The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas is one of the most beautifully haunting novels you will ever read.

The Birds is set in Norway and tells the story of Mattis and his doomed attempts to make sense of the world. Mattis is a young man with learning difficulties who lives with his older sister, Hege. He tries to become more autonomous, but finds instead that despite (or perhaps because of) his attempts his daily life becomes all the more chaotic and complex.

The best translation of this novel is the one by Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes. They have somehow managed to retain and convey all of the spaciousness, the calm delicacy, and the almost mesmeric qualities of Vesaas’s writing style.

Tarjei Vesaas

Tarjei Vesaas

The back cover blurb of their edition, published by Peter Owen, states that it is: ‘One of Vesaas’s most important novels… The author reveals a deep and compassionate insight into human nature and a lyrical response to the Norwegian landscape.’

The Birds is a delicately told, moving and deeply emotional story. It is most definitely worth reading.

Matthew’s Days (Żywot Mateusza) is a 1968 Polish drama film directed by Witold Leszczyński. The film is based on Tarjei Vesaas’ novel The Birds.




The Birds
by Tarjei Vesaas


Translated by Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes
Published by Peter Owen
ISBN: 0-7206-0952-6


(c) R J Dent (2014)



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3 Responses to “The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas”

  1. Lessie Says:

    Er… the book’s pretty clear on the fact that Mattis is in his late thirties.

  2. Debbie Priest Says:

    Thank You. This is a very good blog about a great story. I think Vesaas really gets into the mind of the male character in a convincing way. I found him very believable. Unfortunately, I found the female character believable too… and she was very unsympathetic towards someone with obvious disabilities. Good message…

  3. peter Says:

    Hege was dealing with her own situation of abandonment [parents dead] and having to generate income by knitting jerseys as Mattis is incapable of even the most menial of tasks i.e., weeding turnip rows. Mattis whilst in his 40s is inversely the mental age of a pre-pubescent child, and very demanding. But, through the difficulty of his situation [which is made wonderfully complex by the writer], he makes the ultimate sacrifice to love.

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