Posted by: artandlove | August 3, 2009

Dreaming with Björn Larsson

Sailing Freedom Bjorn Larsson

Björn Larsson is truly a greatly versatile intellectual: writer, seaman, lecturer, traveller, essayist and  journalist. Born in Jönköping, (Sweden), in 1953 since his early boyhood proved to be a  remarkably originative lad, irresistibly attracted by adventures, travels and most of all by the sea. He used to read all the classics by Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson and one of his major dreams was to perform the journey at the centre of the earth, just as described by Jules Verne in his legendary book. In his school-days he was mostly interested in literature and when he left school he moved to Paris for four years to become a writer, whilst studying for his university degree. Once back to Sweden he served in prison because he refused joining the mandatory military service. In those days he completed his studies in French Literature and Philosophy. His final dissertation was about the novel The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. He started as a research assistant at the University of Lund (Sweden) where he then became lecturer in French; but his life is much more than teaching…

Naturally because of his academic career Björn Larsson has published several university essays and books, mostly dealing with French language and literature; but he has reached the great public and significant success as a bright novelist. In truth his first work was a collection of short stories, Splitter (1980), almost neglected. His first success was “Den keltiska ringenThe Celtic Ring (1992), a dark deep-sea spy story set between Denmark, Scotland and Ireland and based on the aspiration of Celtic countries (Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and Galicia) to set themselves free and create a confederation. Thus two sailors stumble upon a perilous secret plan within perfidious waters nearby the Northern Sea and in the midst of the little islands of Scotland. The Celtic Ring reminds of Erskine Childers “The Riddle of the Sands” and indeed the true protagonist of the book is the inevitable thirst for freedom and the seafaring life. Long John Silver (1995), is a fantastic mixture of childhood dreams and love for adventures and seamen’s life. The protagonist is obviously the famous one-legged pirate of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic “Treasure Island” who lives rich, old and almost alone in a forced Madagascan exile, remembering his past. But in this novel his real life is narrated with great attention to the hardships of sea life of those days, the code, rituals and habits of the pirates. The portrait is a wonderful description of the kaleidoscopic aspects of human nature and the influences of destiny i.e. environment and circumstances.

Drömmar vid havetDreams by the Sea (1997) is set on the North European sea-villages and focuses on daydreaming and the rare courage of pursuing our true aspirations. The four protagonists have nothing in common but dreaming. 22 year old Rosa Moreno works in a bar in the little Galician fishing village of Vilagarcia dreaming of true love, Peter Sympson an Irish jeweller lives a quiet regular life in Kinsale waiting for a customer who will be able understand the true beauty of his beloved stones; a widow, Madame Le Grand of Treguier, in Brittany dreams of the days when her husband was a successful shipping entrepreneur and Danish software engineer Jacob Nielsen is in search of peace away from his career in the IT business. These strange, and at the same time so normal characters, wait spasmodically the almost regular visits of a happy wanderer, Captain Marcel harbouring his ship and answering to their longing for something beyond the horizon, a yearning for a life that will not just flow away without a trace. “Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson” (2002) “The true story of Inga Andersson“, is once again a fantastic mixture of adventure and sea-story: the main character Inga Andersson is a criminologist who studies secret societies and wrote her thesis on “The criminality of religious cults“. She will be facing bitter conflicts within her own academic environment and dangerous situations caused by the very same secret sects she is after. She is helped by two old Danish sailors – her only true friends – and a Swedish professor of French Literature… His book “Sea says“, has no actual story is just a long-lasting, wonderful and profound hymn to the sea. His last success “Le rêve du philologue”, is a tribute to the joys and pains of research – both intellectual and spiritual.

Björn Larsson has been living for six years on his sailing boat “Rustica“, cancelling his address on the main land and sailing throughout the North Sea, the Scotland islands, Ireland coasts, Brittany, Normandy, Galicia and the unforgettably beautiful coasts of the North Iberian peninsula. So while university lecturing allows him to count on a steady income, sailing is Björn Larsson’s real passion as he writes in his autobiographic volume (for the first time in French instead of Swedish) Besoine de Liberté (2006). Bjorn Larsson, his Danish wife Helle – a gypsy-soul marine biologist – and their daughter presently live in Gilleleje, a little fishing village at the northern tip of Denmark, where their Rustica, is anchored, waiting for the next journey…



  1. Hello,
    A very informative article ..
    I have nearly finished his las book ..”Cape Wrath to Finistere” .. and was wondering if he was ever contacted by any of the people he met on his voyages ..

  2. Hello Alan,
    welcome to my blog.
    In so far as I know, most of his characters are fictional, but some do really exist. He has either met them in real life, or has heard about them by seamen, or fishermen while sailing/harbouring in several ports along the Atlantic coasts, and the Northern Sea. For instance Madame Le Grand of Treguier is somewhat a real person (although her life is not perfectly resembling the fictional personage…).
    You are always welcome,

  3. Us, Denise and Dennis were there in Caminares when Helle got positive on the pregnancy test. Such a long time ago but unforgettable. We seemed to meet you and Rustica so many times.
    I think you got Bob Salmon to take your boat back – he is/was a smasher. You have sold Rustica – what are you sailing now? We have a Hallberg Rassy 34 which is not as seaworthy as Todka. Todka lives now in County Donegal, Fanny’s Bay (LongJohnSadler) and is quite as adventurous as she ever was, though further north. Our very best regards to you for very treasured memories – we have all your books. XXXXXXXX – that’s English for Bon Voyage!!!!

  4. Mme Le Grand is a very real person, i’ve met her myself in 2002, her name as i recall was “Mama Bichou”.
    The very same thing happend to us as it’s described in the book, she came to our ship, we were invited to coffe and we had a very nice afternoon at her place, talking and seeing pictures of other seamen from all over the world (even people i know :o). I did’nt beleive my own eyes when i read chapter 3.

    I don’t know if she’s alive anymore, but what a nice and caring person.

    Best regard from

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