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Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North
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ABRAMS 2017
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Scandinavia is the epitome of cool: we fill our homes with Nordic furniture; we envy their humane social welfare system and their healthy outdoor lifestyle; we glut ourselves on their crime fiction; even their strangely attractive melancholia seems to express a stoic, commonsensical acceptance of life's vicissitudes. But how valid is this outsider's view of Scandinavia, and how accurate our picture of life in Scandinavia today? Scandinavians follows a chronological progression across the Northern centuries: the Vendel era of Swedish prehistory; the age of the Vikings; the Christian conversions of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland; the unified Scandinavian state of the late Middle Ages; the sea-change of the Reformation; the kingdom of Denmark-Norway; King Gustav Adolphus and the age of Sweden's greatness; the cultural golden age of Ibsen, Strindberg and Munch; the impact of the Second World War; Scandinavia's postwar social democratic nirvana; and the terror attacks of Anders Behring Breivik. Scandinavians is also a personal investigation, with award-winning author Robert Ferguson as the ideal companion as he explores wide-ranging topics such as the power and mystique of Scandinavian women, from the Valkyries to the Vikings; from Nora and Hedda to Garbo and Bergman. This digressive technique is familiar from the writings of W. G. Sebald, and in Ferguson's hands it is deployed with particular felicity, accessibility, and deftness, richly illuminating our understanding of modern Scandinavia, its society, politics, culture, and temperament.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
09/20/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781468314830
ASIN:
B07MXFBGF6
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Robert Ferguson. (2017). Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North. ABRAMS.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Robert Ferguson. 2017. Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North. ABRAMS.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Robert Ferguson, Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North. ABRAMS, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Robert Ferguson. Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North. ABRAMS, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Robert Ferguson is an award-winning writer, translator, and radio dramatist. He is the author of numerous books, including The Vikings: A History, Henrik Ibsen: A New Biography, and Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun, nominated for the Los Angeles Times Best Biography Award and winner of the University of London J.G. Robertson Award. Born in the UK in 1948, he emigrated to Norway in 1983 and has made his home there since.
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Abrams Press
publishDate
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title
Scandinavians
fullDescription

