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The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, Lagerlöf assured her place in Swedish letters with this 1891 novel. The eponymous hero, a country pastor whose appetite for alcohol and indiscretions ends his career, falls in with a dozen vagrant Swedish cavaliers and enters into a power struggle with the richest woman in the province. The book has a Faustian theme The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, Lagerlöf assured her place in Swedish letters with this 1891 novel. The eponymous hero, a country pastor whose appetite for alcohol and indiscretions ends his career, falls in with a dozen vagrant Swedish cavaliers and enters into a power struggle with the richest woman in the province. The book has a Faustian theme revolving around a possible deal with the Devil. It also deals with social issues such as poverty and depression, as well as mixing in elements of myths and humorous love stories.


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The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, Lagerlöf assured her place in Swedish letters with this 1891 novel. The eponymous hero, a country pastor whose appetite for alcohol and indiscretions ends his career, falls in with a dozen vagrant Swedish cavaliers and enters into a power struggle with the richest woman in the province. The book has a Faustian theme The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, Lagerlöf assured her place in Swedish letters with this 1891 novel. The eponymous hero, a country pastor whose appetite for alcohol and indiscretions ends his career, falls in with a dozen vagrant Swedish cavaliers and enters into a power struggle with the richest woman in the province. The book has a Faustian theme revolving around a possible deal with the Devil. It also deals with social issues such as poverty and depression, as well as mixing in elements of myths and humorous love stories.

