Selma Lagerlöf

Last updated
Selma Lagerlöf
Selma Lagerlof.jpg
Lagerlöf in 1909
BornSelma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf
(1858-11-20)20 November 1858
Mårbacka, Sweden
Died16 March 1940(1940-03-16) (aged 81)
Mårbacka, Sweden
OccupationWriter
NationalitySwedish
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature
1909
Signature
Selma Lagerlof signature.svg

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf ( /ˈlɑːɡərlɜːf,-lɜːv/ , US also /-lʌv,-ləv/ , [1] [2] Swedish: [ˈsɛ̂lːmaˈlɑ̂ːɡɛˌɭøːv] ; 20 November 1858 – 16 March 1940) was a Swedish writer. She published her first novel, Gösta Berling's Saga , at the age of 33. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909. Additionally, she was the first woman to be granted a membership in the Swedish Academy in 1914. [3]

Contents

Life

Early years

Lagerlof family home at Marbacka, Varmland Selma Lagerlofs Marbacka at Sunne.jpg
Lagerlöf family home at Mårbacka, Värmland
Lagerlof in 1881 Selma Lagerlof in 1881.jpg
Lagerlöf in 1881

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf was born on 20 November 1858 at Mårbacka, [4] Värmland, Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. Lagerlöf was the daughter of Erik Gustaf Lagerlöf, a lieutenant in the Royal Värmland Regiment, and Louise Lagerlöf (née Wallroth), whose father was a well-to-do merchant and a foundry owner (brukspatron). [5] Lagerlöf was the couple's fifth child out of six. She was born with a hip injury, which was caused by detachment in the hip joint. At the age of three and a half, a sickness left her lame in both legs, although she later recovered. [6]

She was a quiet, serious child with a deep love of reading. She wrote poetry but did not publish anything until later in life. Her grandmother helped raise her, often telling stories of fairytales and fantasy. Growing up, she was plain and slightly lame, and an account stated that the cross-country wanderings of Margarethe and Elisabet in Gösta Berling's Saga could be the author's compensatory fantasies. [5] She received her schooling at home since the Folkskola compulsory education system was not fully developed yet. She studied English and French. After reading Osceola by Thomas Mayne Reid at the age of seven, she decided she would be a writer when she grew up. [7]

In 1875, Lagerlöf lived in the Karlskoga Church Rectory alongside Erik Tullius Hammargren and his wife, Ottiliana Lagerlöf, who was her aunt, during which time she was one of Hammargren's confirmation students. [8] [9]

The sale of the Lagerlöf family's Mårbacka estate in 1884 had a serious impact on her development. Selma's father is said to have been an alcoholic, something she rarely discussed. [10] Her father did not want Selma to continue her education or be involved with the women's movement. Later in life, she bought back her father's estate with the money she received for her Nobel Prize. [11] Lagerlöf lived there for the rest of her life. [12]

Teaching life

Lagerlöf studied at the Högre lärarinneseminariet in Stockholm from 1882 to 1885. She worked as a country schoolteacher at a high school for girls in Landskrona from 1885 to 1895. [13] Through her studies at the Royal Women's Superior Training Academy in Stockholm, Lagerlöf reacted against the realism of contemporary Swedish-language writers such as August Strindberg. She began her first novel, Gösta Berling's Saga, while working as a teacher in Landskrona. Her first break as a writer came when she submitted the first chapters to a literary contest in the magazine Idun , and won a publishing contract for the whole book. At first, her writing only received mild reviews from critics. Once a popular critic, Georg Brandes, had given her positive reviews of the Danish translation, her popularity soared. [14] She received financial support from Fredrika Limnell, who wished to enable her to concentrate on her writing. [15]

Literary career

A visit in 1900 to the American Colony in Jerusalem became the inspiration for Lagerlöf's book by that name. [16] The royal family and the Swedish Academy gave her substantial financial support to continue her passion. [17] Jerusalem was also acclaimed by critics, who began comparing her to Homer and Shakespeare, so that she became a popular figure both in Sweden and abroad. [3] By 1895, she gave up her teaching to devote herself to her writing. With the help of proceeds from Gösta Berling's Saga and a scholarship and grant, she made two journeys, which were largely instrumental in providing material for her next novel. With her close friend Sophie Elkan, she traveled to Italy, and also to Palestine and other parts of the East. [18] In Italy, a legend of a Christ Child figure that had been replaced with a false version inspired Lagerlöf's novel Antikrists mirakler (The Miracles of the Antichrist). Set in Sicily, the novel explores the interplay between Christian and socialist moral systems. However, most of Lagerlöf's stories were set in Värmland. [19]

