Late-modern children’s literature and young adult fiction in the Nordic countries is bold, vibrant and diverse. Questions surrounding gender, sexuality, identity and the body play a large role and offer children and young adults alternatives to (existing) gender stereotypes. Examples of female authors who have innovated children’s literature and young adult fiction are Dorte Karrebæk, Lene Kaaberbøl, Inga Sætre, Pija Lindenbaum and Anna Höglund.
Around the turn of the 21st century, a new author function arises – also called a seminaut, meaning somebody who perceives the world as accessible material that can be collected and re-worked. The author’s body and private life are understood neither as fundamentally irrelevant nor per definition relevant but rather as material that can be recycled. Exponents of this writing style include, Christina Hagen, Mona Høvring, Athena Farrokhzad and Niviaq Korneliussen.
Contemporary Nordic narratives of insanity and psychiatry are about gender-ambivalence and creativity. Unlike before, much contemporary literature is concerned with how to fundamentally break away from gender in a bid to rediscover a pre-gender condition, where the gendered body and sexual desire are not one and the same.Exponents for this literary tendency are, amongst others, Lotte Inuk, Christel Wiinblad, Beate Grimsrud and Linda Boström Knausgård.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the so-called Nordic queens of crime and their femi-crime novels conquered the bestseller lists. In feminist-inspired crime fiction, gender roles are often reversed or presented as ambivalent and common themes include male violence against women, rape, child abuse, prostitution and trafficking. The most well-known queens of crime are, amongst others, Susanne Staun, Gretelise Holm, Anne Holt and Liza Marklund.
During the mid-1990s, a new genre of literature came to the fore, and was subsequently labelled chick lit. It was an updated version of the classic romance novel, embracing single life and dating culture in the big cities from a gender-perspective. With well-known titles like Sex and the City and Bridget Jones’ Diary as the leading examples, authors such as Henriette Lind, Lotte Thorsen, Kajsa Ingemarsson and Siri Østli have developed their own Nordic variety of chick lit.
Finnish writer Minna Canth became a single mother, businesswoman, and author all at once. Instead of being satisfied with the simple and retired life of a widow, as was customary at the time, she became the most controversial of Finnish authors and shaped the direction of the country’s drama. Obituaries described her as a national hero, and her plays are still among the most popular on Finnish stages.
In Swedish women’s prose of the 1980s, we find an attitude that is focused on the self and is explicitly critical of language, as well as a thematisation and revision of monstrous and angelic traits that relate to the tradition of women’s literature.
A number of Swedish female poets in the 1980s were accused of writing impenetrably, but they become the central figures of the period. Ann Jäderlund, Birgitta Lillpers, and Katarina Frostenson emerge from a decade of straightforward everyday poetry, and now begin to investigate the slippage between language and the world. They prove its existence, use it, and play with it. Our everyday language to them appears to be an independent and arbitrary system.Many of the female poets of the 1980s also strive to block intellectual reading in order to show language in action. It can be called a language of the body and the senses. Are there other common traits? It is characteristic that the female poets cannot say I in a self-asserting manner – and perhaps do not even want to. They turn their backs on the proud modernist striving for an authentic self. The self that is found in their poems is dispersed.
The Swedish author Carola Hansson’s oeuvre is at the centre of the aesthetic turn of the tide and epistemological turbulence of the 1980s, but her novels still deviate from the main literary path. The books, like so much of the decade’s prose, deal with an identity in dissolution, a lost language, and the evasive nature of memory. The focus of Carola Hansson’s novels is the modernist anti-hero: a homeless, alienated human being seeking his identity without ever finding it.This same dissolved identity becomes a theme in the work of Åsa Nelvin, who already in her debut children’s book, De vita björnarna, (1969; The White Bears), depicts the conflict between the self and the world that will underpin her entire body of works. The hackneyed and ironic traits in her texts multiply and destabilise the ‘I’. They also draw the reader’s attention to the fact that the depiction of this dissolved female ‘identity’ is a means for Åsa Nelvin to discuss women’s relations to language, creativity, and a possible but not yet realisable new femininity.
There has been talk of a turning point in the literary climate of Sweden around 1975. New poets make their debut in part thanks to state publishing subsidies. Space is found for a more nuanced and changing prismatic view of what poetry is and can be. Inner reality begins to be accorded its full significance, as do specifically female experiences.Modernism’s full, rich arsenal of expressions – rooted in symbolism and Romanticism – is available to those women poets making their debuts in the second half of the 1970s who will become the foremost of their generation. They are contemporary with the new women’s movement, and they depict sensuality, eroticism, the dark language of gender, and the peculiar spiritual and bodily landscape of motherhood in very different ways.