Scandinavia is the epitome of cool: we fill our homes with Nordic furniture; we envy their humane social welfare system and their healthy outdoor lifestyle; we glut ourselves on their crime fiction; even their strangely attractive melancholia seems to express a stoic, commonsensical acceptance of life's vicissitudes. But how valid is this outsider's view of Scandinavia, and how accurate our picture of life in Scandinavia today? Scandinavians follows a chronological progression across the Northern centuries: the Vendel era of Swedish prehistory; the age of the Vikings; the Christian conversions of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland; the unified Scandinavian state of the late Middle Ages; the sea-change of the Reformation; the kingdom of Denmark-Norway; King Gustav Adolphus and the age of Sweden's greatness; the cultural golden age of Ibsen, Strindberg and Munch; the impact of the Second World War; Scandinavia's postwar social democratic nirvana; and the terror attacks of Anders Behring Breivik. Scandinavians is also a personal investigation, with award-winning author Robert Ferguson as the ideal companion as he explores wide-ranging topics such as the power and mystique of Scandinavian women, from the Valkyries to the Vikings; from Nora and Hedda to Garbo and Bergman. This digressive technique is familiar from the writings of W. G. Sebald, and in Ferguson's hands it is deployed with particular felicity, accessibility, and deftness, richly illuminating our understanding of modern Scandinavia, its society, politics, culture, and temperament.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist (starred review)
      • content: Ferguson's stroll through more than one thousand years of Scandinavian history offers an enchanting glimpse into the region's political, economic, social, and cultural past.
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus (starred review)
      • content: An eye-opening history of a region and culture 'vibrant with people, noise, chance, life.' In this valuable study—not merely a recounting of the stereotypes regarding Vikings and their rampaging ways—award-winning writer and translator Ferguson searches for the deepest soul of Scandinavia. Much of this lucid book unfolds like a series of short stories, tales told to Ferguson by friends, literary connections, and even strangers. . . . What Ferguson is really searching for is the essence of their psyche and how the idea of the melancholy, brooding man replaced the specter of the bloodthirsty conqueror. . . . Ferguson astutely examines the idea that history isn't always what you think it was; it depends on the recorder, and the past can change its shape. A delightful history in which the author truly captures 'the soul of the North'.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Wall Street Journal
      • content: Robert Ferguson's Scandinavians is not a book for the beach, but it might well fit the bill on a distant northern shore, with the fog rolling in and memories of long ships stirring . . . beautifully written, it presents a historical narrative punctuated by reminiscences, conversations retold, snatches of autobiography, fragments of biography and stories.
      • premium: False
      • source: Max Adams, author of The King in the North
      • content: Ferguson's prose has the crisp, deliberate crunch of footsteps on gravel; you can't tell if he's taking you to a Lutheran funeral or to Hamlet at the theatre.
      • premium: False
      • source: Sir Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre, London
      • content: Scandinavians is essential reading.
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: A free-wheeling love letter to the essence of Scandinavia . . . Whether he's waxing poetic about the works and impact of playwright Henrik Ibsen, examining how differently each Scandinavian country acted and reacted during WWII, or contemplating the mystique and strength of Scandinavia's women, Ferguson combines the factual and the intimate.
      • premium: False
      • source: Times Literary Supplement
      • content: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden must by several measures be the richest, happiest, and most successful societies the world has ever known; yet their inhabitants are famous for melancholy . . . Scandinavia is famous for hedonism and sexual freedom; yet the plots of Scandi noir stories often turn not on crimes but on old sins: adultery, incest, abuse. What causes these extreme clashes of light and darkness? Robert Ferguson tries to get to the bottom of it through a combination of personal memoir, literary and cultural analysis, and episodic history. . . . Ferguson has brought them all back to life, and very engagingly so.
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times (editors' choice)
      • content: A delightfully free-roaming exploration of the myth of the brooding Scandinavian. This isn't the book to read for glowing paeans to parental leave or foraging chefs; instead, it's a rarer offering: an engaging, layered look into a complex culture.
      • premium: False
      • source: Associated Press
      • content: A delightful book chock-full of surprises, fascinating anecdotes and insights into the region's rich history and culture.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        April 24, 2017
        In a free-wheeling love letter to the essence of Scandinavia, Ferguson (Life Lessons from Kierkegaard) takes readers on a leisurely jaunt through the collective, interconnected histories of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. This is not a dry, exclusively historical narrative; rather, it is part oral history and part a narrative of personal experience. The U.K.-born Ferguson interweaves tales from more than 30 years of living in Norway and professions of his passion for Scandinavia with accounts of prominent historical episodes and interviews he has conducted. This “isn’t, strictly speaking, a history so much as a journey, a discursive and digressive stroll through the last thousand years of Scandinavian culture in search of the soul of the north,” he explains. Whether he’s waxing poetic about the works and impact of playwright Henrik Ibsen, examining how differently each Scandinavian country acted and reacted during WWII, or contemplating the mystique and strength of Scandinavia’s women, Ferguson combines the factual and the intimate. This characteristic of the book keeps things from becoming too dry, though it also results in a work that is sprawling and overly broad. It’s as if in searching for the soul of the North, Ferguson’s writing lost its way. Passionate yet prone to distraction, Ferguson delivers an idiosyncratic look at Scandinavia. Agent: David Miller, Rogers, Coleridge, and White.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from April 15, 2017
        An eye-opening history of a region and culture "vibrant with people, noise, chance, life."In this valuable study--not merely a recounting of the stereotypes regarding Vikings and their rampaging ways--award-winning writer and translator Ferguson (Kierkegaard: Great Thinkers on Modern Life, 2015, etc.) searches for the deepest soul of Scandinavia, traversing three countries (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) once united under a single monarch. The author also includes Iceland, a former territory of Denmark, then Norway, and home of the purest form of their shared ancient language, Old Norse. Much of this lucid book unfolds like a series of short stories, tales told Ferguson by friends, literary connections, and even strangers. In 1969, at age 20, the British author took off on a lark to Sweden and Denmark, and, despite some misadventures, his love for Scandinavia was born. He moved to Norway in 1983 and has lived there ever since. Playing tour guide for his wife, Ferguson exuberantly relates his explorations. Searching deeper proves difficult, as many of the histories of Scandinavia were written by her enemies. The Vikings were in everyone's history books, of course, and while the classic portrayal of the Norsemen reflected a bellicose nature, the author rejects that view. The Vikings had great respect for the rule of law and strong rites to which they adhered faithfully. What Ferguson is really searching for is the essence of their psyche and how the idea of the melancholy, brooding man replaced the specter of the bloodthirsty conqueror. Different theories cross his path, such as the vast loneliness of the landscape; however, at the same time, that loneliness has produced so many geniuses in a variety of fields. Ferguson also astutely examines the idea that history isn't always what you think it was; it depends on the recorder, and the past can change its shape. A delightful history in which the author truly captures "the soul of the North."

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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shortDescription

Scandinavia is the epitome of cool: we fill our homes with Nordic furniture; we envy their humane social welfare system and their healthy outdoor lifestyle; we glut ourselves on their crime fiction; even their strangely attractive melancholia seems to express a stoic, commonsensical acceptance of life's vicissitudes. But how valid is this outsider's view of Scandinavia, and how accurate our picture of life in Scandinavia today? Scandinavians follows a chronological progression across the Northern centuries: the Vendel era of Swedish prehistory; the age of the Vikings; the Christian conversions of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland; the unified Scandinavian state of the late Middle Ages; the sea-change of the Reformation; the kingdom of Denmark-Norway; King Gustav Adolphus and the age of Sweden's greatness; the cultural golden age of Ibsen, Strindberg and Munch; the impact of the Second World War; Scandinavia's postwar social democratic nirvana; and the terror attacks of Anders...

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