nordlitt: Renovating Realism. Re-Reading Cora Sandel’s “Alberte and Freedom”. In Conversation with Tone Selboe

von Nordlitt. Skandinavistische Literaturforschung im Gespräch

Tone Selboe, University of Oslo, Norway, walks us through Norwegian author Cora Sandel’s Paris and helps us drift through the thickets of literary modernism and realism. We talk about existences on the margin, painting with words and writing the moving body in this equally sensual and intellectual novel that has followed both Tone and Stefanie throughout their reading lives. We also welcome Cecilia Falkman, nordlitt’s new student assistant. She navigates the technical and organizational aspects while bringing the perspective of a first-time reader to our conversation.

(00:00:15) Introducing Cecilia Falkman
(00:02:44) Introducing Tone Selboe
(00:07:31) Teaching, Study, and Communication
(00:10:55) Why Cora Sandel?
(00:12:40) Introducing Cora Sandel
(00:19:35) Contextualizing Cora Sandel’s Novels
(00:25:39) Breaking with the Establishment
(00:29:46) Modernism and Its Relation to Realism
(00:37:11) Introducing the Alberte-Series
(00:48:51) Alberte’s Social Context in Paris
(00:54:15) Foreshadowing and Backshadowing
(00:57:48) Descriptions and Use of Languages
(01:01:00) Objectification of Female Bodies
(01:11:26) Race and Gender in the Final Scene of “Alberte and Freedom”
(01:12:55) Sexuality, Motherhood and the Young Woman as an Artist
(01:22:48) Spaces and Movements
(01:31:25) Thinking, Feeling and Reading
(01:35:40) Translations and Style
(01:39:47) The Notion of Writing
(01:42:40) The Notion of Trauma
(01:44:39) Walking and Eroticism
(01:46:44) What Advice Would You Give Your Student-Self?


  • Sandel, Cora: Alberte og friheten. Oslo, Gyldendal 2002 [1931].
  • Selboe, Tone: “Cora Sandel. Byens bevegelse”. In: Selboe, Tone: Litterære vaganter. Byens betydning hos seks kvinnelige forfattere. Oslo: Pax förlag, 2014, p. 86-111. 
  • Selboe, Tone: “De upåaktede liv. Om Cora Sandels Alberte-trilogi.” In: Howlid Wærp, Henning (ed.): De upåaktede liv. Om Cora Sandels forfatterskap. Oslo: Unipub forlag, 2005, 41-51.
  • Selboe, Tone: “Jean Rhys and Cora Sandel: Two Views on the Modern Metropolis”. In: Jansson, Mats; Lothe, Jakob; Riikonen, Hannu (ed.): European and Nordic Modernisms. Norvik Press, 2004, p. 117–132.

Further reading:

  • Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle: La Vagabonde. Livre de Proche, 1975 [1910].
  • Hamsun, Knut: Sult. Project Gutenberg, 2009 [1890].
  • Moi, Toril: Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Sandel, Cora: Alberte og Jakob. Oslo, Gyldendal, 2002 [1926].
  • Sandel, Cora: Bare Alberte. Oslo, Gyldendal, 2002 [1939].
  • Sandel, Cora: Kranes konditori. Oslo, Gyldendal, 2002 [1945].
  • Sandel, Cora: Vårt vanskelige liv. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1960 [1945].
  • Sandel, Cora: Dyr jeg har kjent. Oslo, Gyldendal, 2004 [1946].
  • Sandel, Cora: Kjøp ikke Dondi. Gyldendal, 1958.
  • Selboe, Tone: Hva er en roman. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2015. 
  • Selboe, Tone: Leselyst: Om bøker, liv og litteratur.Oslo: Kagge forlag, 2018.