Moberg, Vilhelm

Moberg, Vilhelm
   A Swedish novelist and dramatist, Moberg hailed from the district of Smaland, the folk culture of which he memorialized, however critically, in his first novel, Raskens (1927; The Rask Family). He was one of several writers from working-class backgrounds who came to the fore in the 1930s, and he is one of the great storytellers in Swedish literature, as well as one of its most relentless radicals. Moberg's criticism of the rural culture in which he grew up is also voiced in the novels Langt fran landsvägen (1929; Far from the Highway) and De knutna haänderna (1930; The Clenched Fists), as well as in the love story Mans kvinna (1933; Man's Woman).
   Moberg's ambivalent attitude toward the rural culture of Smaland is further expressed in an autobiographical trilogy consisting ofSaänkt sedebetyg (1935; tr. Memory of Youth, 1937), Somnlos (1937; tr. Sleepless Nights, 1940), and Giv oss jorden! (1939; tr. The Earth Is Öurs, 1940). A later autobiographical novel, Soldat med brutet gevar (1944; tr. When I Was a Child, 1956), is also set in Smaland, to which Moberg found himself unable to return in person. Smaland in the 17th century is the setting for a powerful attack on oppression and control, the novel Ridi natt! (1941; tr. Ride This Night!, 1943), which served as encouragement to resistance fighters everywhere during World War II. Moberg would return to 17th-century Smaland with the novel Forrädarland (1968; Land of Traitors).
   Smaland is a district with poor soil, where it has traditionally been hard to eke out a living. For this reason it also became the source of numerous emigrants to America, starting in the middle of the 19th century. Moberg's greatest literary achievement is a tetralogy that tells the story of the vanguard of these emigrants. Consisting of the volumes Utvandrarna (1949; tr. The Emigrants, 1951), Invandrarna (1952; tr. Unto a Good Land, 1954), Nybyggarna (1956; tr. The Settlers, 1961), and Sista brevet till Sverige (1959; tr. The Last Letter Home, 1961), the tetralogy explains the social and economic reasons for the emigration, describes both the journey across the ocean to the new land and the immigrants' travels in the United States, the process of homesteading, and their lives as more or less successful American citizens. Perhaps influenced by Ole E. Rølvaag's novel Giants in the Earth (1924-1925), Moberg portrayed his male protagonist, Karl Oskar Nilsson, as a man who relishes the hard physical labor associated with homesteading, while his wife Kristina never gets over her homesickness for the old country. Other unforgettable characters are the parish harlot Ulrika, who in America becomes the wife ofa Baptist minister, and the dreamer Arvid, Karl Oskar's younger brother, who loses his health and eventually dies because of his attraction to the California gold rush. Jan Troell's two films based on Moberg's novels are classics in their genre.
   Moberg studied the Swedish-Americans of his own generation in Din stund pa jorden (1963; tr. A Time on Earth, 1965), in which his protagonist discovers that he is unable to feel at home back in Sweden because the country has changed too much in his absence. His at times critical attitude toward the United States is expressed in the essay collection Den okande slakten (1950; tr. The Unknown Swedes, 1988).
   Moberg also wrote a large number of plays, many of them folk comedies but some with more serious intentions. Vårofodde son (1945; Our Unborn Son) discusses abortion, and a rather bitter drama about legally administered injustice, Dom ren (1957; The Judge), is similar to dramas written by the Norwegian playwright Jens Bjørneboe a few years later.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Moberg, Vilhelm — ▪ Swedish author born Aug. 20, 1898, Algutsboda, Swed. died Aug. 8, 1973, Väddö       Swedish novelist and dramatist, best known for his novels of the Swedish emigration to America but concerned primarily with the people of the countryside from… …   Universalium

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  • Skåneland — This region should not be confused with Skånland in Norway. Skåneland, or Skånelandskapen, (Scanian Provinces in English) are Swedish denominations based on the Latin name Terra Scaniae ( Scania Land ), used for the historical Danish land in… …   Wikipedia

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