Jerusalem by Selma Lagerlöf


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Page 1


As yet the only woman winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the
prize awarded to Kipling, Maeterlinck, and Hauptmann, is the
Swedish author of this book, "Jerusalem." The Swedish Academy, in

reason of the noble idealism, the wealth of imagination, the
soulful quality of style, which characterize her works." Five years

fellowship, and she is thus the only woman among those eighteen

author acknowledged not alone as a classic in the schools but also
as the most popular and generally beloved writer in Scandinavia?
She entered Swedish literature at a period when the cold gray star
of realism was in the ascendant, when the trenchant pen of
Strindberg had swept away the cobwebs of unreality, and people were
accustomed to plays and novels almost brutal in their frankness.
Wrapped in the mantle of a latter-day romanticism, her soul filled
with idealism, on the one hand she transformed the crisp
actualities of human experience by throwing about them the glamour
of the unknown, and on the other hand gave to the unreal--to folk
tale and fairy lore and local superstition--the effectiveness of

afterward one does not know whether what he has seen was dream or
reality, but certainly he has been on holy ground." The average
mind, whether Swedish or Anglo-Saxon, soon wearies of heartless
preciseness in literature and welcomes an idealism as wholesome as

her readers by a diction unique unto herself, as singular as the
English sentences of Charles Lamb. Her style may be described as
prose rhapsody held in restraint, at times passionately breaking
its bonds.

and of contact with her fellowmen, it is by intuition that she
_works_ rather than by experience. Otherwise, she could not have
depicted in her books such a multitude of characters from all parts
of Europe. She sees character with woman's warm and delicate

declared the Swedish critic, Oscar Levertin, "has the eyes of a

the simplicity of her character types. Deep and sure they may be,
but never too complex for the reader to comprehend. The more varied
characters--as the critic Johan Mortensen has pointed out--like
Hellgum, the mystic in "Jerusalem," are merely indicated and

developing the psychology of the unusual, but in analyzing the
motives and emotions of the normal mind. This accounts for the
comforting feeling of satisfaction and familiarity which comes over
one reading the chronicles of events so exceptionable as those
which occur in "Jerusalem."

In one of her books, "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils," Miss

in reference to the various landscapes visited by the wild goose in

the life of the province at Vermland, where she herself was born
on a farmstead in 1858. A love of starlight, violins, and dancing,
a temperament easily provoked to a laughing abandon of life's
tragedy characterizes the folk of Vermland and the impecunious
gentry who live in its modest manor halls. It is a different folk
to whom one is introduced in "Jerusalem," the people of Dalecarlia,

dancing festivals at Midsummer Eve, and their dress is the most
gorgeous in Sweden, but one thinks of them rather as a serious and
solid community given to the plow and conservative habits of
thought. They were good Catholics once; now they are stalwart
defenders of Lutheranism, a community not easily persuaded but,
once aroused, resolute to act and carry through to the uttermost.
One thinks of them as the people who at first gave a deaf ear to
Gustaf Vasa's appeal to drive out the Danes, but who eventually
followed him shoulder to shoulder through the very gates of
Stockholm, to help him lay the foundations of modern Sweden. Titles
of nobility have never prospered in Dalecarlia; these stalwart
landed peasants are a nobility unto themselves. The Swedish people
regard their Dalecarlians as a reserve upon whom to draw in times
of crisis.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Thu 22nd Aug 2019, 2:59