Bernard Porter

Nordic by Nature

Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North

By Robert Ferguson

Head of Zeus 455pp £25 order from our bookshop

This book started out as a quest for the Holy Grail of Scandinavian ‘melancholy’. Robert Ferguson has lived in Norway for thirty years and published biographies of the pretty gloomy Ibsen and the unrelievedly depressing (and fascist) Knut Hamsun, so he must know something about it. The book is an odd one, jumping around from one country and one historical era to another. It is interspersed with personal reminiscences and transcriptions of conversations Ferguson has had with literary figures, and also contains an original three-act playlet featuring Ibsen, Ibsen’s wife and the mother of the illegitimate child he fathered in his youth. Ferguson mentions melancholia every now and then, but never quite reaches his stated goal.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Andrew Irwin examines the language and structure of Reservoir 13, a 'portrait of a whole village' by Jon McGregor ,
    • David Jacques's Garden of Court and Country: English Design 1630-1730, reviewed by Tim Richardson ,
    • Lucy Popescu () appeals on the behalf of Rashad Ramazanov, a writer and blogger imprisoned in Azerbaijan ,
    • ''the icon of restlessness for a world that never seems able to settle.'' How Hamlet went on tour ,
    • . is upon us. Look out for free copies of Literary Review for festival attendees.,
    • 'If there is a god, nature is the breath of it and art ... is its messenger.' Jan Morris contemplates Wordsworth ,
    • Weekend read 2: Take inspiration from Jonathan Meades's 'anti'-recipes and 'serve up a treat' this Sunday ,