Moberg and the Emigrants

 

Karl Artur Vilhelm Moberg was born in 1898 in a soldier’s croft in Moshult, Småland. Vilhelm grew up in the darkest Småland, in what was called the “poor Sweden”. This gave him insights into both economic and cultural poverty.

As a young man, he saw relatives and friends emigrate to America, including several of his mother’s relatives. At the age of 16, he himself was close to leaving. He had bought a ticket, but was persuaded by his parents to stay and study.

After World War II, Moberg began the work on depicting emigration.

Emigration became an early part of Moberg’s writing. In 1947, work began on the “emigrant suite”. Extensive preparations were required and he spent several years searching for information in libraries, archives and through contacts, in Sweden and America.

Moberg spent 1948-49 in the United States. He visited the Swedish countryside, met Swedish relatives, collected materials and wrote.

The Emigrant Suite

The book The Emigrants was published in 1949 and the novel has been translated into some thirty languages. Moberg wanted to portray the agricultural society. He focused on Småland farmers who continued to cultivate the land in the new country.

In The Emigrants, we follow a dozen fates, each of which provides a perspective on the diversity, causes and hopes that characterized the emigrant era.

Söderäng and the writers cottage

In 1940, Vilhelm Moberg bought the farm Söderäng on Väddö just south of Grisslehamn. A large farm which in addition to two manor buildings also included a rental house, fields, meadows and forest.

About hundred meters from the residential buildings there was also a small village smithy. Moberg had this converted into a writers cottage. For many years, the writing cottage gave him the peace he needed to write. Here he also worked on his last work, My Swedish history.

In 1984, Moberg’s daughter Margareta Ahlberg donated the furniture from the writers cottage to the Swedish Emigrant Institute in Växjö. The cottage had been unused since Vilhelm Moberg’s death in 1973. Before the furniture was transported to Växjö, the interior was carefully photographed. Based on the photos, the writers cottage has been reconstructed at the Emigrants’ House in Växjö.

 

The exhibition is at the House of Emigrants.