Viktor Rydberg

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Viktor Rydberg, 1880.

Abraham Viktor Rydberg (born December 18, 1828 in Jönköping , † September 21, 1895 in Djursholm ) was a Swedish writer , poet and cultural historian .


Abraham Viktor Rydberg was born to a prison officer and a midwife. His mother died of cholera in 1834 . His father became an alcoholic afterwards, while Viktor Rydberg was cared for by the poor welfare department and grew up with various foster parents. He broke off attending high school and began working as a journalist in 1855, initially at Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning . Later he made up his school leaving certificate and studied law. He never got a degree. Since 1868 he belonged to the church council (Kyrkomöt), d. H. the highest decision-making body, the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Sweden . From 1870 to 1872 he was a member of the Reichstag . In 1873 and 1874 he made a long trip to Italy. After his return, Viktor Rydberg lived as a publicist. In 1877 he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy and in 1884 appointed professor of cultural history.


Viktor Rydberg reads a book in his rocking chair , painting by Anders Zorn

Viktor Rydberg is still in the tradition of romanticism . On the basis of a strong Christian faith, he developed liberal ideas and an optimistic belief in progress. From this position (not out of a principled opposition to Christianity ) he directed sharp attacks against dogmatic church Christianity .


Viktor Rydberg made a name for himself above all as a novelist. His best-known work is the novel Singoalla , first published in 1857. It is a story about the forbidden love of the knight Erland Månesköld for the gypsy Singoalla, set in the Middle Ages. Singoalla is considered a "late masterpiece of Swedish romanticism".

In 1859 his novel Den siste atenaren ("The Last Athenian") was published, a colorful historical novel about the struggle between paganism and emerging Christianity in Athens in late antiquity , against the background of the attempt by Emperor Julian to reverse the Constantinian turning point . On the one hand there are Bishop Petros and the priesthood of the emerging Constantinian state church. They represent the negative “oriental” principle of violence, dogmatism and fanaticism. On the one hand there is the “Erzheide” Krysanteus and those Christians (especially in the ranks of the Donatists ) who have remained true to the ideal of Christ. They represent the positive “western” principle of reason and humanity. Viktor Rydberg himself described the novel in his detailed foreword as "a spear hurled into the enemy ranks with the warrior's laudable intention to injure and kill". Viktor Rydberg also represented liberal ideas in his novel Vapensmeden ("The Armourer ", 1871).


Viktor Rydberg published two collections of poetry only late, in 1882 and 1891. Viktor Rydberg often dealt with philosophical questions in his poems. His best-known poem Tomten (roughly: "The Little Gnome") is about a natural being who ponders the riddle of existence. In his cantata for the 400th anniversary of Uppsala University (1877), Rydberg pays homage to the optimistic belief in progress: The migration of the people of Israel to the Promised Land symbolizes the path of humanity to a better future, which the four faculties of theology, law, medicine and philosophy help the people there. Here you can find the famous idealistic motto Vad rätt du tänkt, vad du i kärlek vill / vad skönt du drömt, kan ej av tiden härjas / det är a skörd, som undan honom bärgas / ty den hör evighetens rike till (roughly: “What you have thought right, what you want out of love, what beautiful you have dreamed, cannot be destroyed by time, because that is a harvest that is saved before time ”). In his great idea poem Prometeus och Ahasverus (" Prometheus and Ahasverus ") Rydberg takes up the theme from Den siste atenaren : Ahasverus wandering through the world visits Prometheus, forged on the rock, and a dialogue develops between the two. Ahasuerus embodies the nihilistic "oriental" principle: In the world there is nothing but brute force and cruel arbitrariness, man has no choice but to accept fate impotently. In contrast, Prometheus represents the idealistic "Western" principle: humanity, rebellion against injustice and despotism, struggle for a better future, art and culture. At the end the Messiah appears and shows his sympathy for Prometheus. In the poem Den nya Grottesången (roughly: "The new grotto song"), Viktor Rydberg denounced the exploitation of workers in the beginning industrialization using a motif from the Edda .


In 1862 Viktor Rydberg published the book Bibelns lära om Kristus ("The teaching of the Bible about Christ"). In this book Viktor Rydberg claims that the dogma of the Trinity is not contained in the Gospels and is an invention of late antique councils . Jesus Christ is an exemplary and perfect person, but not God. The book caused a sensation when it was published, especially since there was no religious freedom in Sweden at the time.

Viktor Rydberg made a significant contribution to Swedish Christmas culture with the Christmas carol Gläns över sjö och strand ("Shine over the lake and beach") and the story Lille Viggs äventyr på julafton ("Little Viggs Adventures on Christmas Eve").

Viktor Rydberg was also an important translator, for example from Edgar Allan Poe and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe .


Film adaptations

  • 1950: Singoalla - the gypsy woman ( Singoalla ) - Director: Christian-Jaque


  • Göran Hägg: Den svenska literaturhistorien . Wahlström & Widstrand, Stockholm 1996, ISBN 91-46-16928-8 .
  • PP Jörgensen: Art. Rydberg, Abraham Viktor . In: The religion in history and present (RGG), 1st ed., Vol. 5: Roh – Zypressen , Tübingen 1913, Sp. 109–110.
  • Bernt Olsson, Ingemar Algulin: Litteraturens historia i Sverige . 4th edition. Norstedt, Stockholm 1995, ISBN 91-1-943632-7 .


  1. a b c d P.P. Jörgensen: Art. Rydberg, Abraham Viktor . In: RGG, vol. 5, col. 109–110, here col. 109.
  2. Art. Singoalla . In: Kindlers Literature Lexicon . dtv, Munich 1974, Vol. 20, pp. 8747-8748.
  3. Ronald D. Pross: Art. Den siste atenaren . In: Kindlers Literature Lexicon . dtv, Munich 1974, Vol. 20, pp. 8763-8764.
  4. ^ PP Jörgensen: Art. Rydberg, Abraham Viktor . In: RGG, vol. 5, col. 109-110, here col. 110.

Web links

Commons : Viktor Rydberg  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Viktor Rydberg  - Sources and full texts