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Gosta Berling's Saga by Selma Lagerlof

Gosta Berling's Saga (original 1891; edition 1997)

by Selma Lagerlof

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8011911,418 (3.84)1 / 106
Title:Gosta Berling's Saga
Authors:Selma Lagerlof
Info:Penfield Pr (1997), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Story of Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlöf (1891)

  1. 00
    Körkarlen / Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! by Selma Lagerlöf (MikeMonkey)
    MikeMonkey: Samma magiska berättarglädje och ordkonst.

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English (13)  Swedish (2)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  All (19)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A pleasant enough book about the adventures of Gosta Berling and his company of adventurers. Berling's amorous adventures retold. Other chapters had only a passing mention of Berling but were of the same time period. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
It has taken me quite a while to get through this book. I did not particularly like it.

It was strange, the language as well as the stories. I'm glad I'm done! ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Feb 12, 2016 |
Set in rural Sweden in the nineteenth century, this is as much a collection of short stories that follows the same characters throughout a year as it is a novel. Gosta Berling is a disgraced pastor who wanders the country until he is taken in by the Major’s wife as one of the cavaliers of Ekeby. The cavaliers live at her expense and spend their time eating, drinking, and causing mischief. During their Christmas Eve festivities, an evil spirit (or possibly a local trickster in disguise) joins them, and they sign a contract with him guaranteeing that the Major’s wife will be turned out of Ekeby for a year and that the cavaliers will have control of the estate as long as they do nothing that is un-cavalier like during the year. The rest of the stories show different events in the lives of the cavaliers and nearby residents during that year with a focus on morality and religion.

I liked this book because it was a nice light read to give me a break from the more serious literature I’ve been reading lately, but at the same time, there was a lot to think about in it. I would compare the stories to fables or fairy tales, although they’re more realistic folklore than either of those. I also enjoyed reading about such a different culture.

The following quote resonated with me enough for me to write it down:

“Young horses who cannot bear the whip or spur find life hard. At every smart they start forward and rush to their destruction, and when the way is stony and difficult, they know no better expedient than to overturn the cart and gallop madly away.” ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
I don't know quite why, but I was expecting this to be a kind of generic late 19th century novel - agricultural realism, a family struggling to hang on to their estate in difficult times. And of course it turns out to be something quite different, much harder to pigeon-hole. There is an element of realism in the underlying description of ordinary people's lives, but there's also a picaresque arbitrariness about the sequence of events that seems almost 18th century; larger-than-life characters stomp about in seven-league boots in a rather ETA Hoffmannish way; there's a Faust-story that keeps popping up in the background when we least expect it; nature intervenes whenever it chooses; the whole thing is set seventy years back in the 1820s in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, and narrated by someone who claims to have been around at the time (but Lagerlöf was only in her late 20s/early 30s when she wrote it); altogether it's difficult to work out when you are supposed to be.

While the story is full of parties, celebrations, escapades and practical jokes, there's a very hard moral line under it all. Frivolity is good and necessary, but as soon as it's taken too far (as it invariably is, here) we are brought down to earth with a painful bump and shown that events have consequences that are almost always both nasty and irreversible. Without order, work, and moral discipline the community falls apart into chaos (but we can't rely on established institutions to keep us in line: it's a matter of individual responsibility). Mostly, but not exclusively, it's the men who make a mess of everything and the women that suffer and try to patch it up again. But practically everyone in the novel is weak and fallible and makes at least one culpable mistake. But don't imagine that it's all dour moralising: apart from the occasional sentimental deathbed scene, the atmosphere is consistently light and ironic, and there are some very good jokes.

I haven't advanced far enough in Swedish to tackle something like this, so I was grateful for Paul Norlen's translation, which reads very naturally and mostly manages to avoid being either intrusively modern or archly Victorian. Penguin are clearly patting themselves on the back because this is the first new English translation in over a hundred years, but that does rather lay them open to the question why didn't they commission one earlier? Could it be that they were just waiting for Lagerlöf's copyright to expire...? ( )
  thorold | Jul 5, 2015 |
The Saga of Gosta Berling is a novel by Swedish author and Nobel prize winner, Selma Lagerlof. Combining two of my current obsessions, Scandinavian literature and women authors, I've been really looking forward to this one. This ended up not being an easy read for me, though I ended up finding it rewarding.

Gosta Berling starts out his adult life as a minister, but is quickly run out of town and defrocked for his excessive drinking and bad behavior. He falls in with a misfit group of cavaliers in the town of Ekeby. The rest of the book chronicles his various love affairs (which always end badly for the woman) and tell the stories of his fellow cavaliers. There is a strong element of folklore/mysticism running through the book and the stories are told in an episodic fashion. The episodic nature of the book kept me at arm's length, as I was never sure whether this was a character I would continue to run in to, or one I'd get to know for a few pages and never see again. It also made it a bit hard for me to get in to the flow of the book.

There is a lot of death in this book and a lot of infatuation (I can't call it love). What saved the book for me was that in the end there were a lot of loose ends tied up that I'd despaired of ever revisiting. Also, several of the women sort of come in to their own instead of killing themselves over Gosta Berling. Though I found the characterizations a bit weak or at least different than I'm used to, I will say that the writing is beautiful and I think the translation by Paul Norlen must be very good.

All in all, I'm glad I read this and I suspect it is a book that will improve for me as I think about it more and more. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Apr 15, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lagerlöf, Selmaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klaiber-Gottschau, PaulineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyboom, MargarethaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norlen, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schoolfield, George C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Äntligen stod prästen i predikstolen
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143105906, Paperback)

A Swedish Gone with the Wind by the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature—published here in the first new English translation in more than 100 years

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 an assortment of eccentric veterans of the Napoleonic 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:23 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Story of a defrocked minister who finds a home at an ironworks estate that houses various eccentric veterans of the Napoleonic Wars.

(summary from another edition)

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