The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Story of Gösta Berling, The

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Story of Gösta Berling, The
Edition of 1920. See also Gösta Berlings Saga on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

STORY OF GÖSTA BERLING, The, a novel by Selma Lagerlöf, appeared about Christmas-time 1891. In the summer of 1890 a Swedish magazine, the Idun, had offered a prize for the best novel of a certain length. Selma Lagerlöf entered the contest with a few chapters from ‘Gösta Berling,’ a story which was then beginning to take shape in her mind, and won the prize. In ‘Gösta Berling’ Selma Lagerlöf is a romanticist and represents a reaction against the realism which prevailed at the time. As a child she had absorbed the folk tales of her surroundings, and later on in life it occurred to her like a lightning flash that it was her particular mission to give these stories expression. ‘The Story of Gösta Berling’ has been called the “prose epic of Swedish country life.” The scene is laid on the shores of Lake Fryken (Lake Löven in the story) in Värmland. The hero, Gösta Berling, is a deposed minister, who has been saved by the Mistress of Ekeby from freezing to death and thereupon becomes one of her pensioners in the manor at Ekeby. As the pensioners finally get power in their own hands, they manage the property as they themselves see fit, and their lives are filled with many wild adventures, Gösta Berling is the leading spirit, the poet, the charming personality among a band of revelers. But before the story ends, Gösta Berling is redeemed, and even the old Mistress of Ekeby is permitted to come to her old home to die. In this as in her other works, the authoress shows a marvelous simplicity of style. Everything she touches quickens with new life and takes on a deeper meaning. Consult Ruben Berg, ‘Svenska skalder från nittiotalet’; Johan Mortensen, ‘Selma Lagerlöf.’

Joseph Alexis.