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Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige

  • Country in which the text is set
    Sweden
  • Featured locations

    Blåkulla, Glimmingehus, Pommern (Pomerania), Vineta, Gottland (Gotland), Visby, Lilla Karlsön

  • Impact

    This text is taken from Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige I-II, 1906-1907 (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Further Adventures of Nils) by Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940). In 1909 Lagerlöf was the first woman writer ever to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, not long after the publication of this book. Her first novel, Gösta Berlings saga (1891), was pivotal in the Swedish Romantic revival of the 1890s and remains a vital part of this country’s prose canon. The text included in the BSL is a chapter from the Nils Holgersson that is sometimes left out of abridged translations.

    “Two Cities” (Ch. 14 in the book) juxtaposes the town of Vineta, a possibly legendary medieval metropolis that is said to have sunk into the sea, and Gotland’s Visby, which had already long been a city of ruins when Lagerlöf wrote about it. In the mid-1890s, Lagerlöf had addressed the topic of Vineta in two short stories; a decade later she again drew on Vineta, juxtaposing it with Visby in order to confront her minuscule hero with two versions of pastness and make him ponder the frailty of man-made things.

    The adventures of Nils are familiar in translation in most corners of the world. Film versions, animations, comic strip versions and spoofs have further diversified the book’s fame. Car ferries and aircraft have been named after it, and an illustration referring to it is featured on the Swedish 20-crown bank note.

    This text is taken from Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige I-II, 1906-1907(The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Further Adventures of Nils) by Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940). In 1909 Lagerlöf was the first woman writer ever to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, not long after the publication of this book. Her first novel, Gösta Berlings saga (1891), was pivotal in the Swedish Romantic revival of the 1890s and remains a vital part of this country’s prose canon. The text included in the BSL is a chapter from the Nils Holgersson that is sometimes left out of abridged translations.

  • Balticness

    Vineta – which is also cited, for example, in Günter Grass’s Die Rättin – is believed to have been located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, on the present site of either Wolin (Poland), Zinnowitz (Germany) or Barth (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). Prior to 500 AD it was referred to as one of Europe’s foremost trading cities. Ibrahim ibn Yaqub, envoy of the Caliph of Cordoba, reported circa 970 that in Pomerania there was a large port with twelve gates. Bishop Adam of Bremen called Vineta the largest of all towns in Europe. While there is a legend telling of how Vineta sank because of the sinfulness of its inhabitants, its disappearance was probably due to shifts in the distributary channels of the Oder delta. Scientific evidence for its existence has still not been found. It is, or serves as, the Atlantis of the North.

    Clas Zilliacus

  • Bibliographic information

    Selma Lagerlöf, Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige. Bd 1
    Stockholm: Bonnier, 1906

  • Translations
    Danish 1906-08 Ida Falbe-Hansen  
      1918 Henrik Madsen  
      1962 Anine Rud  
      2005 Anne Marie Bjerg  
    English 1907 Velma Swanston Howard  
      1912 A. Louis Elmquist  
      1967 Richard E. Oldenburg  
      1991 Velma Swanston Howard rev. Nancy Johnson  
    Estonian 1932 Adelaide Lemberg  
      1958 Vladimir Beekman  
    Finnish 1906 Juhani Aho  
      1989 Paula Antila  
    German 1907 Pauline Klaiber  
      1919 Mathilde Mann  
      1949 André Foelckersam  
      1951 Günther Thaer  
      1969 Caroline von Crailsheim  
      1994 Gisela Perlet (abr.)  
      1998 Angelika Kutsch  
      1999 Pauline Klaiber-Gottschau rev. Lisette Buchholz  
    Icelandic 1928 Aðalsteinn Sigmundsson  
      1946 Marinó L. Stefánsson   
    Latvian 1924 Alma Gobniece  
    Lithuanian 1931  Jonas Jablonskis  
      1959 Adelė Laigonaitė (from German)  
    Norwegian 2003 Jo Ørjasæter  
    Polish 1912 Janina Mortkowiczowa  
      1977 Janina Mortkowiczowa  
      2007 Justyna Gladys  
    Russian 1909 M. Barsukovaja  
      1934 Boris Vasilévic Pravdin  
      1969 A. Zadunajskaja  
      1987 Ljudmila Julevna Braude  
      1988 V. Prieskin  
      2002 Sergej Aleksandrovic Krestovskij  
      2007 Elena E. Almazova and Vitalij Svarov  
      2008 Anna Vasileva  
  • Year of first publication
    1906
  • Place of first publication
    Stockholm

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