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Norah Lange: 45 días y 30 marineros [45 Days and 30 Sailors]
In 1928, Norah Lange took a ship from Buenos Aires to Oslo. She went alone and was the only woman on board. This is a fictionalised account of that journey. The Lange character in this book is called Ingrid, though we never know her surname. There is only one another passenger on the ship, a man called Stevenson, who works for a forestry company and who is obsessed with Norwegian literature, particularly Ibsen. There had been a plan to take a Mrs. Larsen but she dropped out at the last minute to wait for her husband and take the next ship. The captain also tells Ingrid that he has rejected another woman passenger, as one woman on board is quite enough.
The story revolves around the journey and what happens on it. Much of it is sheer boredom, both for passengers and crew. The rest seems to be passed in a drunken stupor, again both for passengers and crew. Early on, Ingrid makes friends with the officers – Guttorm, the first officer, Leif the second officer and Erikson the third officer, though Erikson tends to be somewhat shy and keeps himself to himself much of the time. They start drinking early in the voyage and do not seem to stop. The first port of call is Santos and the captain is taken away on business, so the officers make Ingrid honorary first officer, giving her an appropriate cap. They drink a lot at dinner and then decide to go out to the bars in Santos. By chance, they meet the captain, who is furious that his first officer has neglected his post, even though Erikson has stayed behind. While they are out, Ingrid plays the piano in a bar and is offered a job by the bar owner.
Despite the captain being initially aloof, we gradually learn that he is an alcoholic and, on more than one occasion, is far too drunk to command the ship. Ingrid gradually learns about the officers. The captain is married and, every time, he goes home, he finds that his wife is pregnant. He is never sure if he is the father. Like some of the others, he has girlfriends in various ports. While several of them are are clearly sexually attracted to Ingrid, it is only the captain who is quite aggressive in his approaches to her, to the extent that she has to lock herself in her cabin. Guttorm, also married and also with girlfriends in other ports, is less aggressive in his approaches to her but, when he offers to teach her Norwegian, the first phrase he teaches her is jeg elsjer dig – I love you.
Things gradually get more difficult for Ingrid and Lange skillfully builds up the tension, from a friendly crew who enjoy drinking to a situation where Ingrid feels concern at the approaches she is receiving, particularly from the captain. When they arrive in Funchal, the captain is dead drunk, causing a delay and a report to the company. By the time they get to Rotterdam, Ingrid takes the offer of a lift from another ship. It is an interesting story, as we follow the crew of a ship which seems to be either bored or drunk or both and the awakening concerns of Ingrid, a lone woman with thirty sailors. Sadly, none of Lange’s works is available in English or, as far as I can determine, any other language.
First published in Spanish by Editorial Tor in 1933
No English translation