February 29, 2024

KEEP SAYING THEIR NAMES: A NOVEL by Simon Stranger (Author) and Matt Bagguley (Translator)

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Print Length: 292 pages

Winner of the 2018 Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize

The 2018 Riksmal Prize

2018 Book Blogger’s Prize for Best Fiction

Previous Author Publications:

The Museum of Murderers and Rescuers (2023)

What Once was Earth (2016)

Those Who Don’t Exist (2014)

The World Liberators (2012)


In this work of historical autofiction, Simon Stranger investigates the traumatic experiences that his wife’s Jewish relatives endured while Norway was occupied by the Germans during World War II.

While researching the tragic fate of his son’s great-great-grandfather, Hirsh Komissar, Stranger uncovers the treacherous life of Henry Oliver Rinnan, a Norwegian who acted as a Nazi double agent. In addition to infiltrating the Norwegian resistance networks who were helping Jewish refugees escape to Sweden, Rinnan used a suburban house in Trondheim to torture those Norwegians who refused to compromise their fellow resisters.

To ensure his wife’s Jewish relatives will not be forgotten, Stranger traces their WWII history while describing how they dealt with the heinous history of the Rinnan house when they occupied the property at the end of WWII. As Stranger’s narrative moves back and forth through time, his storytelling reveals the ways in which a family’s past history is intertwined with the present lives they live.


Bogran, J.H., “Keep saying their names: a novel.” Washington Independent Review of Books. June 10, 2020. https://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/index.php/bookreview/keep-saying-their-names-a-novel.

Kirkus Reviews, “Keep saying their names by Simon Stranger.” Kirkus Reviews, May 19, 2020. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews//keep-saying-their-names/.

Publishers Weekly, “Keep saying their names.” Publisher Weekly, https://www.publishersweekly.com/9780525657361.


  • What does Stranger’s novel reveal about what happened in Norway during WWII? Does he offer an authentic portrait of Henry Oliver Rinnan?

  • Using the alphabet to build his narrative, Stranger intersperses stories from World War II with a more current narrative of his family life. Does this structure help to reinforce the ways in which stories from the present are layered over the past?

  • Why did Stranger label his book as a novel? Did his efforts to fictionalize parts of his story enhance or detract from the authentic history his book contains?

  • According to Jewish tradition, people die a second time when they are no longer remembered. What responsibility do we have to ensure the names of our relatives and loved ones continue to be remembered?

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Every month I offer a Book Club suggestion that highlights authors who write about their family history and explore themes of identity.
If you have books you would like to recommend, contact me at: kaia@kaiagallagher.com

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