Humanism och historiesyn i Kai Söderhjelms historiska barn- och ungdomsböcker
Sammanfattning: Kai Söderhjelm (b. 1918 in Helsinki, d. 1996 in Gothenburg) belonged to a Finland-Swedish cultural family, and was for many years an important and valuable figure in the intellectual life of Sweden. Söderhjelm’s authorship follows the same clear thematic lines from his first book, Rid mot nordväst (1948; Ride to the northwest), to his last, Okänt land (1993; Unknown land). These themes are peace, the significance of history for the present, and women’s issues. Söderhjelm is at his highest and best, from the point of view of content, art, and style, when he uses these themes in his storytelling. The 19 historical novels (or books that reflect on history) – roughly half his total production – are the most interesting in terms of content and form. Whatever their year of publication, these books are still readable and “alive.” That Söderhjelm “expertly, and with a pacifistic conviction has brought so many epochs and settings to life” is one reason Sonja Svensson, in Den svenska litteraturen, declares him “the leading humanist in Swedish children’s literature”. Söderhjelm’s contemporary novels have become more-or-less dated, and most of them are interesting only if studied as documents of the time when they first were published. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the humanism and the view of history in Kai Söderhjelm’s historical novels for children and young people. Both of these terms – humanism, and view of history – can be described as expressions of ideological positions, and they are here analyzed accordingly. My analyses show that the same values can be found in all of Kai Söderhjelm’s historical books, and that they often are formulated in similar ways and presented to the reader via similar structures. No obvious development is discernible; Söderhjelm makes clear from the start of his writing career what his convictions are, and what he wishes to communicate to his readers. Whatever age group he addresses, whatever story he is telling, the message is the same. The tempo of the books picks up over time, and, as Söderhjelm grows more experienced as a writer, he uses more complicated narrative techniques and experiments in form. The humanistic framework, however, remains constant throughout his work.
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