30 review for Gösta Berling's Saga

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ines

    I was really impressed by the beauty and complexity of this book, I had already read years ago a Lagerlof's work "Jerusalem", which left me positive surprised. In this work we find ourselves discovering the life of Gosta, a protestant pastor forced to leave his church caused of his habit to drink, thus ending up begging to survive... The fact that he cheated a little girl by stealing her sack of flour will lead him little by little to despair, but our Lagerlof will give her character a strange gif I was really impressed by the beauty and complexity of this book, I had already read years ago a Lagerlof's work "Jerusalem", which left me positive surprised. In this work we find ourselves discovering the life of Gosta, a protestant pastor forced to leave his church caused of his habit to drink, thus ending up begging to survive... The fact that he cheated a little girl by stealing her sack of flour will lead him little by little to despair, but our Lagerlof will give her character a strange gift of conversion and rehabilitation. With the entry into the story of the character of the Mistress of Ekeby, who will make a covenant with Gosta, to honor the little girl to whom she will give protection and formation, Gosta must enter the circle of the Knights of Ekeby. It is very difficult to tell you the exact plot, the work is built as an ancient saga , perhaps more like a mixture of myth and allegorical fairy tale with the presence of many short chapters with different stories but all with the theme of knights and the Mistress of Ekeby. Gosta and his circle of knights, men devoted to drinking and enjoying life, able to confuse good with evil, to betray, to entice a thousand women but also to forgive... It is very difficult to arrive at a clear link on the meaning of this work. While I was going through the pages I remembered Paul’s biblical phrase in the letter to the Romans "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" and well Saint Augustine said " even sins!" in order to complete Paul's phrase!! In this saga God is ever present, never concealed,. but often forgotten in the face of iniquities to trade for a greater good. Will this also be the message? Even the pain, the evil, the more troubled life hides in its deepest depths the cry of eternal salvation? And that’s how she closes the saga with Gosta that leaves his company of knights. Sono rimasta veramente colpita dalla bellezza e dalla complessità di questo libro, avevo già letto anni fa un libro della Lagerlof, "Jerusalem", che mi lasciò molto sorpresa. In questa opera ci troviamo a scoprire la vita di Gosta, pastore protestante costretto a lasciare la sua chiesa a causa del suo vizio al bere, finendo così a chiedere l' elemosina per poter sopravvivere. L'aver truffato una bimba rubandogli il suo sacco di farina, porterà Gosta alla disperazione, ma la nostra Lagerlof donerà al suo personaggio uno dono strano di conversione e riabilitazione. Con l' entrata nel racconto del personaggio della Maggioressa di Ekeby, che stringerà un patto con Gosta, per onorare la piccola bambina a cui donerà la protezione e formazione sino alla maggiore età, Gosta dovrà entrare nel circolo dei Cavalieri di Ekeby. E' difficilissimo raccontarvi poi l' esatta trama, il libro è costruito come una saga antica , forse più come un intreccio di mito e fiaba allegorica., con la presenza di molti corti capitoli a se stanti ma tutti aventi come tema i cavalieri e la maggioressa di Ekeby. Gosta e la sua masnada di cavalieri, uomini devoti al bere e a godersi la vita, capaci di confondere il bene con il male, a tradire, a irretire mille donne ma anche a perdonarsi. Difficilissimo è arrivare a un nesso chiaro sul significato di questo lavoro, mentre scorrevo le pagine mi veniva in mente la frase biblica di Paolo nella lettera ai Romani " Tutto concorre al bene per coloro che amano Dio " ; qui un Dio sempre presente, mai celato ma spesso dimenticato di fronte alle iniquità scambiare per un bene più grande. Sarà anche questo il messaggio? anche il dolore, il male, la vita più travagliata nasconde nel suo piu' profondo intimo il grido di salvezza eterna? Ed è proprio così che chiude la saga con Gosta che lascia la sua compagnia di cavalieri.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    "Äntligen stod prästen i predikstolen." At long last the minister stood in the pulpit. That is the initial sentence of Gösta Berling's Saga, and those are the words that most school children in Sweden used to learn by heart. What follows is a magical trip around the woods and mansions of Värmland, in the middle of nowhere in Selma Lagerlöf's Sweden. The lure of an easy, irresponsible life leads to suffering and curse and chaos, and the readiness to see own weaknesses and to resist the manipulati "Äntligen stod prästen i predikstolen." At long last the minister stood in the pulpit. That is the initial sentence of Gösta Berling's Saga, and those are the words that most school children in Sweden used to learn by heart. What follows is a magical trip around the woods and mansions of Värmland, in the middle of nowhere in Selma Lagerlöf's Sweden. The lure of an easy, irresponsible life leads to suffering and curse and chaos, and the readiness to see own weaknesses and to resist the manipulative power of the mighty and rich brings closure to a haunted soul. If the beginning marks Gösta's divided character, his drunken approach to society and its status, the ending marks his willingness to move on and live life on better, more genuine terms. I don't know if Gösta Berling can unfold his magic for anyone who is not familiar with the trolls (both human and imaginary) in the Swedish countryside, on the very boundary between the wild and the urban civilisation. All I can say is that this story is part of the almost subconscious cultural heritage that Swedish readers carry with them, and the Lagerlöf trolls are still vividly present in the dark months of the year. You can see them lurk in the badly lit corners of cities and on the unlit paths in the woods. They have a smell of fur trees and saffron or cinnamon buns, and a frosty touch, and they strangely fill people with joy, despite their ugliness. To be read, and reread, and enjoyed as long as there are Swedish winters to survive!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    The moon rose, and the loveliest time of night came. The moon poured down her light from the pure blue High arch of heaven over the leaves of the terrace. At our feet a lily shivered in its urn; And gold light rose from its chalice. We had all come to sit on the stairs, Both the old ones and young, silent In order to let the emotions take up The old tunes in the loveliest time of night. I do not mourn for the stories told around the fire like those of previous generations do, for I was not the one w The moon rose, and the loveliest time of night came. The moon poured down her light from the pure blue High arch of heaven over the leaves of the terrace. At our feet a lily shivered in its urn; And gold light rose from its chalice. We had all come to sit on the stairs, Both the old ones and young, silent In order to let the emotions take up The old tunes in the loveliest time of night. I do not mourn for the stories told around the fire like those of previous generations do, for I was not the one who killed them. I do not mourn for "simpler" times in as pigeonholed a way as those of an aged nostalgia, for a smaller view of things does not inherently lead to less amounts of cruelty, or an increase in understanding. What I mourn for is what I have interpreted of the bits and pieces left to me, the music, the literature, the sense of Far over the misty mountains cold that raises hairs no matter how many may puke over technology and newfangled young'uns and their contemporary times. So I got Stravinsky's Firebird Suite through a Disney cartoon instead of a radio or concert hall or whatever is 'legitimate' and 'enculturated' these days. Big whoop. I'd pay attention if I heard "white supremacy" or "morality that must be babysat is no morality at all", but alas. I do not mourn for these times like one supposedly must, and thus must figure it out on my own. Friends and children, dancing or laughing! I want to warn you to dance with care and laugh softly, for if your shoes should step on an oversensitive nature rather than on hard boards, it can cause an enormous amount of suffering; and your strong laughter can drive a soul to desperation. One nice result of having set myself on all the Big and Difficult Things is that I can compare millenium old Japanese classics to Nineteenth Century Nobel Prize Winning Literature without any and all daring a peep, so I will go ahead and say Lagerlöf successfully pulls a Genji. Sure, I like Gösta Berling a hell of a lot more than Shikibu's titular soul, but that doesn't mean he's more of a main point than he is a particularly effective fictional device. Where he goes, we go, and enjoy what comes. What he does, we view from all sides, and appreciate the need for life and sociocultural norms. Whom we meets, we embody, and it is never so simple to say what we mean with love and alcohol on one side and the stability of civilization on the other. Deals with the devil never looked better when one thinks on how humanity's run the world thus far. Those who were wiser could console themselves that they had fought for their country and for honor. What did he know of such things? He simply felt that he was hateful because he had killed and caused much injury. Course, any work of this breed of creation and beyond is nothing more than a compilation of fictional devices, so let's do what some are pleased by and others are pissed off by (sometimes both, depending on the lies they are defending and the truths they are denying) and compare literature to math. Into our formula troops Gösta Berling, twelve guests, one major's wife, one heiress, one beauty, one devotee, one countess, the landscape of Selma Lagerlöf's childhood, the history of her riches and the future of her downfall, religion as the hardbound moral work it was meant to be, cultural heritage as it is meant to awe in equal measure, and that 'good' so fought over by pagans and Christianity and whoever else has a hard time with raisons d'être. It's beneficial to know something of the place and the times, but sagas of events that may have been a downfall, may have been a triumph, may have been a scandal and may have been a time of holiness have played out the world over, so too much knowledge of the nonfictional sort may cloud more than it conceals. You ought to know that no one can worship the goddess of wisdom without some punishment. Beyond that, the differences between the two previously mentioned works of classical status and male-webbed plotlines lie in a matter of worlds, insular Heian court versus sprawling Värmland woods, the latter of more instinctive appeal to my Euro-bred self for its ice, its mythos, the joys of its industry and the hells of its souls. My mind is most comfortable in sidelong conjuring when the woods are dark and the air is fog and the depths of evil are wandering the roads at will, so those to whom Dracula appeals for glimpsed landscapes and Kristin Lavransdatter calls for the bitter glory of moral triumph, come. This one's happier than either and is best read aloud, even to music if one is of mind. My reward would be enough if the poor would remember me for a year or two after my death. I should have done some good if I had planted a couple of apple trees in the yard or taught the country fiddlers some of the old tunes or taught the shepherd children a few good songs to sing in the woods. The afterword's a mewling twit of a thing penned by someone who cannot believe a woman wrote this work, so find your Lagerlöf bio elsewhere. You do not need theological nitpicking, nor erratic Euro-patriarchal namedropping, nor even a few final begrudging lines about experimental literature and life that are ruined by being couched in whines of "feminine in the best sense" and the like. You may, however, need the work. It's something I'd hedge my bets on even if 'twere wrote in blood on black and rang of ghostly bells, deep in the misty nights. Dear reader, must I say the same? The great bees of imagination have now swarmed about us for one year and one day; but how are they going to squeeze into the beehive of fact is a problem they will have to solve by themselves.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Are the new caretakers of Ekeby twelve worthless drunks or twelve worthy, heroic figures fallen on hard times? By the novel's end, both possibilities seem true, and their leader is the most complicated of all the men--a young defrocked minister and lady's man named Gosta Berling. The men have made a contract with the devil in human form and have been granted the run of the Ekeby estate for a full year. Over the course of the year, Gosta experiences epic love no less than three times, and every m Are the new caretakers of Ekeby twelve worthless drunks or twelve worthy, heroic figures fallen on hard times? By the novel's end, both possibilities seem true, and their leader is the most complicated of all the men--a young defrocked minister and lady's man named Gosta Berling. The men have made a contract with the devil in human form and have been granted the run of the Ekeby estate for a full year. Over the course of the year, Gosta experiences epic love no less than three times, and every month or so a great tragedy or miracle occurs in the region. Selma Lagerlof's deft blending, in 1891, of neo-Romanticism and quasi-saga storytelling is endlessly entertaining. I read the book in multiple sittings over the course of a few weeks, and this may have been the ideal way to take it in since, structurally, it often has the feel of those great English installment-chapter novels of the Victorian era. Lagerlof often begins a chapter as though it were a short story, starting from some unpredictable launching point and gradually cementing This Tale into the greater myth-work that is Gosta's saga. As with all the Lagerlof I've read, a great exuberance of heart and humanism predominates. Though when she addresses tragedy she is always convincing, I can't believe that Lagerlof ever sat down with the desire to evoke gravitas or melancholy in her audience; all her writing seems to have been crafted with the idea of its being a gift to the reader, something to lighten our cares and kindle our imaginations. That this book is not generally known as a classic of Western literature is a shame.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books The rating, any status updates, and those bookshelves, indicate my feelings for this book. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books The rating, any status updates, and those bookshelves, indicate my feelings for this book. (hide spoiler)]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Issicratea

