About the Author
Hans A. Foss
Hans Andersen Foss was born the son of a small tenant farmer in 1851 in Modum, Norway. Foss became a store clerk shopkeeper. Like many of his countrymen, Foss immigrated to the United States in 1887 where he first tried his hand at farming in Minnesota.
A lifelong proponent of the prohibition movement, Foss edited several temperance publications and for five years served as editor for the Norwegian language newspaper Normanden in Grand Forks. In 1906, Foss gave up the newspaper business and became a grain dealer, eventually settling in Minot, North Dakota, where he lived until his death in 1929.
Foss wrote several novels including Husmands-gutten (The Cotter's Son or The Cotter Lad), which was first serialized in the Norwegian-language
newspaper Decorah-Posten published in Decorah, Iowa. The tremendous
popularity of The Cotter's Son serial was credited with saving the paper from bankruptcy.
Foss's imaginative plots and energetic writing style made him a popular author in the Norwegian-American immigrant community. Unfortunately, his tendency to sermonize and the lack of English-language translation caused his books to quickly fall out of fashion in America. Foss's lasting literary contribution is principally his influence on later, more widely known writers such as Peer Olson Strømme and Ole Rølvaag.
The Cotter's Son
Considered the most accurate depiction of the lifestyle of farm workers in Norway, The Cotter's Son tells the story of Ole Haugen, the son of the poor cotter (farm workers who lived in the small cottages on large European farms) and Marie Hovland, the daughter of a prosperous landowner. Ole and Marie's childhood friendship blossoms into love despite their families' objections. The rigid class structure in Norway made marriage between them a social disaster for Marie's family and so Marie's father forbids their relationship.
Determined to prove himself, Ole immigrates to America to seek his fortune. Many adventures await Ole during his three years living in Wisconsin and Chicago. In the meantime, Marie waits for her true love despite the emotional abuse of her father. After making a successful in business in
America, Ole returns to Norway to finally win the hand of his beloved Marie.
The Cotter's Son was written in the author's native Norwegian
language and has always enjoyed great popularity in Norway, where sixteen editions have been published. The novel did not attain such success in the United States, however, likely because it was not translated into English until the 1960s by Joel G. Winkjer. Out of print since 1963, the novel is now available in paperback from Smoky Water Press, Bismarck.