After the millennium, globalization and the migration of women from economically unstable countries to the West became a theme in literature. The conception of a global sisterhood was challenged by the reality that many encounters with “other” foreign women were manifestly encounters between an employer and a domestic worker and thereby entailed a superior-inferior relationship. Reflections upon the unequal power relation between women from the Nordic region and their oppressed “sisters” is expressed through au-pair novels, literature about female refugees as well as docuseries and comic strips about the encounter with oppressed women from outside Europe. Examples of authors working with these issues in a literary context are Kirsten Hammann, Sara Kadefors Aasne Linnestå and Åsne Seiersted.
With her remarkable debut novel Tjärdalen (1953; The Tar Kiln), Sara Lidman laid the ground for a magnificent literary world, to which her oeuvre remained faithful. Her novels are constructed around a multitude of people, united in the village. Usually this village is situated in Norrland, on the outskirts of civilisation, but it has scions in Africa and Vietnam. Its characteristics are poverty and exploitation – but at the same time it is presented as a strangely rich collective.In terms of themes, tough questions of guilt and treason are raised, but they are wrapped in a loving, forgiving narrative, in a continued balancing act between law and grace. At times, Sara Lidman’s main contribution was only partly that of the author. Just as important was the debater, the playwright, and above all the political speaker Sara Lidman. She appears in an unusual combination of being fact-oriented yet in possession of an emotional language, a mixture of the front reporter and the Canticles. Exemplary, loved, and hated.
The Welfare Society Viewed from Below
The deaf seamstress Maria Sandel, was a feminist, an active Social Democrat, and a favourite among Ellen Key’s circle. She has been referred to as the Fredrika Bremer of the proletariat. She was “among the strangest people who have ever held a pen in their hand”. For twenty-five years, she occupied a little room with a tiled stove in supportive housing. This place served as a rich source of material.She was a Swedish pioneer when it came to writing about overcrowding, the struggle to put bread on the table, the need for women to work two or three times as hard as men. But her goal was much more ambitious than mere social realism. She cloaked her ethical commitment in literary garb. Feminism was part of her project; she wanted to “correct men’s perception of women”. Like many others, she drew inspiration from Charles Dickens’s novels. And as was the case with other contemporary proletarian authors, her thinking was shaped by the labour movement’s goal of “raising up the working class.”