Verner von Heidenstam

THE LAUREATE: Contrary to what his name sounds like, Herr Heidenstam was Swedish. He was born in 1859 to a rather wealthy family. He studied painting, then abandoned that for a Grand Tour of Europe, Africa and Asia. When he returned, he wrote travelogues, novels and poems. He was elected to the Swedish Academy of Literature in 1912 and won the Nobel in 1916. He died in 1940.

WHAT I’M READING: All of his poems published in English and a few stories out of The Swedes and Their Chieftains, which I’ve been jokingly calling The Boys’ Book of Viking Conquest

REVIEW: So, there are three distinct stages to Heidenstam’s poetry, conveniently marked by the three volumes he published. The first is largely concerned with all the crazy foreign stuff the crazy foreigners in the crazy foreign countries he visited got up to. Exoticism, I think the translator of my collection called it. The second phase was concerned with long form poetry, which he did very well. The third was very nationalistic. I only got through two stories from The Swedes and Their Chieftains, and they were a little on the broad and teleological side: a smith refining bog ore then hammers it out and declares “Thus iron is born!” Meh.

RECOMMENDED: I don’t really have anything to say against Heidenstam, but I don’t really have anything to say for him either.

WHAT’S NEXT: Anatole France’s Penguin Island

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This entry was posted in 1912.

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