Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Norwegian memories

The first time I was in Norway was for just fifteen minutes. We were visiting some friends on the West coast of Sweden, and Staffan made a point of taking me to see what a national border looked like in the civilised parts of the world. It was a small road, but there was a proper sign: “National border. Import of certain goods prohibited. See brochure”. No border patrol with dogs, no customs (to ask for the brochure), no barbed wire. We stopped at the first village, bought an ice cream and turned.

But the first time I was in Norway for real was rather funny. I went to a conference – surprise! - at Oslo University, called “Dimensions of the Marvellous”. I was doing my PhD on British fantasy and thought it was a conference just for me. At the same time and on the same campus, there was a large international Feminist Book Fair. I was invited by the Fair organisers to give a talk on female fantasy writers. There I was in my dual role: paying huge conference fees and being paid a modest speaker fee at the Fair. Fantasy was the common point. It was high summer, and the Fair people, predominantly women, were wearing all kinds of weird multicoloured clothes. The conference people, mostly male, were strictly academic, tie and suit. When I mentioned at one of the conference coffee breaks that I was doing a talk at the Fair, the reaction was a disappointed: “So you are one of those...”

I never met the Fair people again, and I made very few professional contacts at the conference, except one. Professor Jacques Barchilon, from University of Colorado, happened to be in the session in which I gave my paper. He liked it. He told me that he was starting a journal on fairy tales and asked whether I would contribute to the first issue. I did. The coming issue of the journal, Marvels & Tales, is a tribute to Jacques Barchilon.

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