    I had literally never heard of Selma Lagerlöf, the first female winner of the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1909), before a Swedish friend recently recommended her to me. This may just be evidence of my personal ignorance, but I suspect she doesn’t have that much name recognition in the English-speaking world generally, despite the fact that many of her books have long been available in English translation (in the case of Gösta Berling's Saga, since 1894.) Gösta Berling’s Saga was Lagerlöf’s deb I had literally never heard of Selma Lagerlöf, the first female winner of the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1909), before a Swedish friend recently recommended her to me. This may just be evidence of my personal ignorance, but I suspect she doesn’t have that much name recognition in the English-speaking world generally, despite the fact that many of her books have long been available in English translation (in the case of Gösta Berling's Saga, since 1894.) Gösta Berling’s Saga was Lagerlöf’s debut novel, published when she was in her early 30s in 1891. It is a strikingly original and distinctive work, to the point that I find it difficult to think of real parallels for it in other literatures with which I am familiar. I occasionally thought of Kasua Ishiguru’s The Buried Giant as I was reading it; and, rather more often, of James Hogg’s The Three Perils of Man. Gösta Berling’s Saga rivals both for eccentricity, which is really quite an achievement. Like The Buried Giant, it has a strange, slow-build, layered quality, as well. At points along the way, the suspicion grew on me that it was completely bonkers, but, by the end, I found it a powerful and impressively sophisticated work. Gösta Berling’s Saga is set in Lagerlöf’s native province of Värmland, in western Sweden, a land—as Lagerlöf lyrically describes it—of wolf and bear-haunted forests, bright lakes, and mines rich in ore. The novel draws richly on the legends and folk tales of the area, in a way that gives it a texture reminiscent of magic realism. The devil gets a bit-part appearance, as does a slinky and dangerous wood nymph, and the whole saga has a swoony, mythic, fabulist quality to it. There are echoes of the Faust myth, with the selling of souls, and of Don Juan in the reckless dissipation and scattergun seductions of the title character, a defrocked priest. For all the magic, though, the realism is never quite forgotten. History lurks on the margins. The characters include a few relics from the Napoleonic Wars, and a fascinating, barely-there political theme seems perceptible at points. The exuberant, laughter-loving Countess Märta, seems to embody the gaiety and whimsy of the ancien régime at her first appearance, but she quickly morphs into a tyrant. One striking set-piece scene shows a popular uprising against the hedonistic régime of the “cavaliers of Ekeby” (I’m not going to even attempt to explain that reference), in a human explosion of violence that parallels the equally striking scenes of flood and fire we find elsewhere. The introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of this novel has some interesting material on its early reception. Some of it illustrates very well what Lagerlöf had to struggle against. The Danish critic Georg Brandes, who seems to have been responsible for “discovering” the novel, nonetheless speaks patronizingly of Lagerlöf as a naïve novelist (“her warm, living imagination is like a child’s. Exactly like a child’s.”) That seems extraordinarily misguided. Lagerlöf’s narratorial voice, which is one of the glories of this novel, takes on the naivety of the folk-tale narrator at points, but only as part of a complex and articulated strategy. This is anything but a child-like work. One excellent piece of trivia from the Penguin introduction: in addition to her literary talents, Lagerlöf also proved herself an efficient businesswoman, with a line of “super-healthy oatmeal, labeled Märbacka Oats-Power.” So that was her secret!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Orient

    It was hard for me to judge the translation without knowing the book in the original. That's why I have to look at it as to any other book. And, what do I find: 1. effortlessly gloomy plot (some gothical spices to Scandinavia) 2. some black humour (hardly enough to change the situation to better) 3. mexican soap opera (Gosta, "the lord of love", the sinful former priest, wanders full of self-pity and gay (yep the biggest part of this book is overflooded with this word so beware, this word is infect It was hard for me to judge the translation without knowing the book in the original. That's why I have to look at it as to any other book. And, what do I find: 1. effortlessly gloomy plot (some gothical spices to Scandinavia) 2. some black humour (hardly enough to change the situation to better) 3. mexican soap opera (Gosta, "the lord of love", the sinful former priest, wanders full of self-pity and gay (yep the biggest part of this book is overflooded with this word so beware, this word is infectious :D) through the hearts of the women and sometimes the lands and forests.) 4. Unnatural characters. It's sad that I found nothing, even not a little bit, naturalistic about the characters in the book. All I could feel was that most characters were too much exagerated. Maybe the translator did an awful job or maybe it's just the maner of the author. Once I got accustomed to the style (how masochistic it sounds ;D) and the peculiarities -the whole experience is not so REALLY bad. I really liked the description of the nature and some jokes. Those are the small gold pieces that I found digging through all the crap.This book is a real monument to the comic absurdity of human behaviour. Ah and the best sentence is: "Now it's a matter of life and death," cries Anna, an early love of Gosta's, as their sleigh is surrounded by wolves, "howling with hunger and blood-thirst", and she wonders if travellers the next day will find their "torn-apart limbs on the trampled, bloody snow". It's no country for cowards or weaklings. "This was life," Anna thinks, "rushing along over sparkling snow, defying wild animals and people." I think it clearly shows the real rebellion through the rough-tough life.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “'When man is silent, the stones must speak,’ they said.” Perhaps Selma Lagerlöf could hear the stones. A quiet book-loving child, she grew up in the beautiful lake country of western Sweden. After reading her first novel at age seven, Selma wanted to become an author, and it appears she absorbed all the colorful folk tales of her region, blended them with the wisdom of nature around her, and created this remarkable saga of the very flawed hero Gösta Berling. “But there stood Gösta Berling, the ga “'When man is silent, the stones must speak,’ they said.” Perhaps Selma Lagerlöf could hear the stones. A quiet book-loving child, she grew up in the beautiful lake country of western Sweden. After reading her first novel at age seven, Selma wanted to become an author, and it appears she absorbed all the colorful folk tales of her region, blended them with the wisdom of nature around her, and created this remarkable saga of the very flawed hero Gösta Berling. “But there stood Gösta Berling, the gay cavalier, greeted with joy for his cheerful smile and his pleasant words, which sifted gold-dust over life’s gray web.” Selma’s father was an alcoholic, which may be the reason drinking is behind almost all the evil that befalls the characters here. (The coming of better times in this story is actually marked by “And no more brandy is made now.”) Reading this felt a bit like looking at someone else’s family album though. You know what I mean, where the photos are lovely but don’t carry the emotional heft or back story that exists for the family, so you can’t appreciate them in the same way. I can only imagine what the experience would be like if I knew the country well and had heard versions of the tales as a child. There were places where the story dragged a bit, but others where it glittered with intensity, like in these gorgeous passages: “Terror is a witch. She sits in the dimness of the forest, sings magic songs to people, and fills their hearts with frightful thoughts. From her comes that deadly fear which weighs down life and darkens the beauty of smiling landscapes. Nature is malignant, treacherous as a sleeping snake; one can believe nothing.” “If dead things love, if earth and water distinguish friends from enemies, I should like to possess their love. I should like the green earth not to feel my step as a heavy burden. I should like her to forgive that she for my sake is wounded by plough and harrow, and willingly to open for my dead body. And I should like the waves, whose shining mirror is broken by my oars, to have the same patience with me as a mother has with an eager child when it climbs up on her knee, careless of the uncrumpled silk of her dress.” In the end, I was enchanted by the way this remarkable author wove traditional tales into a satisfying story, full of magic and morality, giving me a glimpse into a long-ago Swedish landscape.

