Selma Lagerlöf was born in 1858 in the Swedish province of Värmland and is not only the first female laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature but also one of Sweden’s most well known and loved writers. From her debut in 1891 on, Lagerlöf published a multitude of books, several of which have been translated to English.
Lagerlöf’s books are characterized by a sort of magic realism where a deep rooting in the environments of both towns and countryside is spiced up with elements from folklore and sheer fantasy. Thus, the saga is always alive and you can never know what will happen next, but tragedy is never far away and the problems of the late 1900th and early 2000th century, especially the widespread alcoholism and the situation for the poor, are presented with a vivid realistic touch.
Selma Lagerlöf was born and grew up in a country estate called Mårbacka in Sunne, located in Värmland in western Sweden. Even though Mårbacka is often mentioned it was in the town of Falun Selma Lagerlöf wrote most of her prominent works. Selma and her brother and sisters were home-schooled, where she learned English and French.
After a few years as a student at a teachers' academy in Stockholm she switched her studies to the history of literature. After a few failed novels and a few years working as a teacher "The Story of Gösta Berling" was published. Her style of writing was quite controversial and broke many of the existing decorums of the time.
After many years living in Stockholm and later Landskrona she moved back to Falun in order to be closer to her family. With the Swedish writer Sophie Elkan she travelled Europe and later the Middle East. After her travels she wrote her international breakthrough novel "Jerusalem". Later she followed up with the internationally famous "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils", probably her most famous work.
In 1909 she received the Nobel Prize in Literature "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings". A few years later, in 1914, she beacme a member of the Swedish Academy, the first woman ever to be a member. She was also the first female laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Selma Lagerlöf died in 1940 at Mårbacka, in the same house in which she grew up.
Text: Sebastian Nilsson Lindberg and Simon Solders
“The Story of Gösta Berling”, written in 1891, is not only Selma Lagerlöf’s first novel, but also one of her most known and read. Set in the countryside of Sweden, with which Lagerlöf was so familiar, it is a story whose main character is hard to fully sympathize with.
“The Emperor of Portugallia” is both a tragic tale of not being able to deal with reality, and a fantastic story about how the realms of reality are not always enough.