Rydberg, Viktor

(1828-1895)
   A Swedish novelist and poet, Rydberg wrote historical novels in which he expressed his own ideas about contemporary issues. Writing about the past satisfied the romantic in him, and as a journalist working in a liberal newspaper, he was very aware of the issues of the day. His first successful novel was Fribytaren paå Oästersjoän (1857; tr. The Freebooter ofthe Baltic, 1891), set during the 17th century. This was a time of witch trials and other atrocities, which Rydberg compares to the fanaticism of his own age. The novel Singoalla (1857; tr. 1903), set during the Middle Ages, features a love story involving a Christian knight and a young Rom (Gypsy) woman.
   Den siste atenaren (1859; tr. The Last Athenian, 1869) expresses Rydberg s humanism and love of classical culture. Its protagonist is the fourth-century Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, who unsuccessfully tried to reestablish paganism as the state religion. Influenced by the dialectical theory of history of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Rydberg hoped for a synthesis of classical humanism and Christianity and viewed Julian as a kindred spirit. The Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen deals with the same subject matter in his play Kejser og Galilæer (1873; tr. Emperor and Galilean, 1876).
   Rydberg's novel Vapensmeden (1891; The Armorer) is set during the time of the Swedish Reformation and portrays the conflict between Catholicism and Lutheranism. Open-mindedness and tolerance are shown in their age-old conflict with fanaticism and hunger for power. Rydberg overtly criticized Christianity in a pamphlet, Bibelns lara om Kristus (1862; Biblical Teachings about Christ), in which he argued that the Bible offered no support for the doctrine of the Trinity and that there was no basis for the dogma that Jesus was both god and a human being.
   Like that of his romantic predecessors, Rydberg s poetry combined his interest in classical culture with his concern about folklore and the national past. He published two volumes of poetry, Dikter (1882; Poems) and Dikter, andra samlingen (1891; Poems, Second Collection). Rydberg s poems from the 1880s are distinguished by their concern for social justice and his abhorrence ofnarrow-minded-ness and bigotry of all kinds.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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