In 1902, Lagerlöf was asked by the National Teachers' Association to write a geography book for children. She wrote Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige ( The Wonderful Adventures of Nils ), a novel about a boy from the southernmost part of Sweden, who had been shrunk to the size of a thumb and who travelled on the back of a goose across the country. Lagerlöf mixed historical and geographical facts about the provinces of Sweden with the tale of the boy's adventures until he managed to return home and was restored to his normal size. [10] The novel is one of Lagerlöf's most well-known books, and it has been translated into more than 30 languages. [20]

Lagerlof with her friend and literary assistant Valborg Olander. Elkan was jealous of the relationship. S Lagerloef-Valborg Olander.jpg
Lagerlöf with her friend and literary assistant Valborg Olander. Elkan was jealous of the relationship.

She moved in 1897 to Falun, and met Valborg Olander, who became her literary assistant and friend, but Elkan's jealousy of Olander was a complication in the relationship. Olander, a teacher, was also active in the growing women's suffrage movement in Sweden. Selma Lagerlöf herself was active as a speaker for the National Association for Women's Suffrage, which was beneficial for the organisation because of the great respect which surrounded Lagerlöf, and she spoke at the International Suffrage Congress in Stockholm in June 1911, where she gave the opening address, as well as at the victory party of the Swedish suffrage movement after women suffrage had been granted in May 1919. [21]

Selma Lagerlöf was a friend of the German-Jewish writer Nelly Sachs. Shortly before her death in 1940, Lagerlöf intervened with the Swedish royal family to secure the release of Sachs and Sachs' aged mother from Nazi Germany, on the last flight from Germany to Sweden, and their lifelong asylum in Stockholm. [22]

Personal life

Relationships

Lagerlof with the writer Sophie Elkan (right) Sophie Elkan & Selma Lagerlof.jpg
Lagerlöf with the writer Sophie Elkan (right)

In 1894, she met the Swedish writer Sophie Elkan, who became her friend and companion. [23] Over many years, Elkan and Lagerlöf critiqued each other's work. Lagerlöf wrote that Elkan strongly influenced her work and that she often disagreed sharply with the direction Lagerlöf wanted to take in her books. Selma's letters to Sophie were published in 1993, titled Du lär mig att bli fri ('You Teach me to be Free'). [14] Beginning in the 1900s, she also had a close relationship with Valborg Olander, who had some influence as a literary adviser, agent and secretary of sorts as well; their correspondence was published in 2006 as En riktig författarhustru ('A Proper Writer's Wife'). [24] There appears to have been a strong rivalry between Elkan and Olander while both lived (Elkan died approximately twenty years before the other two women). Both relationships were close, emotional, exclusive and described in terms suggestive of love, the boundary between expressions of friendship and love being somewhat vague at the time. Still, it is primarily the surviving correspondence with Olander that contains passages implying decidedly erotic and physical passion, even though Lagerlöf took care to destroy many of the letters she found too risky. [25] Homosexual relations between women were taboo as well as illegal in Sweden at the time, so none of the women involved ever revealed such a thing publicly. [23]

Literary adaptations

In 1919, Lagerlöf sold all the movie rights to all of her as-yet unpublished works to Swedish Cinema Theatre (Swedish : Svenska Biografteatern), so over the years, many movie versions of her works were made. During the era of Swedish silent cinema, her works were used in film by Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller, and other Swedish film makers. [26] Sjöström's retelling of Lagerlöf's tales about rural Swedish life, in which his camera recorded the detail of traditional village life and the Swedish landscape, provided the basis of some of the most poetic and memorable products of silent cinema. The 1921 film adaptation of Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! (Körkarlen) was critically acclaimed and influential within cinema. Jerusalem was adapted in 1996 into the internationally acclaimed film of the same name.[ citation needed ]

