Sigrid Undset  

Novelist and Nobel Laureate (1882–1949)
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Sigrid Undset, who grew up in Norway, achieved early success with the publication of her first novels. But in the search for truth and happiness, her life was marked by much strife and struggle. She fell in love with a married man, and, after his divorce, married him. She had two children, one of them mentally disabled, but her marriage collapsed while she was pregnant with her third child. It was after this that she wrote her masterpiece—Kristin Lavransdatter—an intricate trilogy, chronicling the life and struggles of a medieval Norwegian woman. In 1928 she won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  

Her own journey led her steadily to the Catholic faith. As she noted, “By degrees my knowledge of history convinced me that the only thoroughly sane people seemed to be those queer men and women the Catholic Church calls Saints. They seemed to know the true explanation of man’s undying hunger for happiness—his tragically insufficient love of peace, justice, and goodwill to his fellow men, his everlasting fall from grace.” In thoroughly Lutheran Norway, her conversion caused a scandal. She later became a Third Order Dominican.  

Undset fled the Nazi invasion in 1940 and settled in the United States. She returned after the war but never wrote again. She died on June 10, 1949.  

“In a way, we do not want to find Truth—we prefer to seek and keep our illusions. But I had ventured near the abode of truth in my researches about God’s friends. . .So I had to submit. . .I was received into the Catholic Church.” —Sigrid Undse

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Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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