  9. 4 out of 5

    dely

    I didn't enjoy that much this book. The beginning was interesting and I thought that the book would have talked about Gösta Berling, a disavowed priest, and his adventures. It talked about him, but the whole story wasn't flowing: every chapter was a kind of short story. I may say that the book is made by many episodes with several characters, all equalliy important though Gösta Berling is the "gravity center". So some chapters are dedicated to Gösta's friends and these chapters didn't add anythi I didn't enjoy that much this book. The beginning was interesting and I thought that the book would have talked about Gösta Berling, a disavowed priest, and his adventures. It talked about him, but the whole story wasn't flowing: every chapter was a kind of short story. I may say that the book is made by many episodes with several characters, all equalliy important though Gösta Berling is the "gravity center". So some chapters are dedicated to Gösta's friends and these chapters didn't add anything to the story or the plot. I also couldn't understand if Gösta Berling is a character of Swedish folktales or if those were stories the author had listened to as a child or if there is something real but with some magic added (witches etc.) or if it's only a piece of fiction. The author perhaps wanted to add also some moral teachings? There is good vs evil but at the same time every character is both good and evil. Sadly this analysis is pretty cold, there aren't shades, so the characters don't seem real. The author underlines that sometimes bad can be done involuntarily and that bad things sometimes happen so that we can learn from it and improve as a person, but it isn't put well in the story and so sometimes I had the feeling to listen to a puerile moral teaching. Towards the end there were also too many religious concepts that I really couldn't stand. An example: who is the cause of a drought? A priest is the culprit because he was stingy and wasn't able to pray God as he should and so God punished the people with a drought. Meh. As said, the characters don't seem real because some of their behaviors go from "very bad" to "too good" and often I had the feeling they were crazy. There are some very good descriptions of the place and of the landscape, but sometimes the author becomes too aulic and solem so I didn't like these parts because it's a way of writing I don't like.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    These tales gather in sophistication. They seem almost crude at first. My Penguin translation of 2011 seems to struggle to describe this work, and I do too. ‘Sweeping historical epic’, in the book description, won’t do for this interweave of stories, and if, like me, you look askance at the ‘string of women who fall under Gösta's spell’, you may, like me, yet be glad you pursued your curiosity nevertheless. The back of my book even sells it as ‘the Swedish Gone With the Wind’. Plot fiends who ex These tales gather in sophistication. They seem almost crude at first. My Penguin translation of 2011 seems to struggle to describe this work, and I do too. ‘Sweeping historical epic’, in the book description, won’t do for this interweave of stories, and if, like me, you look askance at the ‘string of women who fall under Gösta's spell’, you may, like me, yet be glad you pursued your curiosity nevertheless. The back of my book even sells it as ‘the Swedish Gone With the Wind’. Plot fiends who expect a Gone With the Wind ‘sweep’ are likely to be frustrated with these short episodes that focus on different people; and while the majority of tales have to do with love, they don’t add up to a grand romance. Rather they give viewpoints – women’s and men’s, sad, ecstatic, cynical or idealistic – and often operate with irony. Trust Lagerlöf. First woman to win the Nobel. Lived as a lesbian (with a fellow writer) but the literary establishment presented her as a maiden aunt who told charming fairy tales. On the ways she had to let them ‘present’ her and her work, see this article: ‘Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth’. http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/01... The eponymous hero is more an excuse to spin tales with, his counterweight being ‘the majoress’, in whom the author probably situates herself. There is psychological portrayal; it just does not reside in the ‘hero’. At times it resides in imagery, in the construction of the brief plots, or of course in whichever from the cast of persons steps forward for a particular tale. The book is notable for personifications, of animals and of an animist landscape. A bravura one is a flood, whose waters have their opportunity to wreak vengeance on humankind. Typically, this tale becomes diverted: another crosses its path and we follow that one instead; I never heard what happened with the flood. Often you hear, though, as if by chance interconnection in another tale. Intriguing work.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    How Strikingly Beautiful He Was: A Review of Gosta Berling's Saga The Varmland of Gosta Berling's Saga made me crave a word that would be in all ways synonymous with the word "exotic" except that the word I want would replace connotations of south tinged with oriental with connotations of north tinged with occidental. I'm not sure what exact location Western Culture can be given but it seems reasonable to posit that if it could be pinpointed Varmland would fall far enough north of there to quali How Strikingly Beautiful He Was: A Review of Gosta Berling's Saga The Varmland of Gosta Berling's Saga made me crave a word that would be in all ways synonymous with the word "exotic" except that the word I want would replace connotations of south tinged with oriental with connotations of north tinged with occidental. I'm not sure what exact location Western Culture can be given but it seems reasonable to posit that if it could be pinpointed Varmland would fall far enough north of there to qualify as a northern version of exotic in terms of farawayness, otherness, and unfamiliarity. (Especially when one takes into consideration that the word exotic didn't always mean so very faraway---sometimes it could be found as close as the mediterranean which would surely be equidistant to Sweden if only the location of Western culture could be pinpointed somewhere.) In Varmland there are wolves instead of tigers, dark forests instead of jungles, and glistening snowdrifts instead of tropical flowers. Exotic lands produce romantic heros (blame it on the climate, as Lagerlof in regard to her land and hero) and so Varmland produces Gosta Berling. "How tall and slight and how strikingly beautiful he was! In helmet and a coat of mail he might have stood for an ancient Athenian. He had the unfathomable eyes of a poet, but the whole lower part of his face was that of a conquerer, his whole being was instinct with genius and refinement and warm poetic feeling..." Too bad the young pastor's fine instincts led him to drink and he abandoned his parish to wander the land as a beggar. A man of such refinement can't just slink off into the forest to die however so he ends up living a life of leisure at Ekeby Manor. In the course of his ensuing adventures with the Ekeby cavaliers he is tricked into betraying the trust of the Mistress of Ekeby and he and the cavaliers are put in charge of the manor and several iron mines as well. They continue making merry, there is a flood and famine, unrest among the peasants, Gosta falls in and out of love, there are parties, girls try to kill themselves over him and occasionally succeed until finally Gosta marries. Then they all live happily ever after. Except for the ones who died. The Saga of Gosta Berling is both a romantic recounting of the adventures of a carefree young man as well as the story of that man's perdition and salvation. Throughout the course of the book he slowly begins to realize that all his dash and daring does more harm than good and he ends up wanting to steal away to the forest to do as he did at the outset of his adventures. Instead his wife finds him and admonishes: "I say to you that you should simply go and do your duty. You must not dream of having been sent by God---everybody is that, you know. You must do the work without heroics. You are not to dazzle and astonish people; you must do it so that your name is not too often on people's lips." The problem with the story is that by the end Gosta's salvation doesn't really seem to be worth much. Selma Lagerlof is so enamored of her hero that she indulges him at every turn. She can't help writing scenes in which he brings ruin or even death to those around him because those scenes are integral to his character (or lack thereof) and are keeping with the story of the sinner saved. At the same time she constantly inserts lighter scenes of dancing and carousing and Gosta's charming antics which I assume are meant to show how lovable he is but instead make him seem spoiled and thoughtless. Every time he commits a blunder that brings ruination to someone else she explains that it was not really, not exactly his fault. Her descriptions of his good looks are oppressive in contrast with his deeds and cannot achieve their intended purpose of making the reader adore him as much as the author does. Yet there are some powerful characters in this book. Margarita Samzelius, the capable Mistress of Ekeby, formerly the lovely Margarita Celsing is one, and Captain Lennert, God's pilgrim is another. The story of the Mistress of Ekeby who is betrayed by Gosta and her faithful cavaliers and cast out of her home as a beggar brings a more interesting redemption story into the narrative. Where Gosta is blithe and passive she is vigorous and active. She did not lead a blameless life but when she was confronted with her past failings she sought rectify them, and even beforehand she made herself useful to those around her. After being cast out of her home she seeks the forgiveness of her ancient mother and then returns to Ekeby to die. Captain Lennert was a playful man on his way home from prison after being convicted of a crime when he did not commit. Unfortunately he came across Gosta and his cohorts who coerced him to drink and then painted his face while he slept so that the first his long suffering wife saw of him was the face of a hopeless drunkard. She cast him out and he became an itinerant preacher wandering the countryside and doing what he could to help the peasants during the famine. He was killed defending a woman and child in a brawl at the fairground. Gosta was indirectly the cause of the circumstances that led to each of their deaths, each of which leaves the book feeling a little lighter, and we are left with a living Gosta, whose life, in comparison, loses some luster. The bulk of the book is taken up with chronicles of Gosta's failed romances. He falls in love with countless girls it never works: one was too innocent to know he was a defrocked pastor and when she finds out she kills herself, one was a cold beauty whose heart did not melt sufficiently for Gosta, another fell in love with him as they sped over a frozen lake in a sledge but when wolves began to pursue them they were forced to make a detour to the house of the man she was promised to and there Gosta leaves her. During that fateful sledge ride Gosta throws a copy of Corinne into the mouth of one of the wolves. I've never Mme. de Stael (though I suppose someday I'll have to---she's mentioned so frequently) but I have heard that she was writer of great sensibility and I think it is unfair of Lagerlof to treat her so harshly when she is trucking in the same sort of stuff. Especially in the moment when Corinne is so unceremoniously disposed of. ("It is you I love---you, the noblest of men. You need do nothing, be nothing, you are born a king." The poet's blood in him surged. She was so enchanting in her love, he clasped her in his arms." That seems like enough mush to choke a wolf.) The problem with exoticism is that it is often used to mask a lack of substance. I will not say that Gosta Berling's saga is devoid of substance, but rather the substance is left fallow in the summer fields of Varmland while Gosta and his friends are out carousing. It is as if the author herself was in love with Gosta Berling and blind to all of his faults. She neglects the better parts of her novel to follow him. She introduces him to us expecting us to be as smitten as she is but Gosta Berling is definitely not my type.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sverre

