Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Since his novelistic debut in 1962 with Eremitkraftan (the hermit crab), Sven Delblanc has averaged close to a book a year in the course of establishing himself as arguably the foremost Swedish writer of his generation. His importance as a literary figure extends beyond the reputation he has created with his novels. Delblanc is also a respected critic and literary historian. In 1987, in partnership with another academic co-editor, he launched a projected six-volume recapitulation of Swedish literature, from ancient times to the present day.

Although Delblanc has not joined the rush to the avant-garde which has drafted most of his compatriots who profess to be serious writers, a survey of his bibliography reveals that he is versatile as well as prolific. Speranza falls between Kastrater (1975; The Castrati, 1979) and Jerusalems natt (1983; the night of Jerusalem) in a sequence that the author rather loosely calls a trilogy; along with its associated volumes, it belongs to a small group of philosophical fictions that are rather different from a variety of more conventional novels. He first won fame with the Hedeby series, a tetralogy begun in 1970 and completed in 1976, about the change in a rural community as Stockholm’s urban expansion digested it during the decades bracing World War II. On the heels of that popular success, he started another, even more highly regarded novel sequence that is a fictionalized version of his own family’s history. (Delblanc was born in a Swedish immigrant family in western Canada; his family returned to Sweden while he was still a boy.)