Born: 20 May 1882, Kalundborg, Denmark
Died: 10 June 1949, Lillehammer, Norway
Residence at the time of the award: Norway
Prize motivation: "principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages"
Prize share: 1/1
Sigrid Undset was born in Kalundborg, Denmark as the daughter of a Norwegian archeologist. She was two years old when her family moved to Kristiania, Norway. After her basic schooling and education at a school of commerce, she worked in an office. It was during this time that she spent her nights writing. Sigrid Undset was married to painter Anders Castus Svarstad and had three children. After having divorced her husband, she converted to Catholicism and became a lay Dominican in 1928. Sigrid Undset opposed the Nazis and spent World War II living in the USA. She later moved to Lillehammer, Norway.
Sigrid Undset wrote novels, short stories, and essays. At first she wrote about strong, contemporary women struggling for emancipation. Inspired by her father, a prominent archeologist, she later turned to writing about the Middle Ages. Her best known work is Kristin Lavransdatter, which deals with themes of honor, religious faith, and the common life shared by women and men in 15th-century Norway. With solid historical knowledge, deep psychological insight, a vivid imagination, and a vigorous language, Sigrid Undset brings to life both communities and individuals.