Awards and commemoration

Lagerlof on a 1959 postage stamp of the Soviet Union 1959 CPA 2284.jpg
Lagerlöf on a 1959 postage stamp of the Soviet Union

On 10 December 1909, [27] Selma Lagerlöf won the Nobel Prize "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings", [28] but the decision was preceded by harsh internal power struggle within the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the Nobel Prize in literature. [29] During her acceptance speech, she remained humble and told a fantastic story of her father, as she 'visited him in heaven'. In the story, she asks her father for help with the debt she owes and her father explains the debt is from all the people who supported her throughout her career. [10] In 1904, the academy had awarded her its great gold medal, and in 1914, she also became a member of the academy. For both the academy membership and her Nobel literature prize, she was the first woman to be so honored. [13] She was awarded the Litteris et Artibus in 1909 and the Illis quorum in 1926. [30] In 1991, she became the first woman to be depicted on a Swedish banknote, when the first 20-kronor note was released. [31]

In 1907, she received the honorary degree of doctor of letters (filosofie hedersdoktor) from Uppsala University. [32] In 1928, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Greifswald's Faculty of Arts. At the start of World War II [ clarification needed ], she sent her Nobel Prize medal and gold medal from the Swedish Academy to the government of Finland to help raise money to fight the Soviet Union. [33] The Finnish government was so touched that it raised the necessary money by other means and returned her medal to her.[ citation needed ]

Two hotels are named after her in Östra Ämtervik in Sunne, and her home, Mårbacka, is preserved as a museum.[ citation needed ]

Works

Original Swedish-language publications are listed primarily. [34] [35]

The popularity of Lagerlöf in the United States was due in part to Velma Swanston Howard, or V. S. Howard (1868–1937, a suffragette and Christian scientist) [36] – who was an early believer in her appeal to Americans and who carefully translated many of her books. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Wonderful Adventures of Nils</i> 1906 novel by Selma Lagerlöf

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils is a work of fiction by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. It was originally published in two books, 1906 and 1907, and was first published in English as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1907) and The Further Adventures of Nils (1911). The two parts are later usually published together, in English as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, but that name may also refer to the first part alone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Klas Östergren</span> Swedish novelist

Klas Östergren is a Swedish novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and translator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Einar Nerman</span> Swedish artist

Einar Nerman was a Swedish artist known for his portraits, book and magazine illustrations and theatrical designs.

<i>Gösta Berlings Saga</i> Swedish novel

Gösta Berling's Saga, also known as The Story of Gösta Berling or The Saga of Gösta Berling, is the debut novel of Swedish Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf, published in 1891. It was made into a 1924 silent film directed by Mauritz Stiller starring Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson and Gerda Lundequist. A 1925 opera I cavalieri di Ekebù by Riccardo Zandonai was also based on it.

Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! is a 1912 novel by the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. It was translated into English by William Frederick Harvey in 1921. Lagerlöf was commissioned to write it by a Swedish association as a means of public education about tuberculosis ("consumption"). It has been dramatized for the screen twice in Sweden and once in France, under various English titles of The Phantom Carriage, The Phantom Chariot, The Stroke of Midnight, and Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness.

Swedish realism is the period in Swedish literature that encompassed the last two decades of the 19th century. It is generally considered to have ended in the 1910s but the exact year is a matter of debate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elin Wägner</span> Swedish writer, journalist and Suffragette (1882–1949)

Elin Matilda Elisabet Wägner was a Swedish writer, journalist, feminist, teacher, ecologist and pacifist. She was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1944.

<i>The Saga of Gosta Berling</i> 1924 film by Mauritz Stiller

The Saga of Gösta Berling is a 1924 Swedish romantic drama film co-written and directed by Mauritz Stiller and released by AB Svensk FAB Svensk Filmindustri, starring Lars Hanson, Gerda Lundequist and Greta Garbo in her domestic film breakthrough. It is based on Swedish Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf's 1891 debut novel Gösta Berlings Saga. The film is also known as Gösta Berling's Saga, The Story of Gösta Berling and The Atonement of Gösta Berling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunne, Sweden</span> Place in Värmland, Sweden

Sunne is a locality and the seat of Sunne Municipality, Värmland County, Sweden with 10,000 inhabitants in 2010.

