Vetle Lid Larssen - Selected Title Author

We are happy to present our selected title author Vetle Lid Larssen. He has written The Stargazers (original title: De stjernekyndige). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2024.

Vetle lid larsen 2023 web foto svein finneide 11 (1)
Vetle Lid Larssen. Photo: Svein Finneide

What is your book about?

A desperate expedition into the darkness of the polar night.

In 1767, an imperial court astronomer in Vienna, Maximilian Hell, receives a surprising task: he is to travel as far north and east as possible to observe the transit of Venus.

It’s a journey of 5,000 kilometers and under brutal conditions to the most inhospitable place in the world: Vardø, Norway’s outermost point toward the Arctic Ocean. And Hell has one overarching goal: to determine the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

It’s an expedition that will take several years, equipped with the era’s most cutting-edge technology, closely watched by the scientific elite of the world, and faced with unsolvable problems: logistics, isolation, internal contradictions, and violent natural forces.

Based on a true story, Vetle Lid Larssen writes about what would come to be known as the greatest scientific fraud of the century. About three men confronted with their own darkness, about the battle between faith and knowledge, deadly ambitions, and the merciless and icy magic of Ultima Thule.

What inspired you to write this book?

I stumbled upon this story by chance during a trip to Northern Norway years ago. Not only did the drama of the story immediately grip me both internally and externally, but it also unfolded in the borderlands of the known Europe of that era, in an Arctic darkness still inhabited by mythological creatures like sea serpents – but which now, for the first time, was being penetrated by the cool gaze of the Enlightenment. Professor Hell, his Hungarian assistant, and their Norwegian interpreter and guide are legendary characters, and the story is groundbreaking; we see ourselves at the moment before we became modern humans. The odds of success are slim. For this expedition to succeed, Maximilian Hell must have six hours of sun on June 3rd, 1769. But Vardø is not only the most merciless place on the planet – treeless, roadless, with an average temperature of 1.2° Celsius – but the place also has 347 cloudy days a year.

I have Northern Norwegian heritage and have spent a lot of time in the area, and I’m always struck by both the brutality and beauty of this almost existential landscape – where every intruder is forced to confront themselves. Perhaps that’s exactly why I found Maximilian Hell’s remarkable and perilous expedition so captivating, to the extent that I felt compelled to write a novel about it before considering my journey with the story complete.

Read more

See full presentation of the book here

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