The Emigrants – Utvandrarna – Vilhelm Moberg
The Emigrants is a suite of four novels which was written by the Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg, between 1949 and 1959. It describes the story of a Swedish family’s migration from Småland to Minnesota in the mid 19th century. This series is a fascinating social and historical story. It takes place in the 1850s up to 1890.
The first part of the suite, ‘The Emigrant’, covers the hardships for some Swedish farmers. The heroes are Karl Oskar Nilsson and his wife, Kristina. At the beginning, they have four children and work hard to make a living but the family suffers from famine. They decide to emigrate to the US in search of a better life. The book tells the motives of each character, how they board the ship in Karlshamn, and how life goes on during the 10 weeks they spend on board (against all diseases, sea-sickness, scurvy, etc.) The boat arrives in New York City in summer 1850.
The second novel called ‘Unto a Good Land’ describes the journey of the emigrants from New York City to Taylors Falls in Minnesota. They settle at the Indian lake Ki-Chi-Saga and start building their home. Robert, Karl Oskar’s brother, decides to go to California with his friend Arvid, in search for gold.
‘The Settlers’ is the third and longest part of The Emigrants. It is about the group’s new life in America where most of them have started to feel at home. But, it is also the return of Robert, and the explanation of what happened in California.
Finally, the fourth part called ‘The Last Letter Home’ tells about Karl-Oskar and Kristina in their late life and eventual death. This part is more historical than the others because we get to follow historical events such as the American Civil War and the Sioux Outbreak of 1862 through the perspective of the settlers.
The result of this suite is a wonderful adventure. It is an emigrant epic of torment, hard work and persistence and it will interest anybody who wants to understand how the US was created. This book gives a voice to ordinary people who make up the bulk of immigrant ancestors. And it is simply impossible to forget some strong characters like Robert or Kristina.