This year, Norway is celebrating a century of independence since the union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905. As part of the celebrations, and with the endorsement of the Norwegian monarchy, Harvill has published this intriguing collection of Norwegian short stories. At the time of independence, Norway was a poor country, its people barely sustained by coastal industries. The explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who played a leading part in independence negotiations, told the Norwegians to look to the land for consolation: ‘It’s a fine thing for a people to have a beautiful land, be it never so poor.’ With the discovery of oil, the land supplied further consolations for the Norwegians, transforming Nansen’s peasant nation. Norway remains ill at ease with its new-found affluence, striving to spend its wealth well. The country participates eagerly in international development and is a generous donor to emergency funds – after the Asian tsunami last year, Norway (population 4 million or so) gave $182 million, as opposed to Britain’s $96 million and France’s $66 million.