From a Vintage Car Week to a Springtime Revival for Selma Lagerlöf

Jun 10, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: Swedish Book Review (by Birgitta Holm).

Something changed in Sweden after this recent Lagerlöf documentary. In Norway, Knut Hamsun has always been hard currency, in part because of his controversial sympathies for Hitler and Germany during the war. In any case, he excites his readers. One year I found myself sharing a bench with a gang of Norwegian vintage car buffs during the annual Värmland arts week. (The arts week and the international vintage car week always overlap in Sunne, near to where Selma Lagerlöf was born and died. Sunne is close to the Norwegian border). I was taking a short break from the succession of Lagerlöf seminars.

I had only just begun to explain what brought me to Sunne when a lively discussion broke out about these Norwegians’ own Hamsun. Hamsun and Lagerlöf have numerous parallels: same lifespan, both pioneers of fiction, both Nobel laureates in literature, both deeply beloved by their contemporary readers. In Norway, however, Hamsun’s status has remained high, while Selma Lagerlöf, a dominant presence during her lifetime, faded rapidly from view in Sweden. Any reader wishing to explore the scope of her reputation would do well to read the recently published volume based on letters she received from her readers, Lagerlöfs läsare (Lagerlöf’s readers) edited by literature scholars Jenny Bergenmar and Maria Karlsson.

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