    This book is a great work of art from many readers’ points of view. Probably it is, but one should probably be somewhat suspicious when a Swedish author received a Nobel Prize, awarded by a Swedish committee consisting of privileged academics. I grew up hearing about this book, and, coincidentally, my grandmother came from Värmland, the setting of the book. For decades I had ignored this work so its time had come—or so I thought. Well, as it turned out, I should have resisted longer. This is not This book is a great work of art from many readers’ points of view. Probably it is, but one should probably be somewhat suspicious when a Swedish author received a Nobel Prize, awarded by a Swedish committee consisting of privileged academics. I grew up hearing about this book, and, coincidentally, my grandmother came from Värmland, the setting of the book. For decades I had ignored this work so its time had come—or so I thought. Well, as it turned out, I should have resisted longer. This is not a novel. I was put off by the chopped-up texture of its presentation. ‘Gösta Berling’ is a work consisting of artful meanderings. Lagerlöf was a literary conjurer. She had great skill with forming phrases and sentences that enchant and charm the reader. And she often goes off-topic to add incidentals. Considerable time is taken to inform the reader about flora and fauna, local customs and the social dynamics of Värmland. Intervals are used to delve into fantasy and mythology. We share in the reminiscences of horses and even the wagons that they have pulled. We follow the fancies of an eagle on an excursion. Miss Lagerlöf was notably enamoured by her character Berling, a shifty defrocked priest, a drunkard and Don Juan. His relationships with women can best be described as whimsical, impulsive and disloyal, even reckless. The author injects a number of other characters—especially headstrong women—to act as accomplices or adversaries (sometimes both) to his egocentric foibles. The women’s’ emotional investments in Gösta are most often absurdly paradoxical from one moment to the next—from slavishly worshipful to heartlessly dismissive. I very seldom give up on a book. Many books are not exactly gripping or entertaining from page one. Most take a few dozen pages to get the reader interested. My expectations were high for this book but it failed to engage me. With stubborn persistence I plodded through more than half of it before I decided I had had enough. I am sure my dispassionate grandmother, although a contemporary of the author, had no time for such enigmatic literary fare. By today’s standards I think ‘silly’ would be an apt word to describe the plot of this trumped-up literary work which may have fascinated readers by its non-conventionality a century ago.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Having never heard of Selma Lagerlof before hearing about the Nobel Women project started by Britta Bohler (NobelWomen on Goodreads), I had no idea what to expect of her writing but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The Saga is really a book of interconnected short stories linking the inhabitants of Varmaland a small village in Sweden, the manor house of Ekeby in that village and the cavaliers who live there, particularly Gosta Berling. There is a fable like quality to the writing with lots of anthropo Having never heard of Selma Lagerlof before hearing about the Nobel Women project started by Britta Bohler (NobelWomen on Goodreads), I had no idea what to expect of her writing but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The Saga is really a book of interconnected short stories linking the inhabitants of Varmaland a small village in Sweden, the manor house of Ekeby in that village and the cavaliers who live there, particularly Gosta Berling. There is a fable like quality to the writing with lots of anthropomorphized animals and natural elements, the language too has that almost mannered story telling tone to it. Lagerlof’s language is, however, often beautiful, in her descriptions of nature and of the characters in the book. Gosta Berling may be in the title and the cavaliers he is part of may be a big part of the story but for me, the female characters were far more interesting particularly the mayoress. Gosta Berling himself, is quite frankly an arse and I found myself irritated with the chapters where he played a large part. By the middle of the book, I was tired of the same old story regarding Gosta and the women around him and as there is little narrative thrust to the book, started to feel reading it was a bit of a slog. In the last one hundred pages though, Lagerlof recaptured my interest, possibly by moving beyond Gosta, possibly because I just got caught up in the language and storytelling once again. I wondered how much of the book was intended to be a parable, Gosta says at the end how it is hard to be good and to be happy and we have the devilish figure of Sintram and the saint like Countess. Either way, this was a unique read and an insight into the writing of the first female Nobel prize winner for literature

