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The Markurells of Wadköping by Hjalmar Bergman Translated by Johanna Sandberg and Er ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Markurells of Wadköping by Hjalmar Bergman


Hjalmar Bergman’s name is not widely recognized outside of his native Sweden. He is considerably less well known, for instance, than other roughly contemporaneous Swedish literary figures such as August Strindberg, Selma Lagerlöf, or Hjalmar Söderberg. This is unfortunate, for Bergman is one of the great Swedish writers of the twentieth century; he has even been described, perhaps hyperbolically, as the creator of the Swedish novel (Lönnroth and Delblanc 481).

Reasons for this neglect are not hard to find. In general terms, Swedish literature has not fared particularly well in the English-speaking world, with the possible exceptions of Strindberg, who is primarily known as a dramatist, and children’s writers such as Astrid Lindgren (Szalczer 42; Anderman 1362).2 More particularly, Bergman cannot be described as a popular, or even particularly accessible, author; he was until about a decade before his death seen by both critics and common readers as “an acquired taste” whose work was “strange, bizarre, and in some senses, difficult and depressing” (Petherick, “Bergman” 79). It was, in fact, only after the publication of The Markurells of Wadköping in 1919 that he began to receive widespread critical and popular acclaim, and this remains his most widely-read novel today: new Swedish editions were published, for example, in both 2012 and 2013. Moreover, Bergman’s adaptation of the novel for the stage is still regularly performed in small and large theatres