Sweden and Visions of Norway: Politics and Culture, 1814-1905

Sweden and Visions of Norway: Politics and Culture, 1814-1905

Sweden and Visions of Norway: Politics and Culture, 1814-1905

Sweden and Visions of Norway: Politics and Culture, 1814-1905

Excerpt

So often, it is the recollections and impressions from our early years that in time lead to scholarly research as well as to literary or artistic creation. So it was with me. My father, Sven Hildor Barton, who was born in Oregon, was deeply proud of his purely Swedish origins. (His own father, who left Sweden as a child in 1867, was originally named Svensson.)

Growing up in California, I absorbed from my father much of the ancestral cultural heritage well before either of us ever visited his parents' old homeland. In time, I became aware that much of what he passed on to me was in fact Scandinavian—most particularly Norwegian—rather than Swedish as such. The Viking tales he told dealt mainly with Norwegian kings and jarls (as related by Snorri Sturlason and other medieval Icelandic skalds), his picturesque details of archaic folklife in the North often evoked Norwegian fjelds and fjords, and he loved and was more familiar with the music of Edvard Grieg and Christian Sinding than with the compositions of their Swedish contemporaries.

As a thoughtful and well-read man with a good knowledge of the Scandinavian languages, my father recognized what was Norwegian. But he regarded such things as unquestionably the common birthright of all the Scandinavian peoples. At the same time, he would proudly point out significant aspects of Sweden's history and culture for which Norway, during its long centuries of Danish domination, could offer no equivalents. Deep down, he wanted it both ways.

These attitudes, I eventually came to realize, were ones that had been prevalent in cultivated Swedish circles during the 1870s and 1880s when his mother was growing up in Uppsala and Stockholm, before she departed for America. The reflections they have often aroused since then underlie the . . .

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