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The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 6, 2010
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"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
About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
And you wonder: why, O why, doesn't the publisher re-issue this in lieu of one or another of the emminently forgettable titles in current release?
Such a book is THE LONG SHIPS by Frans Bengtssen, which crossed the Atlantic from Scandinavia to America in the early 1950s; like Leif Ericson, who made the same trip long before Columbus, this book lingered only briefly here before vanishing with scarcely a trace.
And that is a tragedy for anyone who craves an epic, lusty tale of Vikings and their travels-- told with a sophisticated humor that is both wry and understated and with a sense of historical perspective that blends so subtly into the narrative that one is staggered to later find it is painstakingly accurate. Thank you, History Channel-- but I heard it all first, and far more compellingly, from following Orm Tostesson's exciting voyages, enthusiastic plunderings and thrilling adventures in THE LONG SHIPS.
This book is a delight in every way: certainly, you can read simply for it for the lyrical use of language (it is, by the way, a translation from its original Swedish, and translator Michael Meyer deserves canonization for his masterful rendering of it into English). But it works well on so many other levels --as an action/adventure, or as a character-driven historical novel-- that to attempt to limit this book's sophisticated multi-layered appeal would be a disservice.Read more ›
It's the story of Orm, a farmer's son in southern Sweden in the late 900s who one day finds himself a prisoner of a merry gang of Vikings. They quickly adopt him, and set out for adventures off the northern and southern coasts of Europe. Before the book is half over, Orm has found himself in courts from Spain to England, espoused three different religions, slain several dozen foemen, and found a princess to be his bride.
Frans G. Bengtsson's novel, originally published in Sweden in 1945, showcases two things I didn't expect from a Scandinavian academic, brevity and humor. Sure, the book is nearly 500 pages long, but Bengtsson crams a lot of incident in every page, describing events in broad strokes and letting the reader's imagination do the rest. Bengtsson's style, preserved marvelously by Michael Meyer's 1954 translation, is to consciously evoke the elliptical prose of ancient Viking sagas, but in such a way as to allow for a modern, tongue-in-cheek sensibility to come through, one that reflects a Viking world, however hard-bitten, of great wit and depth.
"The Long Ships" is marvelously quotable: "For no man complains of the weight of the cargo, when it is his own booty that is putting strain upon the oars." Or: "Only poets can win wealth with empty hands, but then they must make better songs than other poets, and competition spoils the pleasure of composition.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This adventure tale of the Northmen and their world of exploration and marauding was terrific fun to read and educational to boot. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Miranda Good
This is an awesome story of swashbuckling Norsemen. There is nothing like it and you will read it more than once. Read morePublished 8 days ago by J. DeFord
Far more than a literary/historical curiosity, this is a surprisingly readable, entertaining and informative work. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Tony Covatta
Interesting history of that area and time- one of those books you can open and close and go back and continue. good reading.Published 21 days ago by JEM
''The long ships'' by F. G. Bengtsson is a really great historical novel on Vikings showing the European world at the turn of 1st and 2nd millennium AD. Read morePublished 1 month ago by mjare
The story covers the life of one particular Viking - Orm. His adventures and attempts to gain riches, luck and his wife are an exciting read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tom
I was a bit skeptical of this book as I usually find books written on the 19th century and early 20th to be clumsy and to badly need a heavy edit, and to have sluggish plots. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Phil Dolliff
Red Orm is the original title of the book. The protagonist is an entrepreneurial type who is lucky to escape death again and again, while dealing it out to get stuff. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Michael J
Interesting story and evidently a classic that few people know about. The writing style is easy to read and it tells the story of the various viking voyages and escapades in... Read morePublished 1 month ago by John F. Fisher