Birger Emanuelsen - Selected Title Author

We are happy to present our selected title author Birger Emanuelsen. He has written Before They Disappear – An attempt to understand what children are (original title: Før de forsvinner – et forsøk på å forstå hva barn er). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2024.

Birger Emanuelsen. Photo: Fartein Rudjord/NORLA

What is your book about?

Before They Disappear is about one fundamental question: what is a child? I’d been a father for quite some time before it dawned on me that I didn’t have a good answer to that question, and when I read historical, scientific, and literary portrayals of children and childhood, I realized I wasn’t alone in this.

The book is divided into four parts. The first deals with the history of children. How the people who came before us viewed and treated children, how they could display a brutality that now feels quite foreign, but also how children filled them with the most recognizable emotions. In part two, I examine the way we understand the value of children. Whether we’re talking about the cultural or economic value of children, if they’re worth something here and now, or as investments in a shared future. In part three, I investigate how through upbringing, we’ve tried to create the children we want or need through various forms of power and control. Finally, I write about the kingdom of childhood – why I believe we must strive to protect children’s freedom, and how I myself continually fail in the attempt to do just that.

What inspired you to write this book?

Simply put, because such a book didn’t exist. I wanted to expand the understanding of the relationship between parents and children and perhaps find new ways to improve it that could be useful to more than just myself. The book is a result of my desire to satisfy my own curiosity, and I wanted to share experiences and perspectives as openly, honestly, and concretely as I possibly could. Along the way, I draw on the insights of others, my own experiences, texts that are 4,000 years old, and more recent research.

My goal is also twofold. On one hand, I hope that this book can contribute to a richer conversation about what children are, and hopefully also to a greater understanding of their uniqueness and dignity. On the other hand, the goal of the book is quite simply – and quite clearly – personal. I simply want to get to know my own three children better before they disappear.

Read more

See full presentation of the book here

Read more about the author here

See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for the spring 2024 here