Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North

Scandinavians In Search of the Soul of the North 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

  • Title: Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North
  • Author: Robert Ferguson
  • ISBN: 9781468314823
  • Page: 410
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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, anScandinavia 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.

    One thought on “Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North”

    1. I often express dismay at nonfiction books turning out to be Unexpected Memoirs. Ferguson ups the ante here: not only is this ostensible history of Scandinavia and its culture packed with random memoir (it's hard not to marvel when he works in multiple pages of anecdote about the occasion, not even in Scandinavia, he scratched up a rented car and worried the entire trip that he would be charged for it, only for -- spoiler warning -- the attendant not to notice or care), it also incorporates an U [...]

    2. A pleasant, intelligent and current (2016) view of Scandinavia written in "New Yorker" longform style. The award-winning author wrote the definitive biography of the Norwegian author, Knut Hamsun, and has lived in Norway for thirty years, married to a Norwegian. Ferguson drops in small personal discoveries whether he is writing about Viking boats or Scandinavian melancholy. He captures the still lingering competitiveness between Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The chapters on WWII, King Frederick VI [...]

    3. Ferguson, Robert. Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North.The author’s interest in Scandinavia began with his reading Knut Hamsun’s novel Hunger.which inspired him to learn Norweigan and its sister tongue, Danish. He subsequently settled in Norway, where he has remained with his wife and young family. In this book Ferguson sets out to follow the thread of angst that he finds in the Scandinavian character. He frequenty cites Ibsen and Strindberg, and of course the Danish Kierkegaard [...]

    4. Contrary to what might be assumed by the subtitle “In Search of the Soul of the North,” this is not an exhaustive study of Scandinavianness. Rather, it is more accurately described as a sort of Nordic miscellany, an exploration rather than an examination of the cultural gestalt that is Scandinavia. As such, the content wanders freely wherever the author wills it. As he clearly has a predilection for drama, film, and literature, much of the book focuses on these aspects. There’s plenty of m [...]

    5. 3.5. I was looking for a history book (where this was shelved) but it's more of a loose collection of random history anecdotes tied together by the author's experience living in Scandinavia. Pleasant read overall, but not quite what I wanted.Pros:- really interesting anecdotes chosen -- eg story of Struensee, the story of the failed balloon guy, the story about the prisoners and the play -- possibly not normally what would be included in a "summary" of a history of a nation/geopolitical area- th [...]

    6. This is a long, discursive personal inquiry into the myths of Scandinavia, which includes much history and such amusing stories as the Norwegian football team refusing to play the Swedish team because they were "profoundly depressed" that the previous year, the Swedes had indicated their distaste of the Norwegians by flying their flag at half-staff. This was in the early 1900s. My Norwegian relatives certainly resonate with the "profoundly depressed" characterization.Another hilarious example of [...]

    7. I really liked this very personal account of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark written by an "outsider" who maybe shouldn't be considered an outsider after anymore, having spent more than 30 years in Norway, and became so much involved with Scandinavian literature and history.This is not a very didactic book, following a strict pattern with the aim of guiding the reader like a student on history and culture of Nordic lands. The book is rather like an old friend buying you a beer, or aquavit in this ca [...]

    8. Through this meandering work -- part history, part travelogue, part autobiography -- the author seeks to determine how warranted outsiders' stereotype of "the melancholy Scandinavian" actually is. Despite its loose structure, I found reading most of the book to be absorbing. Robert Ferguson (an outsider himself, who married a Scandinavian and relocated there) draws some interesting connections between contemporary, classic, and ancient stories, and he seems to have met in his wanderings many int [...]

    9. Great book that’s part History, part memoir, part art criticism, and part sociology. Garbo is discussed, as are Ibsen, Strindberg, Nobel, Erickson and all sorts of other Vikings, Bergman, the Ruse who migrated and established Kiev (and created Russia), and other Nords of note. What’s most amazing about this book is how it reveals how different and distinct the Swedes, Icelanders, Norwegians and Danes regard themselves from one another. There is no homogeneity in Scandinavia. And that’s wha [...]

    10. A curious insight from english perspective on the social make up of Scandinavia. At times it feels rambling as it jumps from a personal anecdote to a description of a historical event, not necessarily in chronological order. This I count as a curiosity of style rather than a criticism. It does provide some insights, however I think stronger conclusions could be put across for opinion forming; I chose to put less effort into doing this myself. Some good tales spun together, and a reasonable sourc [...]

    11. For a number of years now I've been interested in Scandinavia and its culture, ever since I went to Copenhagen - and then to Sweden, Norway and Iceland. I can't remember what first attracted me, maybe the feeling of a very civilised atmosphere, or the beauty of the cities - Copenhagen and Stockholm - so different from our southern European ones, or the extraordinary natural wonders of Norway - the Lofoten islands, the fjords - and later the magical nature of Iceland - but by that time I was alre [...]

    12. If you start a book with your self-centered summer of 1969, then go on to a chapter on Stones (not the Rolling Kind) you are going to lose a lot of reader. I was one of them. I tried. I really did, but by chapter three had had it. It was the topics chosen by Mr. Ferguson that did not attract me. Maybe they would someone else.

    13. Ferguson's newest ranges from the truly exceptional, as in his description of the Vasa and early diving bells, through the merely repetitive we-all-knew-it-already bits, as in the chapter on Kierkegaard, to the absolutely forgettable, as in the completely unnecessary rewrite of Ibsen's Ghosts. Recommended, if you're willing to skip around.

    14. I wanted to like much more than I actually did, which is a mega bummer. The author talked about himself way too much for my liking. I also couldn't care less about poetry, plays or paintings. There goes about 60% of the book. The actual historical and sociological aspects were quite good.

    15. A digression (or three) too many for me. I think I might have enjoyed the book more if I had just dipped into it now and then over a longer period. Some chapters are much stronger than others.

    16. I feel I should begin with a confession; I am a committed, card-carrying (well, nearly) Scandiphile. I am hopelessly fond of our Northern cousins and so this newly released travel through the culture and lives of Scandinavia in search of what makes it all tick was bound to catch my eye. Of course, with great appeal comes great expectation, so, does Ferguson deliver on my inflated hopes? He most certainly does.It is, above all else, Ferguson’s sheer enthusiasm and passion for his chosen home th [...]

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