegian writer Karin Sveen, author of The Immigrant and the University: Peder Sather and Gold Rush California (University of California Press, 2014), tells the story of a poor Norwegian farm boy who achieves the American dream: Peder Sather was living on a farm in a remote corner of Norway when he immigrated to the U.S. in 1832 and made a large fortune that he then used to found the University of California, Berkeley.

The Immigrant and the University: 
Peder Sather and Gold Rush California
Book Talk with Karin Sveen

The Immigrant and the University will be available for signing and purchase after the program.

About Peder Sather
and the book

Peder Sather was a scribe before he emigrated from Norway to New York in 1832. There, he worked as a servant and a clerk at a lottery office before opening an exchange brokerage. During the gold rush, he moved to San Francisco to help establish the banking house of Drexel, Sather & Church on Montgomery Street. Sather was a founder and a liberal benefactor of the University of California, Berkeley, where he is memorialized by the Sather Gate and Sather Tower (the Campanile), three endowed professorships, and more recently the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study.

The book offers readers a look at the life of a successful entrepreneur and a leading patron of California who engaged in all levels of public education; supported Abraham Lincoln; and worked to give emancipated slaves housing, schooling, and employment after the Civil War. Sather’s legacy, vivid persona, and the frontier city of his time are brought to life with interesting anecdotes of many famous people – General William T. Sherman, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, and above all, his close friend Anthony J. Drexel, legendary Philadelphia financier and one of the founders of Wall Street.

About the author

Karin Sveen is a Norwegian poet, novelist, and essayist. She was awarded the Norsk språkpris (Norwegian Language Prize) in 2007.

Supported in part by NORLA – Norwegian Literature Abroad: Fiction & Non-Fiction and Norwegian House Foundation.

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New Developments in the Arctic
The Sønsteby/Whist Lecture by Dr. Olav Orheim

Tuesday, October 28, 6 pm
Free, but reservations are required | Please call 212.847.9725 for seat availability

New Developments in the Arctic
The Sønsteby/Whist Lecture by Dr. Olav OrheimThe past two years have seen the Arctic scene changing at an accelerating rate. Renowned polar expert Dr. Olav Orheim will examine new developments – political, climate, and transportation – occurring in the far north. Several countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, became observers to the Arctic Council in May 2013, indicating a significant increase in political attention in Asia on what is happening in the Arctic. The European Union also wants in on the action. One reason for increased interest could be that in September 2012 the ice in the Arctic Ocean had a minimum extent far below any previous record – opening new ice-free sailing routes. Other reasons could be related to resources, and a wish to be present on a scene of new political developments.

This lecture is presented as a tribute to the memory of Norwegian Resistance hero and 2001 ASF Cultural Award Winner Gunnar Sønsteby.

About Dr. Olav Orheim

Dr. Olav Orheim is a distinguished Norwegian polar expert, who has been deeply involved in Arctic affairs from the Cold War period to the present. His career includes Professor at University of Bergen and Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute from 1993 to 2005. From 2005 to 2012, Orheim was in charge of International Polar Year activities at the Research Council of Norway.

About Gunnar Sønsteby

As the chief of operations in the Norwegian Resistance Movement during the German occupation in Norway during World War II, Gunnar Sønsteby (1918–2012) – also known as "Kjakan" ("The Chin") and "No. 24" – saved countless lives and went on to become his country’s most highly decorated citizen. Following the war, he lived and studied in the United States before returning to Norway in 1955. His book, Report from No. 24, chronicling his wartime activities, was published in 1960.

Sønsteby’s visionary support helped to establish Norway’s Resistance Museum in Oslo, which ensures that his and future generations will remember the struggle the Norwegians fought on their own soil during a time of foreign occupation. He spent many years giving lectures at schools, universities, civic organizations, and cultural institutions around the world, including more than 200 lectures in the U.S.

The governments of Great Britain and the United States decorated him; in 2008, he became the first non-American to receive the Special Operations Medal. He was awarded the ASF Cultural Award in 2001 "in recognition of his efforts to advance the understanding and appreciation in the United States of the challenges confronted and resistance efforts undertaken by the Norwegian people in World War II."

