Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
In getting ready to review the book under consideration, I looked up Lonely Planet Pocket Reykjavik & Southwest Iceland (Travel Guide) Paperback – Folded Map, published May 21, 2019 to find out about the place from where the book originated. I read the text but still am far from an expert in the traveling that took place. I received a wonderful testimony to Jon Svensson from the translator of this text. Friederika Priemer told us to “Enjoy Nonni’s adventures and his view of ‘your’ country and citizens.” She lives in Cologne, Germany, and is not only an enthusiastic “Nonni” fan but also a state-certified German-English translator. For many years, she had dreamed of translating Jon Svensson’s book “Nonni in Amerika” which despite its English sounding title has never been translated so that the English speaking world might have the chance to enjoy this entertaining and highly informative travelogue Jon Svensson was born in Iceland and is the only Jesuit priest from that island at the top of the world. After a career in teaching and ministry, he became one of the world’s best loved authors by writing his series of “Nonni” books. For anyone else such a life would seem full yet, even at age 80, he still held in his heart a boyhood dream to travel around the world and meet all of God’s people. Here, for the first time in English, is the incredible true story that proves that life does not end, but really begins at 80! “Nonni” in America features encounters with historical figures like Jules Verne, Thomas Cook, and James Garfield. It also has great descriptions of early air passenger flight, the great passenger steam ships. And the golden age of train travel. Beyond the history, “Nonni” in America” has much to offer to the reader of today. For in an age when America seems to be suffering from a certain lack of confidence, Svensson takes us back to a time when American greatness was imbued in the generosity and pride of her people. May this report of his journey around the world, Svensson’s last gift to his numerous friends and admirers, find the same warm reception given to all of the earlier “Nonni” books.
The record of the first part of his journey, up to his departure from San Francisco to Japan, was completely written by Svensson, who also prepared the script for printing. However, he did not fully finish writing the second part of the travelogue, which was to describe his voyage to Japan, his one-year stay there, and the return journey to London. In July 1942, Svensson was expelled by the National Socialist Gestapo from his peaceful residence in Valkenburg, Hollard, and taken away over the border to Germany. Thanks to the help of some influential persons, his books and many scripts were returned to him. However, the blow of his expulsion hut him so hard that he could no longer, write. Tus he only reached chapter39 in recounting the second part of his journey, which ends with his departure from Tokyo. In order that this valuable work should not remain unfinished, Svensson’s old friend, Fr. Hermann Krose, undertook the task of completing the story of the world trip as a supplement, based on the detailed diary entries left by Svensson. “Nonni in America” features encounters with such prominent historical figures as Jules Verne, Thomas Cook, and James Garfield. It also features great descriptions of early air passenger flight, the great passenger steam ships, and the golden age of train travel in the United States. This is a great book! It needs to be read carefully and thoroughly so that the reader will have the benefit of the travelogue of this very talented and well-traveled man. Enjoy the travels!