Frans G. Bengtsson (1894-1954) was born and raised in the southern Swedish province of Skåne, the son of an estate manager. His early writings, including a doctoral thesis on Geoffrey Chaucer and two volumes of poetry written in what were considered antiquated verse forms, revealed a career-long interest in historical literary modes and themes. Bengtsson was a prolific translator (of Paradise Lost, The Song of Roland, and Walden), essayist (he published five collections of his writings, mostly on literary and military topics), and biographer (his two-volume biography of Charles XII won the Swedish Academy’s annual prize in 1938). In 1941 he published Roede Orm, sjoefarare i vaesterled ( Red Orm at Home and on the Western Way), followed, in 1945, by Roede Orm, hemma i oesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Eastern Way). The two books were published in a single volume in the United States and England in 1955 as The Long Ships. During the Second World War, Bengtsson was outspoken in his opposition to the Nazis, refusing to allow for a Norwegian translation of The Long Ships while the country was still under German occupation. He died in 1954 after a long illness.
The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century, when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from Scandinavia through the Straits of Gibraltar to Byzantium in all its fabled splendor. “This extraordinary saga of epic adventure on land and sea…is a masterpiece of historical fiction.” —The New York Times