War Sailors From the North: Finnmark – Roger Albrigtsen

Norwegian title: Krigsseilere fra Nord: Finnmark

Hello everyone!

I can’t believe it is October already! September literally just felt like a pit stop before we rushed onwards. It was definetley my busiest month this year…In September I was part of a reading challenge named SakprosaSeptember orchestrated by Malin aka Readygoread on Instagram. For this challenge I read the book I’ll tell you about today. The synopsis is borrowed from Goodreads and translated by me:

This is the first book in a trilogy about the war sailors from the north. In this first book the focus is set to people from Finnmark who sailed between 1939 and 1945. The stories are personal and accompanied with pictures and documents, sea explanations and Nazi-German submarine logs to recreate and retell the brutal stories from the war.

This is a typical and an atypical nonfiction book. When I picked it up I expected longer chapters with more details connected to each story. The chapters are 1-4 pages included pictures and/or documents. This layout made it sort of hard for me to connect with the stories. However, I do understand why Albrigtsen has chosen to do it this way because it creates more room for more stories and a greater perspective rather than focusing on a limited few. This is something I think the book does right. Instead of focusing on a couple of different stories the reader is exposed to several perspectives of the life as a war sailor. The book’s documentation and progression makes it a typical non-fiction for me, and sometimes you might get the sense that you’re reading a register more than a actual book. If you experience this I recommend that you take a step back and try to remember that these were real people who lived and fought for Norway. Then, in my experience, the book seemed less of a register and more like a storyteller.

The reason for the book being atypical is its topic. The Norwegian war sailors suffered a great deal in the aftermath of the war and struggled, among other things, to get paid for their service. The same went for women who had lost their husbands at sea during the war. There was also a great lack in recognition of the war sailors and their efforts from the Norwegian society in general during the aftermath of the war. In my opinion, this is one of the many mistakes Norwegians made when Norway was freed in 1945 and in the following years. This book also talks about the more personal sides of the war stories. According to Store norske leksikon, the war sailors was especially exposed to psychological distress due to the constant danger for an extreme death, helpless- and defenselessness against force majeure, enemy attacks both from air and subsea, and lack of contact with friends and family back in Norway. Many of these aspects of psychological distress goes for most soldiers who has experienced war but I think this book presents some new aspects in connection to the war sailors that many might not have thought too much about previously.

I had one very funny thing happening whilst I read. My maid-of-honor’s mother is from the north and one of the chapters told a story about a young man with the same surname. I sent my friend’s mother a picture of the page and asked if the man was someone she knew. She came back and told me that the young man would have been her uncle if he had not been torpedoed at sea. Life is really full of strange coincidences!

If you’re looking for a different, yet informative and well researched book about the North-Norwegian war sailors I do recommend that you check out this book. It is the first in a trilogy about the war sailors from the north, and the second book has already been published. Albrigtsen brings important and possibly forgotten stories to life, and we do well to remember how much the war sailors sacrificed, alongside other soldiers, during the war.

Published: 2020

Genre: Non-fiction

Theme: War sailors, World War 2, occupied Norway

– The Book Reader

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