The Pastor

Winner of the Brage Prize
Best Books of 2021, Publisher’s Weekly

Liv is thirty-five years old. A year before the story begins, she left Germany, where she was studying for a PhD in theology, to become a parish priest of a small town in the far north of Norway. The novel opens with a Sunday service, and subsequently follows Liv’s life in the next few days, culminating in the funeral she officiates on the following Friday.

Liv fills multiple roles and functions in her life; as a priest, a fellow human being and a private person. She is driven by an urge for purpose, meaning and belonging. As a researcher she studied the language of the Bible as a rallying point in the revolt of the Sami people in Kautokeino in 1852, focusing on the question of what it is that gives language its meaning – not only on a semantic level, but also as tone, rhythm and attitude – all the things that shape a language, constituting something larger, something more. Liv’s reflections and recollections give the story its impetus and unify its various levels.

In The Pastor, Hanne Ørstavik continues the pursuit of knowledge that represents the core of her literary project. In a clear, incisive prose she generates a sense of presence that gives direct access to the novel’s ethical and existential universe

deeply thoughtful and captivating … a heartbreaking crescendo, filled in with brilliant descriptions of the flat landscape … Ørstavik distinguishes herself as a leading light in international literature

Publishers' Weekly, US

In a just way, but without being dry, Ørstavik writes out feelings and masters with originality both content and form in a novel about searching for the meaning of life.

Le Monde, France

provokes its readers almost to the very limit of what one can bear… One can tell how much Ørstavik has worked with the language, and how musically and clearly she makes landscape and thoughts interweave in a convincing manner…there is a ring to the novel that cannot fail to capture the reader…And afterwards one sits there with one’s own life and has perhaps become just a touch better at daring to see where one oneself has failed.

Politiken, Denmark

This award-winning Norwegian writer has written a moving novel about friendship, in a lucid and light prose.

Klipp, Germany

Hanne Ørstavik has been awarded a number of literary prizes, and it is easy to understand why: She writes with a will and passion that moves … The novel is a beautiful and serious story about searching – for friendship, belonging and truth.


Ørstavik’s writing is sensitive and sore, yet hard-hitting and to the point… There are passages in The Pastor that are simply wonderful. Scenes that truly grip you and that I as a reader wish would go on and on. This author is brave enough to stay deeply serious throughout an entire novel. Her intention is not to entertain, but to explore… I feel a strong urge to read it again. Right away. And that doesn’t happen to me very often.