The Emigrants (The Emigrants #1) by Vilhelm Moberg, Gustaf Lannestock (Translator)

Published: In Sweden as Utvandrarna in 1949. First published in English in 1961. Genre: Historical fiction. 1. First lines 2. Cover: Minnesota Historical Society 3. Old farm house [CC BY-NC 2.0] (Filter added) via flickr 4. Sailing ship [Public Domain] via pxhere

Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson are peasant farmers in Sweden in the early nineteenth century. They decide, with other families in the area, to emigrate to America to escape their impoverished situation. The story describes how they come to make the decision to leave, and how they make their arduous journey by emigrant ship to the New World.

Glanceabook: For me, it took some time to warm to any of the characters, and some of the writing seemed to be repetitive, tending to labour the point about all the hardships faced by the Swedish farmers. However, as the families started their voyage to America, I felt more empathy with their plight and felt that I got to know them better. The story then took on a more interesting direction, with the promise of an enjoyable read in the next book of the series (“Unto a Good Land”).

  • Walter Johnson: Vilhelm Moberg: The Emigrants (Book Review) Scandinavian Studies; Menasha, Wis. Vol. 24,  (Jan 1, 1952): 23.: Accessed at Proquest. “The Emigrants” tells in a realistic and fascinating fashion the story of the emigration of farm people from Smaland a hundred years ago. It presents them as human beings who had been handicapped by what Ibsen called the real enemies of society – ignorance, poverty, and the ugly conditions of life. … Moberg does not distort the factual background of conditions in Smaland in the 1840’s. His emigrants should strike any observer who has known older immigrants in the Middle West and elsewhere as authentic. … Perhaps the greatest virtue of the novel, is Moberg’s warm, human approach to and depth of understanding of the emigrants.”

“There were many closed gates on the road to America.”

“The Emigrants” (The Emigrants #1) by Vilhelm Moberg, Gustaf Lannestock (Translator)


“She was so old she should have been in her grave long ago, if the devil had attended to his business; but apparently he was too afraid of her.”

“If only we can get across this ocean, and land with our health.”

“It stormed. An uninterrupted roar was heard from the sea on the other side of the hull, like thunder after a bolt of lightning. The mass of water outside, which until this evening had carried their ship on its back calmly and patiently as a docile beast of burden, had now become a wild beast with frothing, foamy jaws, and it heaved with all its pliant humps as if to throw of its burden.”

Other editions:

Author: William Moberg

The series:

  • The Emigrants (Utvandrarna)
  • Unto a Good Land (Invandrarna)
  • The Settlers (Nybyggarna)
  • Last Letter Home (Sista brevet till Sverige)

Adaptation: The Emigrants (Swedish: Utvandrarna) is a 1971 Swedish film directed and co-written by Jan Troell and starring Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann.

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