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The Saga of Gösta Berling (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 6 Jan 2011

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Among [women novelists] of great talent or genius, none, in my opinion, is to be placed higher than Selma Lagerlof. (Marguerite Yourcenar)

About the Author

Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) was a teacher in a girl's secodary school before she became a full-time writer. She is known around the world for her classic children's book The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

Paul Norlen was awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prize in 2004. He lives in Seattle.

George C. Schoolfield is professor emeritus of German and Scandinavian literature at Yale.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Saga of Gosta Berling 18 Oct. 2012
By Anna - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book on a whim, since I had grown up reading the author's children's stories, and I wasn't sure what to expect. This translation of the book captures the author's distinctive, charming style which immerses the reader in the wild, dark, and harsh landscapes of Sweden and the lives of its inhabitants. Having said that, Mr. Berling seems to be a one of the least likeable eponymous characters I've yet encountered. He's definitely interesting and well-developed, but I found it very hard to empathize with him when things did not go as planned for him; at times he just seemed so thoughtlessly evil and self-absorbed that I wanted him to come to a miserable end. However, the female characters in the novel definitely made up for Gosta's shortcomings and this book appears to have a definite feminist overtone. There are numerous powerful and yet long-suffering female characters that seem to provide support as well as restraint for the inconstant, bellicose, and often quite simply foolish male figures. It is an entertaining but thought-provoking tale that examines all aspects of human character, from the base to the noble, a story of love, betrayal, and redemption.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This Book is Poetry 11 Oct. 2013
By Judith Abujaber - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This Book is Poetry, I feel the translation was excellent. The charactor developement,was exquisit, people grew and matured during their lives, while keeping the basic integrity of their personality. A perspective which shows the intricate shading of the human heart. This is a book the unites us all with humanity.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A great work of art, or ..... 7 Jan. 2015
By Sverre Svendsen - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If you love Swedes... 17 Nov. 2013
By Bookish - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A deep and lyrical look at Sweden in the 1880s - the magic, brutality, passion, and hard living that these stories describe are still with me. Crazy good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a different kind of novel 28 Mar. 2014
By D. Wolitzer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Gosta Berling is an amazing and truly beautiful novel, full of the spirit of another time and place. It's unlike anything I've read before.
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