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||Carl Arthur Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973)|
Swedish novelist and dramatist, best known for his four volume story (1949-1959) of Småland peasants, who leave famine-stricken Sweden for America, and build a homestead in Minnesota. Moberg was one of the most frequently performed radio playwrights. His dramas - among them Änkeman Jarl (1939), Vår ofödde son (1945), Domaren (1957) - were televised in Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Other plays, such as Ride This Night! (1942) and Man's Woman (1943), were made into movies in the 1940s.
"Jag tänkte rätt mycket på döden i ungdomen. Då ville jag inte bli äldre än trettio, högst trettiofem år: Hellre dö än att gli gubbe. Så blev jag gubbe, och ändå lever jag. Och nu vill jag inte dö för aldrig det. Nu vill jag leva, leva hur länge som helst. Inte därför att jag är räddare för döden nu än i ungdomen. Men därför att jag inte längre har kvar någon ängslan för livet." (from Brudarnas källa, 1946)
Vilhelm Moberg was born in Algutsboda, Småland, in southern Sweden, the fourth child out of seven. His forebears were soldiers and small farmers. Largely self-educated Moberg studied at a Folk Academy i Grimslöv (1916-17) and at a private school in Katrineholm (1917-18). He then supported himself as a farm and forest worker, and in the glassblowing industry. His first play, Kärlek och pengar (1919), was a musical comedy. It was performed only once, at a benefit for starving children in Vienna. From 1919 to 1927 Moberg worked as a journalist for various local paper before becoming a full-time writer.
Moberg's breakthrough novel, Raskens (1927), was
set in the author's home province, Småland. The carefully documented
chronicle of a vanishing way of life was based on family tradition and
depicted the daily life of a farmhand and soldier, Rask, and his
faithful wife, Ida, in the late-19th century. The success of the novel
enabled Moberg to devote himself entirely to writing.
Moberg's Ulvaskog cycle, Långt från landsvägen (1929, Far from the highway) and its sequel, De knutna händerna (1930, Clenched fists) dealt with the conflict between rural society and technological progress. A. P. Rosell, bankdirektör (1932) studied life in a small city. The story drew on Moberg's experiences as a journalist. Mans kvinna (1933), about forbidden love between a young marrid woman and her poor neighbour, was compared to D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.
In the 1930s Moberg published the autobiographical Knut Toring trilogy (1935-39), in which the protagonist is unable to find happiness in the country or in Stockholm, where he feels cut off from his roots. The trilogy is often viewed as a continuation of the Ulvaskog cycle. In the novel Soldat med brutet gevär (1944, When I Was a Child) Moberg returned again to his own life, and focused on the political radicalism and the breakthrough of the Social Democrat Party, following rapid industrialization in the early 1900s. The protagonist is Valter Stäng, Moberg's alter ego. He doesn't accept political compromises and in the end of the story leaves a social democrat newspaper to fight for his Socialist ideals and write a novel.
During WW II Moberg published a novel attacking tyranny and oppression, Rid i natt! (1941, Ride This Night!). It used an episode from Queen Christina's reign (1644-1654), when German noblemen were brought to Sweden to rule over independent farmers. They brought with them feudal practices which are opposed by Ragnar Svedje, who becomes an outlaw. Ride This Night became a bestseller, and was filmed by Gustaf Molander, but its real target did not go unnoticed by the Nazis. It was seen as a thinly veiled criticism of the policy of the Swedish government during World War II: during the war Sweden was neutral but continued trade with Germany. Later Moberg said, that when Ride This Night was confiscated by the Nazi regime, he regarded it as the greatest reward he ever gor for any book. Moberg himself advocated strong military forces. Due to his views, he had had difficulties in finding publishers for his works.
After the lyrical collection of stories, Brudarnas källa (1946), Moberg started to write his immigrant saga, which preoccupied him much of the 1950s. While traveling in the United States, he met in Hollywood John Ford, who expressed interest in his work. At that time the first two parts of the tetralogy had been translated into English, but it is not known, whether the director really took the time to read the books.