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lene Fogelberg

    As a young girl growing up in Sweden, I loved to read Nobel laureate Lagerlöf, and I was captivated with her ability to weave mysticism into her stories. She often let the reader determine the driving force behind her story, and this was long before paranormal literature became the huge genre it is today. I remember wishing I could write like that, and I believe she was the one who taught me to trust the reader and to let readers interpret the story in their own way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    The book, written by Selma Lagerlöf, takes place in her beloved Värmland, in Sweden, in the 1820’s. The main character, Gösta Berling, a deposed priest, is saved from dying from hunger and cold by the Mistress of Ekeby. He then becomes one of the pensioners at the mansion. The book, which is Selma Lagerlöf’s debut novel, was published in 1891. Selma Lagerlöf was a very famous Swedish author and the first woman who received the Nobel Prize in literature. The book contains more romanticism than the The book, written by Selma Lagerlöf, takes place in her beloved Värmland, in Sweden, in the 1820’s. The main character, Gösta Berling, a deposed priest, is saved from dying from hunger and cold by the Mistress of Ekeby. He then becomes one of the pensioners at the mansion. The book, which is Selma Lagerlöf’s debut novel, was published in 1891. Selma Lagerlöf was a very famous Swedish author and the first woman who received the Nobel Prize in literature. The book contains more romanticism than the then prevailing realism. The story is full of wonderful stories, legends, folk tales and supernatural elements in the beautiful, wild landscape. It resembles magic realism, long before that was a concept. Eventually, Gösta Berling realizes that something mysterious happens at Ekeby. (view spoiler)[ The cavaliers are always twelve people. The Mistress saves people, but every year, someone dies. The mysterious Sintram turns up, and wants to make deals. Perhaps, he really is the devil. Perhaps it is enough that people believe that. (hide spoiler)] Regardless, something is happening to the characters, when getting money and power. The book is critical against people not working, even though they can. What is most interesting about the book is the pensioners living at Ekeby. They are enjoying life, drinking, meeting women, and they take no responsibility for the mansion, but, interestingly, they can be viewed as villains and heroes at the same time. Gösta Berling is an interesting character. (view spoiler)[ He loves a woman, but refuses to marry her because she is already engaged to marry a poor man who needs her. Another woman is punished horribly for having kissed Gösta, but he saves her and takes care of her. A third woman is denying Gösta a dance. He feels insulted and kidnaps her on a short sledge journey, that ends when he drops her off at her home. Then, her husband is so ashamed of her that he forces her to kiss Gösta’s hands. Gösta is immediately regretting his actions, and puts his hands over the fire to prevent the woman from obeying her husband. (hide spoiler)] The women in the book have difficult lives. This is the 1800’s. A woman is often merchandise and her husband’s and father’s honors depend on her, but these women are eventually becoming more independent. Gösta is a complicated character and not very judgemental, which makes him sympathetic. The prose if beautiful and there are wonderful, vivid descriptions of the wild nature and country life of Sweden. However, the book is long. I think there are too many characters and I would have liked to read more about Gösta Berling, his agony and his attempts to be a better person.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    An interesting collection of stories of people in a region in Sweden. Mixing the superstitions of folklore with the trials of life makes for an interesting tale.

  17. 4 out of 5

    George

    An entertaining, enjoyable, original, surprising, partly fable like novel set in Swedish farmland country in the 1800s. There are lots of interesting characters and stories within this novel. It’s the story of Gosta Berlin’s life, beginning with him being defrocked as a minister due to his drunken behaviour. Gosta is pitied, is secretly loved, meets a heiress, supports a countess who has an illegitimate child and has many adventures which include Gosta drinking, dancing and enjoying women’s comp An entertaining, enjoyable, original, surprising, partly fable like novel set in Swedish farmland country in the 1800s. There are lots of interesting characters and stories within this novel. It’s the story of Gosta Berlin’s life, beginning with him being defrocked as a minister due to his drunken behaviour. Gosta is pitied, is secretly loved, meets a heiress, supports a countess who has an illegitimate child and has many adventures which include Gosta drinking, dancing and enjoying women’s company.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Virtuella

    One of the most charming and intriguing books that I've read in a long time. Not exactly a novel, rather a collection of (sometimes closely, sometimes loosely) linked short stories; I've never seen anything quite like it. I loved the ambivalence of it, floating between folk tale and family anecdote, and how sometimes a later story would throw a different light on something that was said earlier. I enjoyed how various characters took centre stage in turn and appeared later as minor players in som One of the most charming and intriguing books that I've read in a long time. Not exactly a novel, rather a collection of (sometimes closely, sometimes loosely) linked short stories; I've never seen anything quite like it. I loved the ambivalence of it, floating between folk tale and family anecdote, and how sometimes a later story would throw a different light on something that was said earlier. I enjoyed how various characters took centre stage in turn and appeared later as minor players in someone else's story. Narrator's voice is beautifully balanced and subtle. The result of Lagerlöf's technique is profoundly convincing portrait of a community, or rather of how a community appears in retrospect to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the protagonists.

  19. 5 out of 5

    tortoise dreams

    Stories of love and adventure involving rich and not, lovely and not, brave and not, in the Värmland region of Sweden, mostly tied together by our eponymous protagonist. Book Review: The Story of Gösta Berling is told as a collection of folk tales transmuted into a novel. Some of the tales involve our hero Gösta Berling, but many don't. Gösta Berling reminded me of so many other stories: One Hundred Years of Solitude, "The Lottery," Tortilla Flat, The Birds, perhaps a touch of the Byronic hero (h Stories of love and adventure involving rich and not, lovely and not, brave and not, in the Värmland region of Sweden, mostly tied together by our eponymous protagonist. Book Review: The Story of Gösta Berling is told as a collection of folk tales transmuted into a novel. Some of the tales involve our hero Gösta Berling, but many don't. Gösta Berling reminded me of so many other stories: One Hundred Years of Solitude, "The Lottery," Tortilla Flat, The Birds, perhaps a touch of the Byronic hero (his horse is named "Don Juan"), and an infinite number of folk tales. In fact, although one can't help but think of the label "magical realism," the real origin of this novel is in the magic and wonder of old folk stories and fairy tales told around a fireplace. Those stories had no end of the extraordinary posing as actual. It's as if Hans Christian Andersen had written a novel. And if he had, he couldn't've done better than Gösta Berling. The story is written in a rich, energetic, voluptuous language, and Berling is something of an Odysseus, a Kokopeli, a mixture of duty, opportunism, and cleverness An unfrocked priest, he's an imperfect man, called the "strongest and weakest of men." He does wrong as well as right. A unique hero, he's described as having "lived through more poems than all our poets have written." So there! He's named the "lord of ten thousand kisses and thirteen thousand love letters." He's "a drunkard, a Cavalier ... ." Gösta Berling was Selma Lagerlöf's first novel, and what an amazing first novel, a happy mix of Arthurian tales and Christian memory. As our narrator says, "I have nothing new to tell you, only what is old and almost forgotten. I have legends from the nursery ... or from the log-fire in the cottage ... or from the hall, where old men sat in their rocking chairs, and ... talked of old times." That is this book. Given its folk tale origins, there is folkish poetry in its repeated phrases, such as "the highway is my home and the haystack my bed." There's a bear that can only be killed by a silver bullet. There are places one is cursed to never leave: "This was exactly the seventeenth time squire Julius had tried to leave Ekeby ... [he] had already forgotten both this and all his previous attempts." We hear of actual paintings of saints that walk back "dripping with water ... stained with green slime and brown mud" from the depths of the watery grave in the lake in which they'd been thrown. We watch a battle between peasants and the tradesmen. Berling is the center of our story, but there are myriad others' stories as well. We have a mass bear attacks led by an old major, and creatures of which "it is dangerous to call it by its right name." Ravening packs of wolves. Someone who may be in league with the Horned One. The witch of Dovre. The author is unafraid to venture into philosophy in her folk tales. When Lagerlöf touches on existentialism (discovered by one of the Cavaliers before Sartre is born), the young Countess says, then "how ugly and gray the world is; how futile everything is! I should like to lay down and die." She soon discovers that Love is the answer to the bleakness of an existential world. The author also takes us into the grim terrors of old folk tales, describing an attack of wolves "until the wife must take her little child ... and throw it to them, to save her own and her husband's life." Our narrator notes: "often a soul that has tried all other sensual pleasures endeavours to find delight in cruelty." Hills overgrown with sedge "which had been sowed there as a reminder that no man's life is like another's, but differ like leaves of grass." Selma Lagerlöf was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. While some might see picking Lagerlöf as a bit of favoritism by the Swedish judges, based on this single example I see nothing to say it wasn't deserved. "The Story of ..." is also known as "The Saga of ...," but my copy, printed in Sweden in 1959 and translated in 1898 by Pauline Bancroft Flach (and perhaps W.H. Hilton-Brown?), titles it as "Story" so that's what I used here. From the land of Ikea, Saab, and Abba comes a story I somehow feel privileged to have read. [4★]

