One of Astrid Lindgren’s most effective techniques is to let imagination engulf reality. The interpretation of the world by a ‘lying’ child triumphs. The most extravagant childish dream of omnipotence comes true in the story of Pippi. With irrefutable logic, Lindgren demonstrates what a solitary child needs to avoid being crushed in a world of hard-headed pragmatism.Most of Lindgren’s writing inhabits the borderland of reality and fantasy. While some of her works are demonstrably realistic, they are nevertheless about the ability of fanciful children to live in a world of play and imagination. Lindgren’s sensitivity to children’s feelings and perspectives, along with her uncompromising willingness to take their side, is a modernist trait that links her work to the radical psychology of permissive child rearing that made inroads in Sweden between the wars.
Karin Boye’s most inspired poems are born at the juncture of “the world of appearances – a world that depicts”, and “the other world, the heavy, transformational world that did not ask for superficial flourishes”. Their tension oscillates between “that which breaks” and “that which bars” and is instantaneously released in a euphoric cry of freedom, for “fear can live no longer”, and the ego surrenders unconditionally to “the trust that creates the world”.Her suicide in 1941 has affected the way that people look at her life and her art. She has been portrayed as “tragic” and “consecrated to death”. Her work has been interpreted throughout as that of someone who struggled heroically against her “death wish”. Her writing often resides between sleeping and waking, an unreal kingdom in which dream and desire reign, a place that human beings never completely leave and always yearn for deep within.
The works of Danish author and controversialist Suzanne Brøgger tell an unmistakable tale about the dark side of revolt and the consequences of NO. Efter orgiet, in which the characters Organ, Rigor, Vulva, and Mortis perform an incestuous, Oedipal death dance in a Brøggerean version of the Greek tragedy’s rhetoric, sparked the same shock and dismay as twenty years ago when Suzanne Brøgger wanted to free us from love.Her oeuvre began with a NO in 1973, but the publication of Ja in 1984 turned the problem from the previous books on its head, and marked Suzanne Brøgger’s popular breakthrough. Ja turns out to be an artist’s novel in which the female artist is resurrected from the burial chamber of femininity. Suzanne Brøgger’s transition from NO in 1973 to her YES in 1984 is basically about a personal journey to an authorship, an artistic way of life.
Throughout her work, Inger Christensen deals with the same fundamental conditions: the organic connections of existence, gender, the body, and consciousness with nature and the cosmos – and, by virtue of language, humanity’s special status in relation to this.Art is more than just the place where these conditions are referred to and described – as in early modernism. In the work of Inger Christensen, art is also the place where existence, gender, body, and consciousness can be put into play, explored, and tested, because they form the foundation of poetic articulation.
In 1922 the Norwegian writer Sara Cecilie Margareta Gjörwel Fabricius published her first short story – an ‘artist story’ from Paris – under the pseudonym “Cora Sandel”. Although she lived in Sweden for the rest of her life, she continued to write in Norwegian.Her female and male characters are more likely to be complete contrasts than loving couples. The tension in her texts is found in the force-field between woman and man. Time and again, Cora Sandel depicts the man as seen through the woman’s eyes. Cora Sandel had a sense for transgressing genre. A number of her prose works have the vigour of drama while, at the same time, the poetic idiom is inherent in the detail, in the use of rhythm and language parallels, and in the imagery. The papers she left behind include poems and drafts of plays.Cora Sandel has been called writer of ‘the unsaid’. The underlying irony and the deeper truths between the lines – together with her ability to create low-key but also defiantly optimistic women – make her texts so good.
Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf achieved her international breakthrough when she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. At this point, she was already one of the most reputable and respected writers in the Nordic countries. The loss of her beloved childhood home, Mårbacka, resonates as a pain point in her work – a recurring theme that undergoes a number of variations in one novel after another. And through this essential lack in life, the enforced exile, Lagerlöf, who ostensibly had nothing left to lose, entered a world of memories and retrieved from it an original language which permeated everything she wrote, and which spoke to all social strata and to both children and adults. She wrote that she wanted to be read by all, including the farmwives in rural areas.And she still is.
“I am no woman”, Edith Södergran wrote. Her poetry is about the power of self-definition. Her contribution to a new world is to take leave of women’s marginal role and plant herself proudly on the world stage.She spent her brief career as a poet in a state of relative disgrace. The critical debate often centred around the question of whether she was a raving lunatic or merely off her rocker.Södergran’s writing is an ongoing process that seeks to demonstrate the inability of language to mirror the experience of being composed of good and evil, femininity and masculinity, executioner and victim.
Icelandic writer Svava Jakobsdóttir’s fantastical narratives are witty, their humour and irony emerging not least from their intertextual dialogues. The Bible acts as something of an internal text within her entire oeuvre, but she also refers to world literature, myths, adventures, and women’s magazines. Her epic texts are at their most gruesome and grotesque when she tackles traditional clichés and stock phrases, which people use without thinking: ‘sacrificing oneself’, ‘giving someone a hand’.Svava Jakobsdóttir’s oeuvre is often divided into two parts, the realistic and the fantastical, and it is the fantastical stories that have attracted the most attention. This division, however, is a simplification of Svava Jakobsdóttir’s radical project. She has, in fact, never rejected the realistic art of storytelling, or its social and political references.