During the 2000s, the biographical and self-biographical narratives of the 1970s were replaced by new hybrid forms that operated in the space between fact and fiction. The genre was employed by both male and female authors, but the female authors in particular, were criticized for transgressing the private sphere in exhibitionist ways.Female exponents of autofiction are, amongst others, Maja Lundgren, Carina Rydberg, Suzanne Brøgger, Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen and Herbjørg Wassmo.
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.
Sofi Oksanen is a literary sensation. Born in Finland in 1977, to a Finnish father and an Estonian mother, she writes in Finnish but calls herself a Finnish-Estonian writer. As a declared feminist, she speaks openly about men’s violence against women and Putin’s rule in Russia.
Sår som ennu blør (Wounds That Still Bleed), a novel in verse by Karo Espeseth, is an account of a sexual sadist and his relationship with a young woman. The novel exposes the connection between gender and war in inter-war Europe. The man is driven by the accumulation of repressed rage, hatred, vengeance, and desire. Espeseth demonstrates his affinity with a general culture of violence that has long been linked to ideals of masculinity and sexuality.Unfortunately, the subsequent debate revolved more around sexual morality, superficial ideals, and literary decadence than the question that Espeseth tries to raise: what is the cause and dynamic of violent sex? In the wake of the pitiless criticism and lack of comprehension that Sår som ennu blør aroused in Norway, Espeseth stopped writing poetry. Not until 1983 did she break her self-imposed silence.
With Män kan inte våldtas (1975; Men Cannot Be Raped; Eng. tr. Manrape), Märta Tikkanen hurled herself headlong into the ongoing discussion of gender roles and became one of the figurehead writers of the new women’s movement, not just in her native Finland but in all of the Nordic countries. In a number of books she would thematise not just a series of acute women’s problems, but also her own private life story in a way that met with great response. In book after book, Märta Tikkanen investigates the ties that bind women – or herself – to husband, children, lovers, and parents. “Where is the logic?” she asks, and in both novels and poems, she systematically works her way through layer after layer of ties in order to, if possible, find the story of logic in the lives of women. Time and again she seeks to capture the female life-text, her life story, just to show the impossibility of the project. It always evades capture. She continually approaches her story in new ways, and throughout her oeuvre one can trace how her approach becomes increasingly complex and sophisticated.
The Norwegian author Herbjørg Wassmo made her debut as a poet in the 1970s, and has since written both drama and documentary literature. The five great novels that came out in the 1980s and 1990s have, in all their complexity and apparent differences, one overall theme: the neglected child. However, Herbjørg Wassmo’s intention was apparently not to criticise inadequate or unloving parents nor to castigate an alienating society in a modern sense. The actual conflict takes place at a deeper level.In addition to telling the story of the young and unfinished person in a complicated socialisation process, “the neglected children” represent primarily the “childhood injuries” we all carry around with us – regardless of age, time, and situation.
The Danish author Vita Andersen’s prose poetry was nicknamed knækprosa (broken prose) because the poems were apparently nothing more than narratives made up of lines of uneven length. However, her narrative and characterising poetry is more complex than it initially appears. It is in itself a staging of everyday language, an exhibition of the force, the roles, and the confinement in the lives and speech of the characters, but by no means an artless repetition. The gender roles as a guarantee against a happy interaction between the genders is a central theme in her texts.Charlotte Strandgaard made her debut in 1965, and throughout the 1960s and 70s she wrote a number of collections of poetry and documents that focused on typical problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, social outcasts, and losers. Her universe is ruled by suffering, misunderstandings between those who want to love each other, guilt, and hopelessness. The tone (and the position) is compassionate, and there is a willingness to find an explanation and a solution. Her adults, like those of Vita Andersen, are wounded children; however, in Charlotte Strandgaard’s world there is a steady insistence on reconciliation and redemption alongside the pain.
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.
Icelandic writer Ásta Sigurðardóttir had a fondness for self-presentation that took her contemporaries’ breath away. All her short stories reflect a tension between, on the one hand, the longing for normality, security, and bourgeois acceptance and, on the other hand, rebellion, a need for freedom, and a deep-seated rejection of bourgeois values.She loved to perform, but no-one else should write her roles for her. Journeying is a recurrent motif in Ásta Sigurðardóttir’s texts, and her characters are alone, in both a physical and an existential sense. Her late texts lack the intensity that characterised her first short stories. The pride, the self-assertion, the queenly arrogance are gone. The gaze is dull, self-hatred is dominant. There is no longer anything worth describing.
Even though much Nordic ballad tradition of the last four hundred and more years has been lost, the surviving tradition represents an overwhelming amount of source material. The intense registration and publication work undertaken during the last century and a half has resulted in an overview of the Nordic tradition.The extensive corpus of material on which these editions are based contains songs that were sung by and about women. From the host of female singers, collectors, and scribes, we will here select ballads dealing with women’s personal and fundamental experiences – experiences with critical bearing on family and lineage.