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nox

    An exceptional tale of strife, love, magic, and religion. Very well written, although I am sure the original Swedish edition is much more flowing and wonderful. To the point, the author really pulls me in with her poetic language and then crafts in a rather thoughtful story within that. Lagerlöf has the perfect ratio of dialogue to description, and I can see her bringing these words to life in some quiet study with the light on at midnight. She seems to take pieces from her own life and age and An exceptional tale of strife, love, magic, and religion. Very well written, although I am sure the original Swedish edition is much more flowing and wonderful. To the point, the author really pulls me in with her poetic language and then crafts in a rather thoughtful story within that. Lagerlöf has the perfect ratio of dialogue to description, and I can see her bringing these words to life in some quiet study with the light on at midnight. She seems to take pieces from her own life and age and work them into the pages with unparalleled skill, and I feel like learning more about her life so I can truly see the connections involved. Occasionally, there are small stretches where she narrates, and tells of this tale in her own "words" relating to her own life (if that makes any sense). One of the things I really like about this novel is the almost magical, surreal feeling linked to it and the partial-realism. It is like a river, flowing with shining bits and pieces that swiftly drift by before one can fish them out. Magical realism is exactly what this is the precursor to, and I can definitely see Lagerlöf dreaming and allowing her mind to paint across the pages with their imagery and thought. Such care and originality! Swedish culture is fantastic! Lagerlöf describes the realm of nature vividly and carefully, making me question her connection with the realm of nature as well as the Scandinavian/European connection… I wish our modern society had a better view of nature and a correlation with it. This book is eventful, full of natural curiosities, and it emphasizes the power that natural things have over human control. To be honest, the love connections happening in this book interested me less than the nature descriptions of the river and icy landscapes. I think that is what I favor most about Lagerlöf's writing: the connection to nature. This tale twists down the basement stairs into complete cold and bitterness from previous times of joy and light at quite a few points. Many characters have icy minds of stone with no regard to the innocence of the young, and are deceptive and manipulative as well as selfish and greedy. What’s most interesting about this is that one can tell that Lagerlöf has developed the characters from young and heartfelt souls to older, more understanding, steadfast individuals. She demonstrates how people can take their anger out on others and how one’s history can manipulate one’s personality. An author who can do this is evidently skilled and their writing is clearly of high quality. However, this book is also a calming and thoughtful tale of love. It is sad, warming, emotional; human qualities cannot escape the power of love and its curiosities. In fact, love can twist the way one sees the world in either a negative or positive way. One stays young inside with age, and time changes the way we see relationships. Truly, what are decisions? What is time, and what is life? One's position evolves over time, but some things always stay the same. Many of the chapters in this book go off on separate tangents, but somehow Lagerlöf manages to subtly weave them together. In addition, Lagerlöf uses history within a novel of magical realism. She puts forward the cultural clash in regards to religion while spinning the webs of a magical tale. The story is soft and gradual, thoughtful and harsh. How does the author meld these? There is something about the nature, the landscape, the setting that all contribute to this soft and bumpy texture of delicious pages. Real-life topics AND efficient, beautiful tales of wonder and desire. Towards the end of the book, I began to see a religious tone to everything. I got a feeling of God and a large discussion surrounding him. It twisted away from stories and love and shifted towards a ramble about God, which very clearly shows that the author must have been strictly religious. I couldn’t take it anymore. She was weaving the tale so well and with ease, with thought and power and real life situations of romance and greed... yet it went downhill. All it became was the ghost of a story with a huge emphasis on God and his ways. Though I greatly enjoyed the mystical nature of the writing, the author began to repeat sequences which made the flavor die a little. Overall, a book that seemed to go up and down quite a bit. With review of the tale’s good moments in comparison with the bad ones, and the reality-based tones within a magical-realism background, the novel pans out to a solid 4.5 stars. 4.5/5

  21. 4 out of 5

    SwedishGeekGirl

    This novel is very hard to rate, but in the end I decided to give it 4 stars beacuse the novel is written in sutch a way that was ahead of it time. It has a bunch of magical realism that can easily be overlooked, beautiful wrighting. It was hard to read at times though and the novel has many, many characters. I think I need a second reading to fully get the grasp of it. It was also fun that I visited Selma Lagerlöf home in Mårbacka the day after I finished reading this novel and in her library s This novel is very hard to rate, but in the end I decided to give it 4 stars beacuse the novel is written in sutch a way that was ahead of it time. It has a bunch of magical realism that can easily be overlooked, beautiful wrighting. It was hard to read at times though and the novel has many, many characters. I think I need a second reading to fully get the grasp of it. It was also fun that I visited Selma Lagerlöf home in Mårbacka the day after I finished reading this novel and in her library she has framed illustrations that are from Gösta Berlings saga into the bookshelf cabinets. Gösta Berling saga by Selma Lagerlöf get a 7.8/10 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    A.J. McMahon

    The author won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel, so maybe it reads better in the original Swedish, or it might be that I just couldn't get into the cultural mind-set of late nineteenth century Sweden, but I came to greatly dislike this book long before I managed to get to the end of it. The book begins with Gosta Berling being defrocked as a minister due to him being a drunkard. The book continues with a succession of chapters, which constitute more a series of short stories than th The author won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel, so maybe it reads better in the original Swedish, or it might be that I just couldn't get into the cultural mind-set of late nineteenth century Sweden, but I came to greatly dislike this book long before I managed to get to the end of it. The book begins with Gosta Berling being defrocked as a minister due to him being a drunkard. The book continues with a succession of chapters, which constitute more a series of short stories than the narrative of a novel, all about the characters in the remote Swedish locale in which this defrocked minister lives. All these characters wind up going to invariably gloomy fates, these gloomy fates being brought about by their own apparently endless stupidity. The incessantly yodelling prose style in which all this is told increasingly got on my nerves. The best I can say about this unbelievably boring book is that some parts are less irritating than other parts, though not by much.

