Although Swedish writer Victoria Benedictsson is uncompromising in her repudiation of the advocates of ‘free love’, she is herself a true Modern Breakthrough author. She does not shy away from addressing the most forbidden issues. It is not the ideas of the time but the conditions of the body in the new morality that increasingly becomes her great theme. The body becomes her instrument and artistic barometer, and she minutely registers its signals. The experiment is risky and requires her to aim at the foremost advocate of the Modern Breakthrough in Denmark, Georg Brandes. Stora boken (The Big Book), her posthumously published diary, details the fateful encounter. Victoria Benedictsson takes one step further than her female colleagues when she points out the price to be paid for the period’s ‘free love’, namely the obliteration of female desire and the destruction of the female body. In her zeal for truth, as a ‘modern’ author, she overlooks the patriarchal resistance. Stora boken is a unique documentation of the historical moment when the female object becomes a subject and, threatened with extermination, begins to speak. For this insight and for this work of art, Victoria Benedictsson paid with her life.
The Swedish author Victoria Benedictsson felt like “a pariah, a mangy dog”. Before she settled on the pseudonym Ernst Ahlgren, she had long vacillated between the alternatives ‘Tardif’, the tardy, and ‘O. Twist’, the unwelcome. Her authorship is based on this conflict of identity. “I am a woman. But I am an author – am I not, then, something of a man as well?”, she wonders in 1888. Her own life was short and ended tragically.But for a period of a few years in the middle of the 1880s she was astonishingly productive. Her works spoke to the core of the morality controversy’s debate over female identity. Her intellectual vitality during this short period stands in contrast to the image of a sickly, doomed person, which has dominated her posthumous reputation.