<i>I cavalieri di Ekebù</i>

I cavalieri di Ekebù is an opera composed by Riccardo Zandonai to an Italian libretto by Arturo Rossato. The opera is based on Swedish Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf's 1891 debut novel Gösta Berlings Saga. It was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 7 March 1925. The opera was staged in Nuremberg in 1929, and the Vereingigten Städtischen Bühnen Krefeld/Mönchengladbach presented a production by Tony Palmer in 1987.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mona Mårtenson</span> Swedish actress

Monica Ingeborg Elisabeth "Mona" Mårtenson was a Swedish film actress. She appeared in 28 films between 1923 and 1949. She was born and died in Stockholm, Sweden.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julius Jaenzon</span> Swedish cinematographer

Julius Jaenzon was a Swedish cinematographer, essential in the early Swedish silent cinema. He is most known for his collaborations with directors Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, particularly in adaptions of novels by Selma Lagerlöf. Especially the accuracy with which he mastered the double exposure, for example in The Phantom Carriage, was much admired at the time.

<i>The Emperor of Portugallia</i> 1914 novel by Selma Lagerlöf

The Emperor of Portugallia is a novel by Nobel-laureate Selma Lagerlöf, published in 1914 with drawings by Albert Engström. Lagerlöf called it a "Swedish King Lear". The novel was a success with critics and readers, newspaper reviewers said the novel was at the same level as Lagerlöf's earlier novels Gösta Berling's Saga and the first part of Jerusalem. It has been filmed three times: 1925, 1944 and 1992. An English translation by Velma Swanston Howard was published in 1916.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Seminary</span> Building in Stockholm Municipality, Stockholm County, Sweden

The Royal Seminary, fully the Royal Advanced Female Teachers' Seminary, was a normal school in Stockholm, Sweden. It was active from 1861 until 1943. It was the first public institution of higher academic learning open to women in Sweden.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Valborg Olander</span> Swedish teacher, politician and suffragette

Valborg Olander, was a Swedish teacher, politician and suffragette. She is known for her friendship with Selma Lagerlöf.

The Löwensköld Ring is a 1925 novel by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. It was first translated into English by Francesca Martin as The General's Ring, and thus published by Doubleday, Doran in 1928. It is the first installment in Lagerlöf's Ring trilogy, which Doubleday, Doran named The Ring of the Löwenskölds in a 1931 publication. Thus it was followed by Charlotte Löwensköld and Anna Svärd.

<i>Charlotte Löwensköld</i>

Charlotte Löwensköld is a 1925 novel by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. It is the second installment in Lagerlöf's Ring trilogy, or The Ring of the Löwenskölds. Thus it follows The Löwensköld Ring and is followed by Anna Svärd.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sophie Elkan</span> Swedish writer and translator (1853-1921)

Sophie Elkan née Salomon, was a Swedish writer and translator.

Thekla Hammar was a Swedish-French lexicographer and translator. Often working in collaboration with Marthe Metzger, Hammar translated work by the Swedish writers Selma Lagerlöf, Knut Hagberg, Johan Nordström and Eyvind Johnson into French. Hammar and Metzger also collaborated on translations of the Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset and the Danish writer Herman Bang. Hammar, teaching at a lycee in France, stayed in the country after World War I broke out in 1914.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1909 Nobel Prize in Literature</span> Award

The 1909 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940) "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings." She became the first woman and first Swede to be awarded the prize.

