The Long Ships
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The Long Ships

4.3 23
by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
     
 

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Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century AD when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from the northern fastnesses of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm—canny, courageous, and above all lucky—is only a boy when he is abducted from his Danish home by the

Overview

Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century AD when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from the northern fastnesses of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm—canny, courageous, and above all lucky—is only a boy when he is abducted from his Danish home by the Vikings and made to take his place at the oars of their dragon-prowed ships. Orm is then captured by the Moors in Spain, where he is initiated into the pleasures of the senses and fights for the Caliph of Cordova. Escaping from captivity, Orm washes up in Ireland, where he marvels at those epicene creatures, the Christian monks, and from which he then moves on to play an ever more important part in the intrigues of the various Scandinavian kings and clans and dependencies. Eventually, Orm contributes to the Viking defeat of the army of the king of England and returns home an off-the-cuff Christian and a very rich man, though back on his native turf new trials and tribulations will test his cunning and determination. Packed with pitched battles and blood feuds and told throughout with wit and high spirits, Bengtsson’s book is a splendid adventure that features one of the most unexpectedly winning heroes in modern fiction.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's terrific fun, the kind of book that moves the fustiest of critics to pronounce it a rollicking yarn or something to that effect. Translation for us mere mortals: There are no boring parts to skip...Bengtsson writes the most delightful version of historical fiction...Here is the buried treasure, readers, newly unearthed. Now, go forth and read." —The Christian Science Monitor

"The literary equivalent of an action- and intrigue-filled adventure movie that won't insult your intelligence...Orm is a charismatic character, and Bengtsson is an infectiously enthusiastic and surprisingly funny writer — even readers with zero interest in the Europe of a millennium ago will want to keep turning the pages. All novels should be so lucky as to age this well." —NPR

"A household name in Scandinavian literature since its publication during World War II, the title The Long Ships is recognizable to English-speakers, if at all, from a tenuously related 1964 epic with Sidney Poitier. New York Review Books reckons to remedy that with this 500-page hunk chronicling 20 years in the life of Red Orm, a son of Skania, born during the reign of Harald Bluetooth, who first goes a-viking as a teen....And if the company of so many burly, bearded heroes can weary, Bengtsson's clear-eyed witnessing of a new world dawning does not." —L Magazine


 

“This extraordinary saga of epic adventure on land and sea…is a masterpiece of historical fiction…The Long Ships should be a rare delight. And not least of the rewards of reading Mr. Bengtsson's gorgeous romance is the sly humor that is sprinkled through it.” -Orville Prescott, The New York Times

Bengtsson “keeps his readers eager for the next chapter. He has a sharp eye for the picturesque and the comic in daily living, and though his style is sophisticated he often writes with a kind of festive abandon.” -Hudson Strode The New York Herald Tribune

“This is a lusty man's book that women, too, will enjoy.” -Margaret Widdemer, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The Long Ships has many virtues of the true story-teller's art…Under the merriment and the fighting there is a great deal of scholarship as sound as it is imperceptible. Reading this marvelously good-humored ale-broth of a book, you say: this is how it must have been to be a Viking chief a thousand years ago. And not such a bad life at that.” -Burke Wilkinson, The New York Times

A “wonderful adventure novel…” -Phillip French, The Observer

“Offers lusty Vikings lusting and looting, bedding and battling across Europe from the Ebro to the Dneiper.” -Time Magazine

“A splendidly robust saga of the Vikings…crackles with humour.” -Daily Telegraph

The author and his excellent translator bring that old, warrior world alive with such vigorous enjoyment and simplicity that the deeds of those men roving about the world in their dragon ships seem as marvelous as those of our atomic age.” -Daily Telegraph

“A boldly illuminated picture of the Northmen…confidently recommended.” -The Times (London)

“A remarkable panorama of a vanished way of life.” -Times Literary Supplement

“A banquet of adventure by sea and land, with man-size helpings of battle and murder, robbery and rape.” -New Statesman

“Lusty and uninhibited…a tour de force.” -Evening News

“Still the king of books about Vikings…the Vikings liked to row and sail and fight. That's what they do in this action-packed epic.” -Bookmarks Magazine

"Even though The Long Ships was first published in 1941, it remains the literary equivalent of an action-and intrigue-filled adventure movie that won't insult your intelligence...Bengtsson is an infectiously enthusiastic and surprisingly funny writer—even readers with zero interest in the Europe of a millennium ago will want to keep turning the pages."

