Sara Stridsberg was born in Stockholm in 1972. Her debut novel, Happy Sally, was published in 2004, and she was awarded the Nordic Council Literature Prize for her novel, Drömfakulteten (2006; The Dream Faculty), in 2007.
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.
The novel Uke 43 (2000; Week 43, 2002) exemplifies a central theme in the writings of Hanne Ørstavik. The novel relates the story of Solveig, a newly hired lecturer of literature at a university college in Norway. Solveig admires her elder colleague and role model, Hilde, greatly and constantly seeks her approval. Solveig feels a close affinity to Hilde, and she endeavours to use articles written by Hilde as the guiding principles in her teaching. However, as time passes, Solveig comes to realise that Hilde’s views and convictions have changed, and her disillusionment steadily increases until it reaches a final climax during a party at Hilde’s. Her illusions shattered, Solveig finally loses control in an emotional outburst, unleashing her pent-up frustration.
The Finland-Swedish writer, Monika Fagerholm, combines, in one book after another, the reader-friendly characteristics of realism – plot, strong local colour, and interesting characters – with a bold revival of the storytelling of traditional prose in unusual ways. She entertains and experiments; she has her cake and eats it, too.
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 Literary Debate on Motherhood
The gloominess of post-war Finland created a deep thirst for art and literature. A great deal of poetry was published and an unusual percentage of the first-timers were women, both Swedish- and Finnish-speaking. The women’s poetry, however, did not centre on politics or patriotism, but on the self, personal experience, family, home, children, the world, and humanity. Post-war poetry sought to create forms that differed from the classical approach, whose status had grown during the war. Young women, who frequently were more eager than their male colleagues to discover fresh perspectives and to emerge from the shadow of war, found their voice earliest and most naturally.The work of female poets may be interpreted as a commentary on a genre that was in flux, as well as an elaboration of creative strategies. A remarkable number of women were able to forge distinctive identities and write their own brand of modern poetry – clear evidence of their importance and strength in the shadow of the war.
During the 1920s, Finnish Katri Vala was the central figure of a literary group called the Torchbearers, which represented the first generation of authors after Finland obtained its independence. Their goal was to overturn existing literary conventions.She made her debut with Kaukainen puutarha (1924; The Faraway Garden). The most innovative feature of Vala’s poetry is its visual lucidity. Another characteristic is its free verse, which took hold in Finland partly due to her. Her imagery reflects the use of primitive and exotic elements by early twentieth century modernists. In primitive cultures they found the original life force that art needed for renewal, and they countered the prevailing culture with exoticism.Spending time in prison was a crucial event in the life of Elvi Sinervo (1912-1986), who started off with a book of short stories entitled Runo Söörnäisistä (1937; A Poem from Sörnäs). The most important prose author in the left-wing Kiila (Wedge) group, she was sentenced in 1941 to four years at a house of correction for participating in illegal political activities. The themes of the book place it squarely in the anti-Fascist literary tradition.
Many women writers in Sweden in the 1970s wanted to speak for themselves and deliver testimony of their own experiences in their own voice. In order to achieve this, they recreated an old genre, the confessional novel, which can trace its ancestry back as far as Augustine’s Confessiones (Eng. tr. Confessions) from approximately 400 AD, and whose modern form was shaped by Rousseau. The confessional novel continued the documentarism of the 1960s. The reportage book that had then treated of the larger spheres of life, with travel books and sociological depictions of social classes and spaces, was now turned to depicting the intimate sphere of life: the home, feelings, and personal development. Just as it was important in the 1960s to document personal participation and research, so in the 1970s it was equally important that described experiences and adventures were absolutely authentic. Where the ideal of the 1960s was objective depiction, the 1970s becomes the decade of subjective representation. Fiction makes claims to authenticity.
The writing of Rut Hillarp is suffused by refined erotic mysticism, far from the primitivist sexual Romanticism of the 1930s modernists. Her kinship with the Swedish erotic poet Erik Johan Stagnelius, their vacillation “between spiritual sensuality and sensual spirituality”, their eroticised experience of life. But the glue that ultimately holds Hillarp’s poems together is the “now”.She has been compared with both Edith Södergran for her erotic poetry and Karin Boye for her sexually charged spirituality. The ultimate objective is guilelessness. The experience of pain and ecstasy is a means of becoming more receptive.