The Emigrants (novel series)
Statue of the main characters, Karl-Oskar and Kristina, in Karlshamn
|Publisher||Bonniers (Swedish edition)|
|1949, 1952, 1956, 1959|
Published in English
|1951, 1954, 1961, 1961|
|Pages||1780 (in total, Swedish edition)|
The Swedish titles are: Utvandrarna (The Emigrants), Invandrarna (The Immigrants), Nybyggarna (The Settlers) and Sista brevet till Sverige (The Last Letter to Sweden). All books have been translated into English. The novels are generally considered to be among the best pieces of Swedish literature.
- For longer descriptions, see the individual wiki-pages of each novel.
The novel-series describes the long and strenuous journey for a party of emigrants from the province of Småland, Sweden, to the United States in 1850, coinciding with the beginning of the first significant wave of immigration to the United States from Sweden. The story focuses primarily on Karl-Oskar Nilsson and his wife, Kristina Johansdotter, a young married couple who live with their four small children; Anna, Johan, Lill-Märta, and Harald, as well as Karl-Oskar's parents and his rebellious younger brother Robert, who works as a hired farmhand for neighboring farmers. The family lives on a small farm at Korpamoen, where the soil is thin and rocky, making growing crops extremely difficult. It is Robert, together with his friend Arvid, who first comes across the prospect of going to America after being tired of being mistreated by the farmers who employ him. When he confronts Karl-Oskar about the idea, Karl-Oskar reveals that he too has come across pamphlets describing conditions in North America for farmers as being much better. Kristina, however, is adamantly against emigrating, not wanting to leave her homeland or wanting to risk the lives of her children by taking them across the ocean. However, things take yet another tragic turn for the family which causes Kristina to reconsider. In the winter of 1849, on the day of the christening of their youngest child, Harald, Kristina is preparing a large bowl of barley porridge. Their eldest child, four-year-old Anna, determined to have some even after being told she cannot, goes into the cellar where it is left to cool and helps herself to a very large amount of it, so much that she falls terribly ill from it. Karl-Oskar and Kristina send for Beata, a healing woman from Idemo, who upon seeing Anna tells them that after consuming so much porridge, Anna's stomach had burst. The child lingers in agony through the night before dying early the following morning, after which Kristina agrees for them to make the journey to America (Minnesota).
In their preparation for their emigration to the United States, Karl-Oskar, Kristina, their three remaining children and Robert are joined by Kristina's uncle and aunt, Daniel and Inga-Lena Andreasson and their four children. Danjel, a preacher of the Akian sect, had suffered relentless persecution under the hands of the local parish and was seeking the religious freedom promised in the United States. He was joined by a dependent of his following, Ulrika of Västergöhl, a former prostitute seeking to start a new life for herself and her illegitimate teenage daughter Elin, away from her dark past. Along with Ulrika and Elin, Danjel had also agreed to pay Arvid's passage to America after hiring him as a farmhand. The party was finally joined by Jonas Petter, a friend of Karl-Oskar who was fleeing an unhappy marriage.
The novels have to date been sold in nearly two million copies in Sweden and have been translated into more than twenty languages.
The reception was not all positive, though. At the time of their releases, the novels were criticised due to their use of profanity.
- The series was in a poll conducted by Biblioteket i fokus ("Library in focus") in 1997 voted as the best Swedish book of the 20th century by 27,000 people.
- The series was in a poll conducted by Sveriges television in 1998 voted as the most important Swedish book of all time by 17,000 people.
- The Emigrants, a 1971 adaption by Jan Troell, based on the first two novels.
- The New Land, a 1972 sequel to the first film, based on the last two novels.