  23. 5 out of 5

    pedro

    First contact to the first Woman to have won a Lit. Nobel, was pretty cool. It was the fourth attempt to read it, and it aid off, although the translations seemed to me a bit shaky. Also, for a second edition, its unthinkable to find typos, but hey, that's just me. Read Selma. She can teach you a lot. First contact to the first Woman to have won a Lit. Nobel, was pretty cool. It was the fourth attempt to read it, and it aid off, although the translations seemed to me a bit shaky. Also, for a second edition, its unthinkable to find typos, but hey, that's just me. Read Selma. She can teach you a lot.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mariangel

    Like Nils Holgersson, but darker, these are several short independent stories that get linked through the character of Gosta Berling. Mixing the reality of peasants and village nobility with the devil in human form, driads and prophesies, beautiful nature descriptions and the pathos of life, the book ends with a hopeful note: a song to a simple life lived in charity towards others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Larger-than-life Swedish epic, with some great images. Not sure how well her beautiful poetic Swedish translates though - maybe this is why the book is virtually unknown in English.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tobias Hallberg

    I felt like the book is filled with random short stories written in a quite hard language (might also have been the old Swedish language that made me confused). Luckily this wasn't my first Selma book, so I'm still excited about her other books :-) I felt like the book is filled with random short stories written in a quite hard language (might also have been the old Swedish language that made me confused). Luckily this wasn't my first Selma book, so I'm still excited about her other books :-)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    3.5 Stars Read this for Britta Böhler's Nobel Women readalong, for which this was the choice last November. Yes, it took me almost a year to read it! But I am glad I stuck with it. I read about 30% last year, and the rest this month which is by no means the ideal way to read anything. I missed a lot, from the jumping in and our, but more so I think because I think I haven't been choosing to read harder/challenging/older works to read. I want to change that. There were some gems of moments in this 3.5 Stars Read this for Britta Böhler's Nobel Women readalong, for which this was the choice last November. Yes, it took me almost a year to read it! But I am glad I stuck with it. I read about 30% last year, and the rest this month which is by no means the ideal way to read anything. I missed a lot, from the jumping in and our, but more so I think because I think I haven't been choosing to read harder/challenging/older works to read. I want to change that. There were some gems of moments in this one, and one full out paragraph that I transcribed into my journal because I loved it so much. In terms of the work itself, I found it hard to access. I didn't find the character of Gosta very likable, but people were drawn to him. There is a strong inclusion of religion in several sections but also some more otherworldly things and I was surprized to see both in the same text. I also found it confusing that there were sections that didn't involve Gosta at all, and that I felt I didn't understand him from his own perspective which feels odd given the title. Perhaps it's about how he effected others. All that said, realizing that it was a challenge to read I have decided to up my reading game because I want to be able to read, understand and enjoy titles like this. I'm thankful that I gave it a shot, and stuck it through. I learned a lot!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    I didn't expect this book to be anything special. I actually stumbled upon it while researching some genealogy. One of my great great grandmothers had come to America in 1905 from the Värmland province in Sweden and the family line goes back there at least to the 1750s. This book is set in Värmland in the ....1830s or 40s maybe? And is supposedly recalling some of the local history and folklore. So I began to read it mainly for a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors. But I ended up being total I didn't expect this book to be anything special. I actually stumbled upon it while researching some genealogy. One of my great great grandmothers had come to America in 1905 from the Värmland province in Sweden and the family line goes back there at least to the 1750s. This book is set in Värmland in the ....1830s or 40s maybe? And is supposedly recalling some of the local history and folklore. So I began to read it mainly for a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors. But I ended up being totally enthralled. This obscure old classic is a little unexpected in every way. For one thing, Selma Lagerlöf won the Nobel Prize for Literature for it in 1909 and she was the first woman to ever be awarded it! --one of only 14 women, actually, to have received it in the 100+ years since its inception. It reads like a loosely woven collection of vignettes. The title character, Gösta, isn't always present and the POV shifts around a lot. And most of the stories are a little larger than life, a little supernatural, the tone a little melodramatic. As it went on, Selma inserted herself from time to time as a little child who grew up hearing these tales, so we realize that we, too, are hearing these stories from the perspective of a child where a villain actually literally COULD be the devil, or a hunted bear could have articulate thoughts and feelings about things. There is, too, a run in with a wood nymph who MIGHT just be the product of one guy's insanity, but also might be real. For that reason, these stories kind of feel like they fit into the magical realism genre. All in all, they come together to form a kind of lovely little story arc with themes of redemption and love. The setting is evocative--snowy forests, the metallic ring of the forge, a heroine racing over broken ice floes to try to save the day....Loved it! Gösta can be kind of irritatingly unrealistic and "woe is me,", but it helps if you think of him as an enneagram 4.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Selma Lagerlof was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature so I have always been curious about her work but had never given it the time it deserved. The Saga of Gosta Berling one of her most well known works is an unexpected surprise-a series of morality tales with a heavy dose of magic realism. The reader follows Gosta Berling a defrocked Minister-he leaves due to his requiring alcohol to avoid the poverty and starkness of his position to being saved by the Majoress and becoming on Selma Lagerlof was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature so I have always been curious about her work but had never given it the time it deserved. The Saga of Gosta Berling one of her most well known works is an unexpected surprise-a series of morality tales with a heavy dose of magic realism. The reader follows Gosta Berling a defrocked Minister-he leaves due to his requiring alcohol to avoid the poverty and starkness of his position to being saved by the Majoress and becoming one of 12 Cavaliers at a wealthy country estate-Ekeby. Most of the cavaliers had been soldiers during the Napoleonic wars and provide various interludes interspersed in the narrative of Gosta’s life and loves. Evil makes its presence known early on when the cavaliers believe that their Savior the Majoress is actually in league with the devil and gives up the soul of her 13th cavalier each year. The cavaliers sign a blood oath against the Majoress requiring her removal from Ekeby and placing them and Gosta in charge for a year. Lagerlof interweaves tales such as Wolves snapping at the heels, sinister woodlands, sloth and avarice to guide Gosta and the cavaliers through their year of being in charge. What I liked most about the book was that her use of magic realism adds rather than detracts from the narrative giving the reader a clear picture of a complex scenario much like a fairy tale.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aldo Marchioni

    At first, I had an impression of a book for children, written in a childish style. My impression was, if I had grandchildren, I could read this book at bedtime. However, as the reading was progressing, maybe I was getting used to the style, maybe the subject of the tales that, put together, make the novel, were growing more "adult", I felt in love whit this book. All the time it is in somewhere between reality, fantasy, magic, fairy tale ... Some hundred years later, somebody invented the expressi At first, I had an impression of a book for children, written in a childish style. My impression was, if I had grandchildren, I could read this book at bedtime. However, as the reading was progressing, maybe I was getting used to the style, maybe the subject of the tales that, put together, make the novel, were growing more "adult", I felt in love whit this book. All the time it is in somewhere between reality, fantasy, magic, fairy tale ... Some hundred years later, somebody invented the expression "magic realism" to address a certain way to mix magic with reality in a natural way. Selma Lagerlof mastered the magic realism one hundred years before One Hundred Years of Solitude: but how evocative she is, and everything from this book smells clean, clear, fragrant, even when it is about some maleficent witch or even when death is evoked ("Death, my pale friend ...": the meeting with death reminded me The Seventh Seal, the film by Bergman: and it is not a surprise Ingmar Bergman was Swedish, and for sure he knew, and very likely loved, this book). I have read the last chapters sitting in a forest, partly by choice, partly because the day was hot. And this thing added something special to this special novel.

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