Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea

Two books from yesteryears

I bought a couple of books today. The first is about the Swedish author Gustav Hedenvind-Eriksson (1880-1967) by Örjan Lindberger. I hadn’t a clue who he was but I was attracted by the rune stone on the book cover.

I flipped through the pages and found another picture that caught my eye, a picture of a Viking age sword handle and scanned the closet pages – concerning an archaeological excavation he participated in under dr Knut Kjellmark (1866-1944) of Viking Age graves at Röstahammar, Jämtland. As the price was 5 sek (ca 0,75 US $ or 0,60 €) there really wasn’t much to talk about.

As I got back I googled Hedenvind-Eriksson and found that there is a Hedenvind society (Hedenvind-sällskapet) that had lots information on him and his life.

Hedenvind was born in the village Gubbhögen in Alanäs parish in the northern parts of Jamtland. He didn’t get much schooling and left his home at the age of 15 to work as a lumberjack, as a rafter, as a navvy, as a sailor etc. In 1903 he got the chance to get back to school, at a folk high school, near Östersund called Birka. At the time archaeologist dr Knut Kjellmark, perhaps best known for his work in Småland (in southern parts Sweden), worked as teacher in History and in 1904 he let Hedenvind be part of the excavation of a Viking Age grave field in Röstahammar, the results are described in Ymer 1905. Hedenvind was inspired of this as an author which can be read in works such as Järnets gåta (the mystery of iron) and Jämtländska sagor (sagas from Jamtland) (1941). Hedenvind first book was published in 1910; Ur en fallen skog (From a felt forest) he was one of the pioneers in Swedish autodidact working class authors and was a big influence on coming authors in the genre. He mixed realism and myths to a writing style of his own where he often describes the situations for navvys and their life, several novels concerns Jamtland and the northern parts of Sweden, about the forests and about forestry.

Some of his better known later works, include a book I actually own and have read Jorms saga (1949), and Jämtändska sagor (1941), Sagofolket som kom bort (the people of the sagas that was lost) (1946) and Gismus jägares saga (the saga of the hunter Gismus) (1959). In these books he takes a starting point in stories he remembered from his childhood, existential questions such as religion and culture.

“To look back at ones own history is like rowing: the direction is forward, but the gaze is directed backwards, and field of view continually extends.” Quote by Hedenvind translated by Magnus Reuterdahl

It’s often said that you should judge a book by its cover, and mostly I agree with that statement, but sometimes the cover gives you just enough to catch your eye which might lead to an interesting adventure or to new knowledge. In this I learned something new and I feel that a walk to library is in order to read up on some of his work.

I’m not sure but it’s possible that some of his works is translated to English, I think I’ve seen Jorm’s saga in English somewhere for example.

For another fiver I got Sten Bergman’s (1895 – 1975) Min far är kannibal from 1959 published in English in 1961 under the title My Father Is A Cannibal.

This book concerns one of his scientific journeys to Papua New Guinea in 1956, where he and his wife were adopted by the Cannibal Chief, Pinim, and his wife, Akintjes, in a dramatic ceremony. In the book he describes the nature and animals he studied such as the tree kangaroos and the forest turkey. During his stay he kept company with the native Papuans which he describes as primitive and still living a Stone Age kind of life and being cannibals. I read parts of this book several years ago and there are things that can be said of the descriptions of the Papuans, though one has to read them in their historic context. If I remember it correctly it was an enthralling read, we’ll see what I think of it today.

Sten Bergman was a Swedish biologist and zoologist and is perhaps best known for his expeditions to Kamtchatka 1920-23, The Kuril Islands 1929-30, Korea 1935-36 and Papua New Guinea 1948-50, 1952-53 och 1956-59. More can be read on the website Sten Bergman Upptäcktsresor i bild (Pictures from expedition), in Swedish but with great photos.

On the website a project regarding Sten Bergman’s travels and research is presented with the aim of making a documentary, a book and an exhibition with his photos. I’ll keep a look out on what’s happening about that and write a few words on the book.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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