The Saga of Gösta Berling (Penguin Classics)
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One hundred years ago, Selma Lagerlöf became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She assured her place in Swedish letters with this sweeping historical epic, her first and best-loved novel, and the basis for the 1924 silent film of the same name that launched Greta Garbo to stardom. Set in 1820s Sweden, it tells the story of a defrocked minister named Gösta Berling. After his appetite for alcohol and previous indiscretions end his career, Berling finds a home at Ekeby, an ironworks estate owned by Margareta Celsing, the "Majoress," that also houses and assortment of eccentric veterans of the Napoleanic Wars. Berling's defiant and poetic spirit proves magnetic to a string of women, who fall under his spell against the backdrop of political intrigue at Margareta's estate and the magnificent wintry beauty of rural Sweden.
your God with big talk!” the pilgrim continues. “The mighty on earth are like threshed straw in his barn. His day labor is building suns. He has dug the seas and raised the mountains. He has dressed the earth with herbs. He is a worker without equal; you must not compare yourself with him. Bow before him, you fugitive human soul! Lie deep in the dust before your Lord, your God! God’s storm rages over you. God’s wrath is upon you like a ravaging thunderbolt. Bow down! Take hold of the hem of his
toward him. She came straight from the thickets in the innermost part of the forest, where the ferns are high as trees, where the gigantic pines shut out the sunlight so that it only falls as golden splashes on the yellow moss, and where the twinflower creeps across lichen-clad stones. I would dearly like to have been in Kevenhüller’s place, to see her as she came with fern leaves and spruce needles entangled in her flowing hair and a little black viper around her neck. Imagine her, lithe of
not even Elisabet, after their hole-in-the-corner marriage. For Brandes, the embraces “are cold as snow and the night.” The sparks of carnal fire ignited by Anna, Marianne, Elisabet, flicker out quickly. In 1942 Elin Wägner said that Gösta was “a diaphanous and elusive figure,” and Brandes thought that “psychology was the weak side” of the Saga. “The outlines of his form are given, but never more than the outlines. He stands before the reader, living, only in each separate situation, never as a
been watching, and the toothless mouth had smiled scornfully and whispered, “See, it’s rags, only rags.” There was one of the people of that time too, who had opened her soul to the spirit with the eyes of ice. He sat by one of them, keeping watch at the source of action, smiling scornfully at evil and good, fathoming everything, judging nothing, investigating, searching, picking apart, paralyzing the movements of the heart and the force of thought by smiling scornfully without return. The
and again, foaming, hissing, roaring. And now these wild, inflamed waves, intoxicated by the spring air, dizzy with their newfound freedom, start to storm the old stone wall. They come hissing and tearing, storm high up on it and then pull back, as if they had struck their white-locked heads. This is a storming as good as any; they take great pieces of ice as shelter, they take logs as battering rams, they pry, break, roar against this poor wall, until suddenly it seems as if someone had called