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Frans G. Bengtsson, 1894-1954, was born in Tosjö. His father managed the estate of Rössjöholm near Hallandsåsen in the southwest of Sweden. Frans G. Bengtsson was the oldest of five siblings and suffered from poor health throughout his childhood. He completed secondary school in Kristianstad in 1912 after which he went to Lund to continue studying, taking his time to complete his degree. He studied language and literature and eventually graduated with a BA. In 1939 he married Gerda Fineman and for the remainder of his life lived in Ribbingfors in Västergötland on the west coast of Sweden.

Bengtsson made his debut as a poet with A Throw of the Dice, a collection of heroic motifs in classical verse form. It includes probably his best-known poem, The Ballad of the French King’s Musicians. It is often said that this is the only poem to contain the word ‘transubstantiated’, an example of the author’s skilful wordplay.

Subsequently Frans G. Bengtsson concentrated predominantly on the craft of essay writing as his artistic form and his essays bear his distinctly personal imprint. The collectionThe Literati and the Military Men,1929, represented something of a breakthrough for him. He had a love of ancient settings and heroic figures in which his depictions tend towards historical curiosities, the colourful and the picturesque. The common denominator of his work is its stoic, pessimistic undertone, in all likelihood influenced by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. This does not preclude a touch of humour, however. Bengtsson’s great interest in history manifested itself in a lengthy two-volume study of King Charles XII of Sweden, 1935-36, but this work uses such artistic licence that in modern terminology the book would be classified as a non-fiction novel or ‘faction’.

Bengtsson also took up writing novels with great success. The Viking adventure novel The Long Ships in two parts, published in 1941 and 1945, which adopts a technique familiar from Icelandic sagas spiked with a rollicking, parodic tone, has become his best-loved work.