—Michael Schaub, NPR.org

 
“Since I finished The Long Ships, I’ve been kicking myself for not having succumbed earlier...a book [of] many pleasures."—Cheston Knapp, Tin House 

Children's Literature - Nancy Partridge
We meet Red Orm as a boy, living in Scandinavia in the tenth century AD. Abducted as a teenager from his home by Vikings, restless men who roamed the waters on yearly raids into England, Ireland, France, and beyond; Orm begins a life of adventure worthy of Homer's Ulysses. He joins Captain Krok's crew, only to be caught and enslaved as an oarsman on a Caliph's ship, along with his good friend Toke. Freed after four years, Orm has grown into a man, cunning and courageous; and he continues his life on the sea, with its savage battles and bloody intrigues. Through Orm we meet Solomon the Jew, Almansur the Muslim, and Brother Willibald the Christian, in a world where the Norse god Odin and his pagan retinue are challenged by other religions. Somewhat in the tradition of The Arabian Nights, the book contains stories within stories, which give the reader full entry into this distant but vibrant past. While the swashbuckling Vikings would make awesome video game characters, it is a challenging if accessible read, being literary, long, and detailed. Chabon tells us he encountered the book and loved it at age fourteen; he must have been a precocious young teenager. It would certainly appeal to history loving slightly older teenage bookworms, as well as many young adults who fancy a foray into a very different world from our own. Reviewer: Nancy Partridge

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590173466
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
07/06/2010
Series:
New York Review Books Classics Series
Pages:
503
Sales rank:
320,181
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.11(d)

Meet the Author

Frans G. Bengtsson (1894–1954) was born and raised in the southern Swedish province of Skåne, the son of an estate manager. His early writings, including a doctoral thesis on Geoffrey Chaucer and two volumes of poetry written in what were considered antiquated verse forms, revealed a career-long interest in historical literary modes and themes. Bengtsson was a prolific translator (of Paradise Lost, The Song of Roland, and Walden), essayist (he published five collections of his writings, mostly on literary and military topics), and biographer (his two-volume biography of Charles XII won the Swedish Academy’s annual prize in 1938). In 1941 he published Roede Orm, sjoefarare i vaesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Western Way), followed, in 1945, by Roede Orm, hemma i oesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Eastern Way). The two books were published in a single volume in the United States and England in 1955 as The Long Ships. During the Second World War, Bengtsson was outspoken in his opposition to the Nazis, refusing to allow for a Norwegian translation of The Long Ships while the country was still under German occupation. He died in 1954 after a long illness.

Michael Meyer (1921–2000) was a translator, novelist, biographer, and playwright, best known for his translations of the works of Ibsen and Strindberg. His biography of Ibsen won the Whitbread Prize for Biography in 1971.

Michael Chabon is the author of ten books, including The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Long Ships 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly my favorite book of all time, and I am looking forward to reading it again. Unfortunately I loaned my tattered old copy to a "friend" fifteen years ago and that was the last I ever saw of it. Orm is a character like no other in modern fiction, and I hope Chabon makes note of that in his introduction. I have tried many times over the years to explain to people why I love this book so much, but it seems to escape me. Even now I am torn about writing this review: should I share this great book with you or is it something that is so personal that it is beyond words? This book is a rare treasure in 20th century publishing; buy it and read it, again and again!
ArghArgh More than 1 year ago
I first read The Long Ships 20 years ago, after it was recommended by a European friend of mine. It was largely unavailable, and I ended up having to order it from England. It is an epic tale of a young viking boy grown up to a man, told in a humorous, delightful, and remarkable fashion. It is simply one of the finest pieces of literature ever produced. I have an extensive library, yet this is the ONLY book that I reserve a special tradition for. I read it every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as a treat to myself. I am very happy that it is in publication again, so that a broader audience may finally access this masterpiece. Now if they'd only make it for the Nook so that I can keep my rare copies from becoming even more tattered!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was given a copy in English translation (originally Swedish) by my Swedish grandfather for my 12th birthday. Like Treasure Island, it is as enjoyable now as it was those 25 years ago - and not because it has revealed new meaning or taken on a greater metaphorical significance as I approach it now from a more sophisticated perspective. Just the opposite in fact. It is a monolithic piece of writing which tells THE tale of viking adventure with a type of patient intensity that is seldom chosen by modern writers. Part saga, part thriller, the story will seem familiar. Not because it plays to stereotypes or because it is the progenitor of a Hollywood viking archetype, but because it communes on an almost primal level with the yearning for adventure and discovery in all of us. Can I recommend it? I would actually go as far as to say that any reader is somehow incomplete without it. It really may be the greatest book you have never heard of.
LordVader More than 1 year ago
I bought this upon recommendation by one of B&N critics and what a page turner it was. Bengtsson describes a fantastic yet matter-of-fact world of murderers, thieves, rapists, and slavers, AKA the Vikings, where such people are those who prosper and strangely enough it seems like the natural order of things. I am not quite how to best say this, but the characters in the story weren't 20th or 21st century American minds in the bodies of characters living a 1,000 years ago, but rather those people translated for me. Wonderful workmanship.
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RalfK More than 1 year ago
I will have to disagree with the 5-star reviewers who absolutely adore this book. I found it to be tedious and long and do not know what others found so enchanting about primative thies,rapists,plunderers and murderers, It is written beautifully, but grtd tiresome. The book was given to Michael Chabon by his Danish aunt who bought rt it at an airport. Mr. Chabon writes a hyper--enthusiastic introduction to this book, which was published by the New York Review of Books. If you enjoy reading about the Crusader-barbarians, you might like this book. 
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