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.
A secure idyll that covers up a frightful abyss but always cracks eventually is a typical scenario in works by Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. The picture books Hur gick det sen? and Vem ska trösta Knyttet? (Eng. tr. Who Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley) outline the utopia that emerged from Jansson’s traumatic experience of the war’s meaninglessness, creating a Moomin world.Maternal sensibility rules and family bonds extend to everyone. But Jansson’s writing does not end with the dream of a happy family. Her last Moomin books and adult fiction deconstruct this mythology.
All of Agnes von Krusenstjerna’s works revolve around the feelings of coercion, desperation, and revolt that the world of her childhood fostered. Her quest took her from the depressive chronicle of mental breakdown to a utopian dream of redemptive femininity.Her novels ask questions that women living through a period of sexual transition found both difficult and urgent: what role did sexuality play in female identity? How could women arrive at a life-affirming sensuality, free from the inherited baggage of sexual paranoia, misogyny, and denial of female desire? The strength of her storytelling is the ability to portray repressed and forbidden feelings, the secret of its suggestiveness and appeal, as well as its power to offend, alarm, and disgust the reader.
Inge Eriksen, who lives in constantly critical confrontation with the doctrines of 1968, may also be the Danish author and cultural personality who most consistently promotes the world view of the 1970s. She perceives the world politically, and has been involved in the Danish and international debate regardless of whether it concerned international politics, cultural visions, or the potential of the science fiction genre. With all her criticism, she has remained champion of the whole life, and her novels always navigate between politics, drama, aesthetics, and passion.Another Danish writer, Grete Roulund, had a sharp eye for Western culture. Her tough style, which confused the critics so much that they doubted her gender, was rooted in the body- and gender-consciousness of the 1970s, but the orchestration was new. The tone in Grethe Roulund’s stories is tough, but also filled with unsentimental and dark humour. The texts are less interested in empathy with the victims than in the psychology and ethics that can be studied in the both unfeeling and tormented men. Violence and brutality represent the sickness of a culture that in its fear of the foreigners, of the opposite sex, and of death must constantly face its own downfall.
After she liberates herself from the inspiration from Herman Bang and from her husband’s ‘guardianship’, the author Karin Michaëlis finds the combination of epistolary and diary novel that she would go on to develop into her sphere of excellence. She becomes famous, and much in demand for public lectures. With the outbreak of the First World War, however, Karin Michaëlis simply had to reach for her journalist’s pen. As reporter, she makes no secret of her contempt for war, and calls attention to the enormous human costs.As a reporter, she carefully chooses her figurative language, and can for once give free rein to the pathos which, in her fiction, must constantly be held in check. She consigned the myth of the good mother to the grave. The portraits of real-life damaged women and the visions showing children as levers for a new world are rooted in the indignant pathos that was the weakness at the beginning of her writing career, but which later became its strength.
The bohemian authors aspired to a sense of life and art that could break open the boundaries both for oppressive bourgeois respectability and fatuous modernity. This applied to the women of the bohemia as well. But for them, freedom and liberation were not synonymous with the feminists’ demand for the right to vote, but a question of self-realisation in love and art.If the male figure-heads of the bohemian milieu caused scandal, the women did too – and to no less a degree. As bohemians they offended against every norm of what constituted a decent life for a woman as wife, as mother, as the heart and mind of the home. At the same time, it was for this femininity that they were fetishised in the bohemian milieu.
Elisabeth Hansen wanted to do it all: instruct humankind; write edifying and entertaining novels; describe foreign countries; and discuss the economy, social conditions, and the role of the arts. And thus she did, quite fearlessly, but her greatest gift was displayed in the role of journalist; she had a distinct flair for vivid depiction of detail, and when at her best she had a dry and intelligent wit.Recognition was not forthcoming, however, where the writer would really like to have seen it: for her novels. She insisted that women also had need of learning and intellectual development. This message, however, could not be delivered directly in the context of a novel – she reserved it for the self-portrait that she put on public display. The dogged determination, and the essentially male conduct she chose, was quite remarkable.
Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s novel Det går an. En tavla ur livet (It Can Be Done! A Picture out of Life; Eng. tr. Sara Videbeck) is a sharp and sweeping rejection of the Romantic image of the woman and a simple and elegantly presented utopia of love. It gave rise to the most heated and profound gender-political dispute on the literary scene in nineteenth-century Sweden, until the ‘morality controversy’ a few decades later. Some of the writers defended Almqvist, but most of them criticised him strongly.Without exception, the female authors who participated in the debate regarded Det går an as a male fantasy. The fact that Almqvist attached such great importance to the separation of sexuality from the institution of marriage made it almost impossible for the women to embrace his book wholeheartedly, although they shared his feminist views on other issues.