taking our culture forward

A Thousand Years in Man - a new book about the Island from a Norwegian perspective

Mon, 09 Dec 2019

A Thousand Years in Man offers unique insights into the history of the Isle of Man from a Norwegian perspective. Written by Jon Leirfall and published in 1979 to coincide with the Millennium of Tynwald celebrations, it has only been available in his native Norwegian as Tusen år på Man until now.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Tynwald millennium celebrations, Culture Vannin has published the book in English translation, with the blessing of Leirfall’s family.

Jon Leirfall (1899-1998) was a Norwegian politician for the Centre Party who was elected to the Norwegian Parliament on six occasions. He was known for his writing, including several saga-pastiches which satirised Norwegian politics.

In the preface to the book, Leirfall writes:

After writing my book ‘Vest i havet’ – (Westward over the sea), in which I spoke about the Orkneys and Shetland, and made a small cross in the Irish Sea, I felt a desire to learn more about Man, another ancient Norse territory. I spent last summer doing just this, and what I learned delighted me.

Man lies far from us, both in time and distance – much further than the isles to the north of Scotland. Norwegian historians and archaeologists have written about Man, but for the most part their work is not very accessible to ordinary people, and appears only in various academic publications…This book is an attempt to present a popular account, on the basis of what Norwegian and English authors have already written and of my own impressions from travelling around Man and meeting its people.

The story of the translation of A Thousand Years in Man is a wonderful mini saga in itself. The Norwegian text was gifted to Professor Angela Little by her friend Professor Jon Lauglo, who had been made aware of its existence through his own friendship with Norwegian politician and writer Jon Leirfall. Angela shared the text with Dr Jennifer Kewley Draskau, who was so delighted with it that she translated it into English. The resulting text is lively and engaging and offers a very different perspective on our Island from northern eyes.

Jennifer Kewley Draskau is a well-known author, translator and academic, who has a particular skill for bringing texts alive. Her translation of A Thousand Years in Man makes for an accessible and engaging read. Charting the struggles for power in the Irish Sea, it speaks of kings and conquest as well as Leirfall’s more contemporary views of our Island in the 20th century through the impressions gained on his visits.

A Thousand Years in Man is available in bookshops and museum shops and direct from Culture Vannin in St John’s at a RRP of £12.