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Siri Hustvedt biography

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Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt

How to pronounce Siri Hustvedt: hoost-ved

Siri Hustvedt Biography

Siri Hustvedt was born February 19, 1955 in Northfield,a small town in southern Minnesota, to a Norwegian mother, Ester Vegan Hustvedt, and an American father, Lloyd Hustvedt. Most of her early life was spent in Northfield with her parents and three younger sisters, Liv, Asti [the scholar and author of Medical Muses], and Ingrid. She and her sisters attended local public schools. Ester stayed home with her children but later worked as a French instructor and in the library at St. Olaf College. Lloyd Hustvedt taught Norwegian language and literature at St. Olaf and was the first King Olav V professor of Norwegian Studies. He became Executive Secretary of The Norwegian American Historical Association, an unpaid position, to which he devoted four decades of his life. The Association was a repository for a vast archive of immigrant letters, documents, diaries, newspapers, recipes, and books, few of which had been put into order when Lloyd took over the job. He spent countless hours in Rolvaag Library at St. Olaf, documenting the archive materials. In 1966, he won the McKnight Prize for Literature for his biography of Rasmus Björn Anderson, a Norwegian American scholar and publisher. In 1980 he was awarded the Order of St. Olav, Knight First Class by the King Olav V. In 1985, he was the first American to be recognized by the America-Norway Heritage Fund for his contributions to Norwegian American understanding and for preserving the history of Norwegian immigrants in the United States. He died February 2, 2004. Ester still lives in Northfield.

Siri first visited Norway in 1959 when her mother took her and her sister Liv for a summer visit. In the academic year 1967/68, the family lived in Bergen. The four girls were enrolled in the Rudolph Steiner School and spent the following summer in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Lloyd was studying the sagas. In the autobiographical essay "Extracts From the Story of a Wounded Self," she describes her voluminous reading over that summer and her decision to become a writer. She continued her intensive reading and wrote poetry and stories during her high school years.

In 1972, she returned to Bergen to live with her mother's sister and her husband and spent a year as a student at the Cathedral School and graduated with an Artium degree. She returned to the United States, attended St. Olaf College, and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in history in 1977.

She worked for a year in her hometown as a bartender, saved money, and headed for New York City in 1978 to study English at Columbia University on a fellowship. She continued to write poetry, was a research assistant to the poet Kenneth Koch, a professor of English at Columbia, and worked at a number of odd jobs: waitress, researcher to a medical historian, department store model, and artist's studio assistant. In 1982 she began teaching as a graduate assistant at Queens College. Her first poem appeared in The Paris Review in 1981.

Later that same year, she met the writer Paul Auster at a poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y. She married him on Bloom's Day, June 16, 1982. In 1983, she published a small book of poems Reading to You with Station Hill Press.

In the spring of 1986, Hustvedt defended her doctoral dissertation on language and identity in Dickens: "Figures of Dust:A Reading of Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend."The dissertation turned on Dickens' use of pronouns, metaphor,and images of fragmentation as they relate to a vision of the self, concerns that have continued to occupy Hustvedt in both her fiction and non fiction.In the dissertation, she drew on the work of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Emile Benveniste, Roman Jakobson, Mary Douglas, and Paul Ricoeur among others.

Hustvedt and Auster's daughter, the singer-songwriter Sophie Hustvedt Auster was born on July 6, 1987.

Siri Hustvedt's website

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Interview

Siri Hustvedt discusses the role of gender perception and feminism in relation to her novel, The Blazing World.

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

I have been immersed in questions about human perception for a long time, including how works of art are received in the culture. Pseudonyms have also been a longstanding interest of mine, especially Søren Kierkegaard's use of them in his work. By adopting various pseudonyms, the philosopher explored points of view he didn't necessarily share but which nevertheless fascinated him. I knew I wanted to write a story about a woman artist who hides behind three male masks, but it was Harry herself who became the burning catalyst for the book. Once I began to hear her voice, see her, and feel her, I found the heart of the novel. And yet, I did not want the book to belong only to Harry. She is an explosive character, and her view had to be tempered and framed by other perspectives. I knew that an unstable, polyphonic form was the only one that could embody the book's themes as a whole.

While this is a work of fiction, you present it as a true collection of writings on the subject. Why did you decide to present the story in this form?

Journals, diaries, letters, published texts, and art works can survive the person who made them. Once the author/artist is dead, "...

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Books by this Author

Books by Siri Hustvedt at BookBrowse
Memories of the Future jacket A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women jacket The Blazing World jacket Living, Thinking, Looking jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Siri Hustvedt but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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    Paul Benjamin Auster was born on February 3, 1947 in Newark, New Jersey.  His father, Samuel Auster, was a landlord; his mother, Queenie was about 13 years younger than her husband; the marriage was not a happy one. ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Memories of the Future

    Try:
    Invisible
    by Paul Auster

  • John Banville

    John Banville

    John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He was educated at a Christian Brother's school and St Peter's College in Wexford. After leaving college he worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin, Ireland - which gave him the ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Blazing World

    Try:
    The Blue Guitar
    by John Banville

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