Vilhelm Moberg – Rid i natt!



Title: Rid i natt!
Author:
Vilhelm Moberg
Year: 1941

In the preface to this edition of Rid i natt! (English title: Ride this night!), Vilhelm Moberg speaks briefly about the novel and the way it was received during the Second World War. Its theme of uprising and obvious allegorical implications for the war made the Nazis ban the novel, a prize the author claims to be worth much more that any other. Reading the novel, it is not difficult to understand why the Nazis did not enjoy it.

Rid i natt! is the story about inequity imposed on a Swedish village by a foreign lord (who happens to be German) in mid 17th century. He has decided to take his foreign ways to Sweden (where peasants were free at the time, in contrast to Germany) and to force the peasants to work on his estate. Only one of them, Ragnar Svedje, is prepared to make sacrifices and finds the courage to resist. The others remain silent and passive.

The references to the war is often obvious, but still not blunt. Even though the themes of resistance, courage and the fight for freedom are set in a rural, small-scale environment, they easily transform to the level of national policy (Sweden stayed neutral during the war). Moberg seems to say that without freedom and honour, life is not worth living.

Throughout the novel it is obvious that Svedje is in the right, which makes the title an imperative for the reader, especially for those in a situation resembling the one in the novel (such as any country occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War): resist the opressor, fight for your freedom, ride this night!

I like Rid i natt! because it is a carefully thoughtout novel with a purpose. There are many books with purposes, but few of the manage to convey an idea or an imperative, and to be entertaining at the same time. Also, the environment of the 17th century Sweden is more or less new to me, which made it all the more interesting. Four snail to Vilhelm Moberg!

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  1. Martin’s avatar

    Tja, syfte är bra, men det är inte allt och det kommer i skymundan bakom annat i Rid i natt!. Det är dock en intressant frågeställning: blir kultur bättre med ett annat syfte än att underhålla (i ordets vidaste bemärkelse)? Jag tycker att Rid i natt! är riktigt trist, vilket är synd – jag tycker inte om att tycka illa om böcker – men jag kan förstå varför den blivit så spridd.

    Länk till recension på Yasylum.

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  2. Martin’s avatar

    (Upptäckte nu att jag skrivit fel hemsideadress i de senaste månadernas kommentarer… Det är rätt dåligt. :D)

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  3. Anonymous’s avatar

    I have to say that I also found the prose of _Ride This Night_ “boring”–a real detriment to its purpose. I appreciate that Moberg was using repetition intentionally as a poetic technique, but I don’t think it works–at least not for me in English; and apparently not for Martin in Swedish. Still, eventually the book drew me in, as I mentally edited the novel to about a quarter of its former size, emphasizing its best points–its unearthing of a very dark and unexplored moment in world history (I’m still trying to get to the bottom of the history behind this apparently unrealized Swedish peasant revolt); its extended treatment of the psychology of appeasement, of resistance, of guilt; its use of the forest as both a refuge from and a place to prey upon society; and its surrealistic episodes of dream-wakefulness rooted in pagan and Christian superstitions. I think in the right historical context (maybe a time of widespread economic hardship–hmm?), it would make a great screenplay.

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