The Markurells of Wadköping by Hjalmar Bergman Translated by Johanna Sandberg and Eric Sandberg

by Hjalmar Bergman


First published in 1919, The Markurells of Wadköping is widely considered to be Swedish novelist Hjalmar Bergman’s masterpiece. At times uproariously comic, at times darkly tragic, but always powerfully compassionate, it narrates a single critical summer’s day in the lives of the inhabitants of the seemingly idyllic town of Wadköping. The professional and personal lives of the vulgar upstart Harald Hilding Markurell and the aloof aristocrat Carl-Magnus de Lorche have long been strangely intertwined, but today a crisis is at hand as long-concealed secrets threaten to emerge.

The Markurells of Wadköping was first translated into English by E. Classen, and published by Knopf in 1924. Classen’s translation, titled God’s Orchid, is an excellent introduction to Hjalmar Bergman’s work. However, as the choice of title indicates, Classen and his publisher did not hesitate to make changes, and sometimes fairly major ones, to the original text. Idiosyncratic passages are often smoothed out, simplified or naturalised, and many Swedish cultural references are adapted to an Anglo-American context. To use Friedrich Schleiermacher’s metaphor, Classen’s translation moves the author towards the reader. In contrast, this translation respects the foreignness and, perhaps more importantly, the occasional peculiarity of The Markurells of Wadköping and brings Anglophone readers closer to Bergman and his literary world. This new translation—the first in almost a century— illuminates The Markurells of Wadköping as a superb example of European literary modernism at its most accessible and dazzling.


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