The first part, Utvandrarna (1949) examines reasons for leaving Sweden and hardships of the journey across Atlantic. In Invandrarna (1952) the small group of seasick passengers arrives in the promised land and continues from New York to Minnesota. Nybyggarna (1956) focuses mainly on the energetic Karl Oskar Nilsson and his wife, Kristina, who build a new life. Another important character is the romatic dreamer Robert, whose dreams are broken down in California. Sista brevet till Sverige (1959) is partly set during the years of the American Civil War, but also deals Indian wars. Through the letters of the immigrants to home Moberg shows how their ties to old country gradually loosen - their language become a mixture of Swedish and English. To emphasize the factual basis of the historical details, Moberg included in the work a long list of sources, such as A History of the Swedish-Americans of Minnesota by A.E. Strand (1910), On the Trail of the Immigrant by Edward A Steiner (1906) and The Old Farmers Almanac. He had also unpublished manuscripts and memoirs. The tetralogy inspired Jan Troell's highly successful films Emigrants (1970) and The Settlers (1972). Also a short-lived TV series was made on the story.
Moberg participated from the 1950s in debates about the
Swedish bureaucracy, monarchy, and corruption, and devoted much time to
help individual citizens that have experienced injustice. He was an
outspoken atheist and republican, who supported the separation of
church and state and called for the abolition of monachy. He also
became engaged in a scandal, the Haijby affair,
which involved high-ranking officials,
and Kurt Haijby, who claimed that he had been
the lover of the Swedish King Gustav V. Moberg believed that there is a
conspiracy going on. When Haijby was sent to an asylum, Moberg visited
him there a couple of times.
In Det gamla riket (1953), written in the spirit of Gullivers resor, Moberg took a satirical look at Sweden, which is called as "Idyllia". In the 1970s Moberg began to write a four-volume history, Min svenska historia 1-2, which looks at history from the viewpoint of the peasants and illiterate classes. The work was left unfinished - the author managed to write two first parts before his death. Moberg committed suicide apparently by drowning in Väddö on August 8, 1973.
Like other working-class writers of his generation, such as Ivar Lo-Johansson and Moa Martinson, Moberg depicted the life of the dispossessed, their traditions, customs, and everyday struggle. Although Moberg grew up in a narrow-minded rural environment, from which he early escaped, and never resettled in Småland, he later came to see the value in its close ties with the natural world. His novels are important documents of social history, and trace the influences of various social and political movements in Sweden. Moberg also wrote over thirty plays, from folk comedies to serious dramas.
For further reading: Vilhelm Moberg by Sigvard Mårtensson (1956); Vilhelm Moberg. En bildbiografi by Sigvard Mårtensson (1963); Perspektiv på utvandrarromanen, ed. by Erland and Ulla-Britta Lagerroth (1971); Vilhelm Mobergs emigrantepos by Gunnar Eidevall (1974); Berättaren Vilhelm Moberg by Gunnar Eidevall (1974); Den unge Vilhelm Moberg by Magnus von Platen (1978); Moberg's Emigrant Novels and the Journal of Andrew Peterson by Roger McKnight (1979); Vilhem Moberg by Philip Holmes (1980, in English); A History of Swedish Literature, ed. by Lars G. Warme (1996, pp. 335-39); Vilhelm Moberg, sanningen och friheten, ed. by Otto von Friesen (1998); Vilhelm Moberg: en introduktion till hans författarskap by Philip Holmes (2001); Av och om Vilhelm Moberg, ed. by Stig Tornehed (2005); The Facts on File Companion to the World Novel: 1900 to the Present, edited by Michael Sollars (2008); Mobergland: personligt och politiskt i Vilhelm Mobergs utvandrarserie by Jens Liljestrand (2009); Drömmen om Ebba: tankar kring ett kärleksbrev från Vilhelm Moberg med stigar in mot vår tid by Anders Johansson (2011); I Vilhelm Mobergs sällskap by Anders Johansson (2011) - See also: Sven Delblanc's emigration series starting with Samuels bok (1981). In Finland Kalle Päätalo 's autobiographical novels have gained the same historical and documentary status as Moberg's works in Sweden.