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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Foreign Legion Swede Highlighted

Foreign legionnaire Elow Nilson is highlighted in the French edition of Swedish author Peter Englund's "The Beauty and the Sorrow".

Life is good. The author who has inspired me more than any other has sent me his latest book with a dedication as a thank you for some information I provided.

Hardly anyone expected a Swedish book about WWI to get such fine reviews from a global audience. The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War was published first in Peter Englund's own language in 2009 and has since been published in English, German and now also French as La beauté et la douleur des combats.

I have no part in the Swedish edition but played a tiny part in the French edition by providing Peter Englund with some information about the Foreign Legionnaire Elow Nilson, a Swedish volunteer that I wrote about in Swedes at War (first published in 2004) and then Lina Sturfelt wrote more about in her book Eldens återsken ("Reflections of Fire", published in 2008).

Elow Nilson is not part of the Swedish, English and German editions of The Beauty and the Sorrow but only the French edition. Lina Sturfelt's part in restoring Nilson to our collective memory is larger than mine but I am nevertheless proud to have done something for him.

The impact of Peter Englund's book Poltava, available in English as The Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava and the Birth of the Russian Empire is hard to overstate. The book was released the same year I began my military service, 1988, and affected me in many ways. It inspired me to pursue a career not in the army but in military history. But not least it also made me think how odd it is that of the nine Gyllenhaals who were officers under king Charles XII (who lost at Poltava) only one died in battle. How and why did my namesake and direct forefather survive those most extreme years in Sweden's history?

It can be noted that Peter Englund dedicated The Beauty and the Sorrow to the memory of private Carl Englund, who was killed in action outside Amiens on September 13, 1918. He was wearing a uniform of the Australian army, being a member of the 3rd Australian division. He had participated in and survived Passchendaele...

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