The lecture has been made possible by the Sønsteby/Whist Fund of The American-Scandinavian Foundation, which was established in 1998 by then-ASF Trustee Andrew Whist in honor of Mr. Sønsteby.

Helsinki Noir Book Launch & PanelHelsinki Noir Book Launch & Panel

Tuesday, November 11, 6:30 pm

In recognition of Helsinki Noir’s debut, book contributors Leena Lehtolainen and Riikka Ala-Harja sit down for a conversation on the state of Finnish crime fiction, moderated by Brooklyn Noir editor Tim McLoughlin.

The excitement around Scandinavian crime fiction coming in the wake of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has focused largely on Sweden, but Finland – as poignantly revealed in Helsinki Noir (Akashic Books, 2014) – is equally strong in the noir department. Helsinki Noir joins Copenhagen Noir in representing the Akashic Noir Series in the far north of Europe.

The book features brand-new stories by Leena Lehtolainen, Johanna Holmström, James Thompson, Antti Tuomainen, Jesse Itkonen, Joe L. Murr, Jukka Petäjä, Tapani Bagge, Pekka Hiltunen, Teemu Käskinen, Tuomas Lius, Riikka Ala-Harja, Karo Hämäläinen, and Jarkko Sipilä.

About the participants
Helsinki Noir Book Launch & Panel Participants

Riikka Ala-Harja (b. 1967) is a Finnish author and playwright. She has published two children’s books and six novels; Hole/Reikä (2013) was her first collection of short stories. The Landing/Maihinnousu (2012) was also published in Estonia and is the second of her novels to be nominated for the Finlandia, Finland’s greatest literary prize – the first being her prose debut Tom Tom Tom (1998). Ala-Harja lives in Helsinki.

Leena Lehtolainen (b. 1964) is the most successful female crime author in Finland; her titles consistently top the country’s best-seller lists and her best-known character is the tough, down-to-earth, and emotionally intelligent police officer Maria Kallio. More than two million copies of Lehtolainen’s books have been sold worldwide and her works have been translated into 29 languages. The author also works as a literary researcher, columnist, and critic.

Tim McLoughlin is the editor of the multiple award-winning anthology Brooklyn Noir (Akashic Books, 2004), Brooklyn Noir 2: The Classics (Akashic Books, 2005), and is the co-editor of Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing but the Truth (Akashic Books, 2008). His debut novel Heart of the Old Country was the 2003 recipient of Italy’s Premio Penne Award and was the basis of the feature film The Narrows (2008), starring Vincent D’onofrio. McLoughlin’s short fiction and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, and his work has been included in The Best American Mystery Stories (Mariner Books, 2005). He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Special thanks to Akashic Books and FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange.

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Music & Literature
with Kaija Saariaho

Thursday, November 20, 8 pm
$25 ($20 ASF Members)

Marking the U.S. launch of the international arts publication Music & Literature Magazine, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho presents a concert with musical guests Camilla Hoitenga, Aliisa Barrière, and others devoted to exploring and celebrating her expansive career, accompanied by readings from Taylor Davis-Van Atta, publisher of Music & Literature Magazine.

Co-presented by Music & Literature Magazine and in collaboration with the Consulate General of Finland in New York and the Royal Norwegian Consulate General, New York.

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See Music & Literature with Kaija Saariaho in CONCERTS section.

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Exhibitions Exhibition-related Lectures

Beneath the Ice: Contemporary Icelandic Poetry

Thursday, January 8, 2015, 6:30 pm
Free | #IcelandArt

Despite its remote location and small population, Iceland has an extremely vibrant contemporary poetry scene. Through conversation and performance editor Helen Mitsios and translator Sola Bjarnadóttir-O’Connell will introduce four of the country’s most celebrated contemporary writers: poets Einar Már Guðmundsson, Didda Jónsdóttir, Gerður Kristný, and poet/song-writer Megas.

About the participants
Beneath the Ice: Contemporary Icelandic Poetry

Sola Bjarnadóttir-O’Connell is a translator and the recipient of The American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Leif and Inger Sjöberg Translation Award (2013) for her translation of selected poems by Icelandic poet Gyrðir Elíasson. A native Icelander who has lived in New York for the past 30 years, Bjarnadóttir-O’Connell is pursuing a lifelong interest in bringing Icelandic poetry and literature to an English speaking audience. She is the translator of the forthcoming collection of contemporary Icelandic poetry Beneath the Ice: Contemporary Icelandic Poetry (Talisman House, Publishers, 2014).

