November 30, 2012

Pär Lagerkvist

Pär Lagerkvist [Sweden]

 Pär Lagerkvist

On May 23, 1891 Pär Lagerkvist was born in Växjö (Småland), Sweden into a home “were the only books were the Bible and the Book of Hymns.” Breaking from his parents strong religious convictions as a teen, Lagerkvist nonetheless continued to represent Christian myths in his writing, particularly in his fictions such as Barabbas (1950) and The Death of Ahasuerus (1960).

     After attending the University of Uppsala, Lagerkvist traveled to Paris in 1913, where he was highly influenced by expressionist painting, writing a book Ordkonst och bildkonst (Verbal Art and Pictorial Art) in response to his perceptions. Feeling at home in France, Lagerkvist lived there and in Italy until the 1930s, and even after his return to Sweden, he continued to travel back to France and the Mediterranean.

      The author’s first books were collections of poetry, in particular Ångst (Anguish) of 1916, an emotionally strong collection representing his fear of death, World War I, and personal crises (“Anguish, anguish is my heritage / the wound of my throat / the cry of my heart in the world.”). But in the following years,  his pessimism shifted to more hopeful issues, particularly in Det eviga leendet (The Eternal Smile) published in 1920, and in his 1926 collection of poetry, Hjärtats sanger (Songs from the Heart).

      In the mid and late 1920s, Lagerkvist published the autobiographical volumes, Gåst hos verkligheten (Guest of Reality) in 1925 and Det besegrade livet (The Conquered Life) in 1927). Throughout the rest of his life Lagerkvist continued to produce fiction, drama, essays, and poetry, establishing him as one of the most notable of Swedish authors.

     Most notably, Lagerkvist wrote several powerful pre-World War II works, showing his growing concern with the German and Italian dictatorships, most memorably seen his novel and later play, Bödeln (The Hangman) and in the play Mannen utan själ (The Man without a Soul) of 1936.

     Perhaps Lagerkvist’s most famous literary works were the fictions, Dvägen (The Dwarf) of 1944 and Barabbas, which was produced also as a film in 1962, starring Anthony Quinn.

     In 1940 Lagerkvist was elected to the Swedish Academy, and in 1951 was awarded that body’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

     The author died in Stockholm at the age of 83 on July 11, 1974.


Motiv (Stockholm: A Bonnier, 1914); Ångest (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1916); Istället fäor tro (in Kaos) (Stockholm: A Bonnier, 1919); Den lyckliges väg (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1921); Hjärtats sanger (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1926); Dikter i urval (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1928); Vid lägereld (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1932); Genius (Stockholm: A.  Bonnier, 1937);  Sång och strid (Stockholm: A. Bonnier, 1940);  Hemmet och stjärnan (Stockholm: A Bonnier, 1942); Aftonland (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1953); Dikter (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1960); Dikter (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1965)


Evening Land (Lewes, E. Sussex : Allardyce Books, 2001).  

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