I wanted to write about Frans G. Bengtsson, because I so much enjoyed reading his book The Long Ships, an unexpectedly exuberant and funny novel about a Viking. However, this will be a short post, because there’s not much information available online about him.
Bengtsson was a Swedish novelist, essayist, poet, translator, and biographer. He was born and raised in Southern Sweden, the son of an estate manager. His writings showed an interest in historical and literary subjects, beginning with a doctoral thesis on Chaucer and poetry written in what was considered antiquated verse forms. In 1929, he published a collection of essays titled Litteratörer och Militärer (Writers and Warriors) about such figures as Walter Scott, Joseph Conrad, and Stonewall Jackson. He also translated into Swedish Paradise Lost, The Song of Roland, and Walden. His magnum opus, a biography of Swedish King Charles XII, was published in two volumes in 1938 and won the Swedish Academy’s annual prize.
He is probably best known for The Long Ships, which I was surprised to find was written as two novels: Roede Orm, sjoefarare i vaesterled ( Red Orm at Home and on the Western Way), published in 1941, and Roede Orm, hemma i oesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Eastern Way), published in 1945. These books are set around 1000 AD and are about a Swedish boy who is kidnapped by Vikings and has all kinds of adventures around the Mediterranean and after he returns home as a grown man. And here’s a snippet for trivia lovers: this novel was the inspiration for the name of the wireless technology, Bluetooth.
During World War II, Bengtsson was outspoken about the Nazis and refused to allow his novel to be translated into Norwegian while Norway was under Nazi occupation.
Most popular work: The Long Ships
Other works: Karl XII’s levnad: Till uttåget ur Sachsen, Tärningkast, Litteratörer och Militärer, A Walk to an Ant Hill and Other Essays. (an English translation of some of his essays)
If you are interested in The Long Ships, I’ve included a link to my review from a few years ago (which I read for Spin 5!).