The place that never was: the utopian society in Viktor Rydberg's novel Vapensmeden
The dissertation of Örjan Lindberger (Prometeustanken hos Viktor Rydberg, 1938) provided an influential model for the interpretation of the poetical works of Viktor Rydberg (1828–1895). Lindberger's thesis is that Rydberg was guided by a "Promethean vision", characterized by a dualistic worldview, radical liberalism and an ambition to present utopian ideals. Support for this hypothesis was found in works from the earlier stages of Rydberg's career, but Lindberger also noted that Rydberg's later works, including the historical novel Vapensmeden (1891), did not seem to meet the Promethean standards. He therefore described them as "tragic failures", presupposing that Rydberg did stick to his earlier ambitions. His treatment of Vapensmeden is only cursory, but he suggests that one element in the novel, a community of outlaws led by a semi-mythical character, is a failed attempt to represent a utopia. This suggestion was developed by later scholars. Gösta Löwendahl (1954) expounds the utopian nature of this community in detail, establishing it as Rydberg's outline of an ideal anti-industrial society. Andreas Hedberg (2012) describes it as an utopia representing pastoral ideals and providing a testing ground for ideas critical to modernization. This paper tries to show that the utopias described by these scholars have only limited support in the novel, and that there is no evidence that Rydberg intended to present an utopian society in his novel or that contemporary readers interpreted it in that way. The conclusion is that the utopian society in Vapensmeden is a scholarly construct, generated by an over-extension of Lindberger's model.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2013. Vol. 134, 117-150 p.