References

  1. "Lagerlöf". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  2. "Lagerlöf, Selma" [ dead link ] (US) and "Lagerlöf, Selma". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 21 January 2022.
  3. 1 2 Forsas-Scott, Helena (1997). Swedish Women's Writing 1850–1995. London: The Athlone Press. p. 63. ISBN   0485910039.
  4. H. G. L. (1916), "Miss Lagerlöf at Marbacka", in Henry Goddard Leach (ed.), The American-Scandinavian review, vol. 4, American-Scandinavian Foundation, p. 36
  5. 1 2 Lagerlöf, Selma; Schoolfield, George (2009). The Saga of Gösta Berling. New York: Penguin Classics. ISBN   9781101140482.
  6. "Svenska deckare: Selma Lagerlöf". mbforlag.se. 7 January 2020. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  7. "Selma Lagerlöf – författaren". www.marbacka.com. Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  8. Svenska Turistföreningens årsskrift (in Swedish). 1928. p. 107 via Project Runeberg.
  9. "Gröna Promenadens historia – Karlskoga Naturskyddsförening" (in Swedish). Retrieved 23 May 2023.
  10. 1 2 3 "Selma Lagerlöf: Surface and Depth". The Public Domain Review. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  11. "Selma Lagerlof | Swedish author". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  12. "Selma Lagerlöf - Facts - NobelPrize.org". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  13. 1 2 3 Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Lagerlof, Ottilia Lovisa Selma"  . Encyclopedia Americana .
  14. 1 2 "Selma Ottiliana Lovisa Lagerlöf (1858–1940)". authorscalendar.info. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  15. Lagerlof, Selma (2013). The Selma Lagerlof Megapack: 31 Classic Novels and Stories. Rockville: Wildside Press LLC. p. 20. ISBN   9781434443441.
  16. Zaun-Goshen, Heike (2002), Times of Change, archived from the original on 17 June 2010
  17. "Selma Lagerlöf – Biographical". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  18. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Lagerlöf, Selma"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company.
  19. "Selma Lagerlöf Biographical". The Nobel Prize. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  20. "100 år med Nils Holgersson" (PDF). Lund University Library. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  21. Hedwall, Barbro (2011). Susanna Eriksson Lundqvist. red. Vår rättmätiga plats. Om kvinnornas kamp för rösträtt. (Our Rightful Place. About women's struggle for suffrage) Albert Bonniers Förlag. ISBN   978-91-7424-119-8 (Swedish)
  22. "Nelly Sachs". www.nobel-winners.com. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  23. 1 2 Munck, Kerstin (2002), "Lagerlöf, Selma", glbtq.com , archived from the original on 16 November 2007
  24. Toijer-Nilsson, Ying (2006). En riktig författarhustru: Selma Lagerlöf skriver till Valborg Olander (A Proper Writer's wife: Selma Lagerlöf to Valborg Olander). Bonnier
  25. Sundberg, Björn. 1996. Recension av Reijo Rüster Lars Westman: Selma på Mårbacka. Bonniers 1996. Tidskrift för svensk litteraturvetenskaplig forskning. Årgång 117 1996.
  26. Furhammar, Leif (2010), "Selma Lagerlöf and Literary Adaptations", Mariah Larsson and Anders Marklund (eds), "Swedish Film: An Introduction and Reader", Lund: Nordic Academic Press, pp. 86–91.
  27. Lagerlöf, Selma (10 December 1909). "Banquet Speech". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  28. "Literature 1909", NobelPrize.org, retrieved 6 March 2010
  29. "Våldsam debatt i Akademien när Lagerlöf valdes". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). 25 September 2009.
  30. Stenberg, Lisbeth. "Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf". Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon . Translated by Alexia Grosjean. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  31. 20 Swedish Krona banknote 2008 Selma Lagerlöf. worldbanknotescoins.com (20 April 2015)
  32. "Selma O L Lagerlöf", National Archives of Sweden. Accessed 30 December 2022
  33. Gunther, Ralph (2003), "The magic zone: sketches of the Nobel Laureates", Scripta Humanistica, vol. 150, p. 36, ISBN   1-882528-40-9
  34. "Selma Lagerlöf – Bibliography", NobelPrize.org, retrieved 6 March 2010
  35. Liukkonen, Petri. "Selma Lagerlöf". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 26 January 2015.
  36. "Howard, Velma Swanston, 1868–1937". Library of Congress Authorities (lccn.loc.gov). Retrieved 2019-09-30.

Further reading

Resources

Works online

Cultural offices
Preceded by Swedish Academy,
Seat No.7

1914–1940
Succeeded by

  1. Retrieved on 1 February 2022.
  2. "Wägner, Elin". Nordic Women's Literature. Retrieved 28 February 2020.