Einar Már Guðmundsson (b. 1954, Reykjavík) is an award winning and widely translated Icelandic author of novels, short stories, and poetry. He received his B.A. in Comparative Literature and History from the University of Iceland in 1979, after which he moved to Copenhagen for graduate work in Comparative Literature at the University in Copenhagen. A leading voice of neorealism, his poetic diction is a bold attempt to make slang and foreign loan words legal tender in poetry, and to draw images from everyday life.

Guðmundsson’s first collection of poetry Is Anyone Here Wearing the Korona Line?/Er nokkur í kórónfötum hér inni? was published in 1980 (Gallerí Suðurgata 7). In 1985 he received first prize in a literary competition held by Almenna Bókafélagið, Book Publishers and Book Club, for the novel The Knights of the Spiral Staircase/Riddarar hringstigans (Almenna bókafélagið, 1982). The highly acclaimed novel Angels of the Universe/Englar alheimsins (Mare’s Nest, 1995) received the Nordic Council’s Literary Prize in 1995. Director Friðrik Þór Friðriksson’s film based on the book premiered in Reykjavík in 2000. In 2012 Guðmundsson was awarded the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize.

Didda Jónsdóttir (b. 1964, Selfoss) published her first book, the poetry collection A Gathering of Sins and Loose Screws/Lastafans og lausar skrúfur, in 1995 (Forlagið). She has since published two novels – Erta (Forlagið, 1997) and The Gold in the Head/Gullið í höfðinu (Forlagið, 1999). Jónsdóttir also starred in Stormy Weather by French/Icelandic director Sólveig Anspach, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, and received the Icelandic Edda Film Award for Best Actress for her role in the film. Jónsdóttir worked with Anspach again, starring in the director’s 2008 film Back Soon/Skrapp út, which screened at Scandinavia House in 2009.

Gerður Kristný (b. 1970, Reykjavík) has published poetry, short stories, novels, and books for children. She graduated with a degree in French and Comparative Literature from the University of Iceland in 1992. After a course in Media Studies at the University of Iceland from 1992-93, she trained at Denmark’s Radio TV. Kristný was editor of the magazine Mannlif from 1998-2004 and now is full-time writer.

Among her numerous awards are the Children's Choice Book Prize in 2003 for her book Smart Marta/Marta Smarta (Mál og menning, 2002), the Halldór Laxness Literary Award in 2004 for her novel A Boat With a Sail and All/Bátur með segil og allt (Mál og menning, 2004), and the West-Nordic Children's Literature Prize in 2010 for the novel The Garden/Garðurinn (Mál og menning, 2008). Kristný’s collection of poetry A Weak Spot/Höggstaður (Mál og menning, 2007) was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize in 2007; she later won the prize in 2010 for her book of poetry Blood-Hoof/Blóðhófnir (Mál og menning, 2010), which is based on the myth about Freyr and the poet’s namesake Gerður Gymisdóttir from the Eddic poem Skírnimál.

Megas (Magnús Þór Jónsson) (b. 1945, Reykjavík) is one of Iceland’s most prolific and controversial artists and has been active since the 1970s. A poet, songwriter, and performer, he is widely considered the father of Icelandic rock and roll. His inclusion in Beneath the Ice: Contemporary Icelandic Poetry (Talisman House, Publishers, 2014) is the first time he has permitted his poems to be translated and published in English.

Helen Mitsios is the editor of the forthcoming book Beneath the Ice: Contemporary Icelandic Poetry (Talisman House, Publishers, 2014). She is the editor of Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best 21st Century Short Stories from Japan (Cheng & Tsui, 2011) and New Japanese Voices: The Best Contemporary Fiction from Japan (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2003), which was listed as a New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Selection and New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Mitsios has contributed to publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post’s Book World.

Supported in part by the Icelandic Literature Center.

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See also ICELAND: Artists Respond to Place in EXHIBITIONS section.

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