A Time on Earth

Birches in a meadow

The year is 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis casts its shadow over the world. In California the ageing Swedish-American Albert Carlson feels death approaching. The time has come for him to look back on his life and reflect on what he did with his one time on earth.

A Time on Earth (Din stund på jorden) by Vilhelm Moberg is a story about death and about living. About Albert who abandoned his dreams, and about his brother Sigfrid who died young and never got the chance to fulfil his.  It is a melancholic story, filled with regrets over two lives which never became what they ought, but it is written with a compassion for the characters which prevents it from being too bleak.

Albert Carlson has lived his whole adult life in the USA but never managed to make it his home. Now he spends his days in a lonely hotel room with his memories. He suffers from the common emigrant curse of longing for a country which no longer exists, the Sweden he knew has moved on without him (as an emigrant myself this is something I fear). The story moves back and forth from Albert’s life in California to his childhood in rural Sweden, both beautifully portrayed in the novel.

A Time on Earth is a beautiful book, which kept me captivated from the beginning, but it is not a very cheerful read. I believe I should find something a bit lighter for my next read.

This book was on my Classics Club reading list. I read it in Swedish but an English translation exists.



16 thoughts on “A Time on Earth

      1. Nice to internet meet you :). I was a Dutch person living in Belgium for two years, which I guess is similarly similar. It felt quite odd because the culture was so much like my own, but not exactly. (Bit hard to describe really.)

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t read Bats in the Belfry, it’s just a classic crime title that sticks in my mind. I will one day! Elizabeth Moon is new to me. . .

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is a great title!

        Elizabeth Moon writes science fiction (space operas) and fantasy. They are among the few of my teenage reads that I still enjoy re-reading. Fast-paced, with fun characters, and avoiding most of the genres’ most annoying clichés, I find them excellent entertainment. Nothing ground-breaking but a lot of fun adventures.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I find that most critically acclaimed, Classic novels are often sad. There’s something about melancholic feelings which capture humanity in a way joy doesn’t seem to on the page. I’m glad that Moberg does a good job making this about the characters! Often the focus on our humanity is the difference between merely sad and absolutely bleak.

    What made you decide to pick up this classic?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A touch (or more) of melancholy certainly features in most Nordic classics.

      This particular book was a gift from my mother which have been lingering unread for far too long. So when I got into a Swedish classics streak I made sure to read it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It really did make this one special! I had planned to read more Moberg anyway, but I would hardly have started with this particular one if I hadn’t been gifted it.


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