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MODERNISM AND HISTORICAL EVOLUTION IN THE WORKS OF EYVIND JOHNSON: IDEOLOGICAL PRAXIS IN SWEDISH LITERATURE. OGUNYEMI, Christopher Babatunde bbcoguns2@yahoo.se

INTRODUCTION His works, which mirrors the ideological and technical development of the novel from Hamsun to Faulkner, is pervaded by the political and cultural debates of his time. He regarded the dissolution of the form of the novel as a necessary step in its development, and saw each of his novels as an experiment in expressing the dark and the bright sides on life." (Sven H. Rossel in A History of Scandinavian Literature, 1870-1980, 1982)

Eyvind Johnson’s novels examine the ideological framework in Swedish literature. He uses his novels not only for didactic purposes but for informing, satirizing and exposing the intricacies which have polarised the political, economical and sociological praxis of his time. His works can be said to lend credence to modernism and historical evolution. Johnson's early novels are influenced by Marcel Proust, Andre Gide and James Joyce. Among his best-known novels is perhaps HANS NÅDENS TID, which has been translated into several languages. It is an analysis of the totalitarian ideology, seen through the eyes of the inhabitants of a nation conquered by Charlemagne. The tone is deeply pessimistic, but although the Stalin-like dictator manages to destroy freedom, love and hope remain in dreams. The Days of His Grace and other works he wrote are good examples of his handling of historical evolution and ideological movements. IDEOLOGY AND HISTORICAL EVOLUTION IN HIS WORKS Internationally famous is also STRANDERNAS SVALL (1946), translated as Return to Ithaca: The Odyssey Retold as a Modern Novel, which began a series of novels emphasizing the repetition of history, the illusion of chronological time and the similarity of man's condition under varying circumstances. As a Swedish writer, he incorporates the situation of his time in the body framework of his corpus; his works typifies the plights of the people and the question of humanism and human existence which also constitute the body literature of Europe at this time.


In Return to Ithaca, Eyvind Johnson probes into history and ideology when he showed that Odysseus gets his revenge on all the suitors in this book. First he turns on Antinous because he was ridiculing Odysseus and was the meanest of all the suitors. So when Antinous goes to sip his wine, Odysseus kills him by shooting him in the throat with his arrow. The suitors' anger flares when he does this, but it soon turns to fear when Odysseus tells them what he has in store for them. The suitors plead with him telling him that Antinous made them to do it all, but Odysseus does not believe them, nor does he care. So Odysseus fights the men with his son Telemachus by his side. The swineherd and the cowherd help too. The Athena sends down a thundercloud to shield Odysseus. The suitors run madly, trying to get free of the hall of hell. But it was hopeless, none made it out alive. Odysseus calls forth all of the distrustful maids next, and makes them clean up all the bodies. Then Telemachus shows his gratitude to the maids by hanging them in the courtyard. Eurycleia runs to get Penelope to tell her the good news: "Odysseus is back!" But Penelope does not know if she can trust this stranger. Amused, Odysseus orders Eurynome to bath him so he can get all his dirt tattered clothes off. Athena returns his good looks and then Penelope gives him the test to see if he really is Odysseus. Penelope tells Eurycleia to move the bed, but Odysseus gets mad and says she cannot because he made that bed in the tree. So Penelope sees it is Odysseus because no one else knows that. Based on the Greek mythology and human experience Eyvind Johnson reshapes the evolution of history to show that man’s existence and problems are continuous phenomenon. Similarly, Eyvind Johnson shows another aspect of history by his narration in The Days of His Grace. The title suggests some kind of religious allusions which remind us of the evolution of people. The title is probably taken from Psalm 102: 13 22 where the Christians are called to the grace by coming together from various cities, towns and communities to offer worship and supplication to God. Although Eyvind Johnson wrote this novel in 1960, the novel revealed the ideological machination in the society and it summarily calls for a concerted effort in order to attain modern life that is devoid of bitterness. Most of Eyvind Johnson’s books have been analysed by critics that they enjoy the current trend in the twentieth century literature. WORKS CITED Hollington, Michael, “Svevo. Joyce and Modern Times in Modernism Ed Malcolm Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1976 Jameson, Fredrick, A singular Modernist: Essay on the Ontology of the Present. London: Verso, 2002 Johnson, Eyvind, 1914. London: Adam Books, 1970. New edition to 1934 --------------------- Return to Ithaca. London: Thames and Hudson. 1946 --------------------- The Days of His Return. New York: Chatto and Windus, 1960 Rossel H Sven. A History of Scandinavian Literature, 1870- 1980, 1982.

Christopher Babatunde Ogunyemi is an Assistant Professor of English in Joseph Ayo Babalola University in Nigeria.


Modernism and Historical Evolution in the Works of Eyvind Johnson: Ideology and Swedish Literature  

This review discusses Eyvind Johnson’s novels. It goes on to examine the ideological framework in Swedish literature and how the author uses...

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