Tora Armida Dahl was the illegitimate daughter of the architect Gustaf Dahl and bakery assistant Emma Nilsdotter. She grew up with her foster mother Emma Kjärr, but as a young girl moved back to live with her biological mother and attended a girls’ school. As one of the first generation of female students at Stockholm University, she graduated in 1908, majoring in natural science, and worked as a teacher until 1913. She married Knut Jaensson in 1914, who as the leading critic of the 1930s was one of the standard bearers of modern literature. Their home became a place of gathering for young modernist writers.
In her debut novel Generalsgatan 8, 1935, Tora Dahl exhibits her talent for vividly imagining the mental life of the vulnerable. Her subsequent novel Inkvartering, 1937, is about a woman’s feeling of insecurity, and in Avdelning II, sal 3, 1948, and Det som har varit, 1952, she describes women in a hospital environment. The work which brought her popular success and made her a major figure in Swedish literature was her eccentric autobiographical series of memoirs in nineteen volumes, which she published between Fosterbarn, 1954, and Återseende, 1980.