1909 : Selma Lagerlof

1909 : Selma Lagerlof

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“in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”



November 20, 1858

Place of birth


Marbacka, Varmland, Sweden



March 16, 1940

Place of death


Marbacka, Varmland, Sweden







Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1909


Selma Lagerlof was born in 1858 at the manor Marbacka in Eastern Amtervik, Varmland. She was the daughter and fourth child of Lieutenant Erik Gustaf Lagerlof and Kajsa Lovisa Lagerlof, born Wall Roth. She was born with a hip injury which was caused by the ledkulan hip lacked proper fastener. When Lagerlof was three and a half years old, she became sick and completely paralyzed in both legs. It disappeared just as suddenly as it had come, but she had during her childhood is not as easy to play as other children. Like so many other affluent children at the time, had siblings Lagerlof their training at home since the new public school system was not fully developed. Their teacher came to Marbacka and taught, and Lagerlof received instruction in both English and franska.Lararen was very imaginative and telling fantastic stories for Selma and her siblings, which probably was an inspiration to Selma in her authorship. Selma Lagerlof was more serious, quieter and more sedate than their siblings and peers peers, in part because of her hip injury. But she was a clever child and did much to read. The first novel she was reading was a RED INDIAN – Oceola of Mayne Reid – and even then, at age seven, she decided to become a writer. When Selma was ten years old, she read through the entire Bible. Her father was then very ill and she had got the idea that the father would get well if she read the whole Bible. When she was twelve years old she wrote a long poem about Marbacka and adolescence she continued to write in verse. At fourteen years of age Lagerlof spent some time in Stockholm to receive physical therapy. Studies and work:Upon completion of training spent Lagerlof few years as domestic daughter before she autumn 1882 began at the Higher Teachers’ current seminar in Stockholm with his father’s will. During the training period Lagerlof family came insolvent and had Marbacka sold. The father died in 1885. When Lagerlof read the literature she came to the people she heard about the Varmland was at least as distinctive and valuable as the people who Bellman and Runeberg written about. Selma saw Sagan, the book that she would write. She realized that she must write on Varmland and its people. But it took many years before it was completed. Upon completion of the training received Lagerlof service at the Elementary School for girls in Geelong 1885-1895. Lagerlof enjoyed ago with his work as a teacher and she appreciated by the students. Selma had the ability to make a captivating way to tell the children about each new country they read about, or about Jesus and his disciples. She lived with her mother in “Qvarteret Old Bridge” in Geelong. Authors:In 1890 Lagerlof debut with the novel Gosta Berling saga after having won an award in the magazine Idun. Lagerlof finished the book with the help of a scholarship set up by Sophie Adlersparre, founder of Fredrika-Bremer-League. Gosta Berling saga is a classic of American literature and a TALL TALE about life in Varmland in the 1800s. It broke the then-style ideals that advocated realistic objectivity. The book received a mixed reception of kritikerkaren. In the mid-1890s left Lagerlof their teachers in service. From the time she forsorjde completely on its authorship, and in 1897 she moved to Falun to be closer to his sister Gerda. Lagerlof did with Sophie Elkan several long trips in Europe and the Middle East. Jerusalem wrote Lagerlof after one of these trips, which gave her international recognition. For her most famous books include Nils Holgerssons wonderful trip through Sweden, c conceived as textbook in geography there is the framework papers of a boy who can see Sweden from a gasrygg. Nobel Prize:

Selma Lagerlof receives the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf V’s hand. Illustration of Svenska Dagbladet on December 11 1909. Selma Lagerlof was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1909. She won the prize for that she wrote many good books and for that she carried them also made Sweden known in the world. Lagerlof was the first woman awarded the honor. Member of the Swedish Academy:In 1914 Lagerlof became the first woman elected to the Swedish Academy. Hjalmar Gullberg said in his speech entry in 1940 when he succeeded her in college that she was “queen of our literature, the most famous of Swedish women in the world since the Holy Birgitta.”


Works in Swedish:

  • Gosta Berlings saga – Stockholm : Hellberg, 1891 – 2 vol.

  • Osynliga lankar : berattelser – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1894

  • Antikrists mirakler : roman – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1897

  • Drottningar i Kungahalla, jamte andra berattelser – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1899

  • En herrgardssagen – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1899

  • Jerusalem : tva berattelser. 1, I Dalarne : berattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1901

  • Jerusalem : tva berattelser. 2, I det heliga landet – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1902

  • Kristuslegender – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1904

  • Herr Arnes penningar : berattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1904

  • Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1906–1907 – 2 vol.

  • En saga om en saga och andra sagor – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1908

  • Meli : berattelse – Stockholm : Folkskolans barntidning, 1909

  • Liljecronas hem : roman – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1911

  • Korkarlen : berattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1912

  • Tosen fran Stormyrtorpet och andra sagor – Goteborg : Ahlen & Akerlund, 1913

  • Astrid och andra berattelser – Goteborg : Ahlen & Akerlund, 1914

  • Dunungen : lustspel i fyra akter – Stockholm, 1914

  • Kejsarn av Portugallien : en varmlandsberattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1914

  • Stenen i sjon Rottnen : berattelse – Stockholm : [Stockholms–Tidningen], 1914

  • Silvergruvan och andra berattelser – Stockholm : Ahlen & Akerlund, 1915

  • Troll och manniskor – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1915

  • Bannlyst : en berattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1918

  • Ingmarssonerna : berattelse – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1918

  • Kavaljersnoveller – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1918

  • Marbacka – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1922

  • Lowenskoldska ringen – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1925

  • Charlotte Lowenskold – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1925

  • Anna Svard – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1928

  • Mors portratt och andra berattelser – Stockholm : Ahlen & Akerlund/Bonnier, 1930

  • Ett barns memoarer : Marbacka 2 – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1930

  • Dagbok : Marbacka III – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1932

  • Host : berattelser och tal – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1933

  • Gosta Berlings saga : skadespel i fyra akter med prolog och epilog efter romanen med samma namn – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1936

  • Julberattelser – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1938

  • Fran skilda tider : efterlamnade skrifter – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1943–1945. – 2 vol.

  • Du lar mig att bli fri : Selma Lagerlof skriver till Sophie Elkan / urval och kommentarer av Ying Toijer–Nilsson – Stockholm : Bonnier i samarbete med Selma Lagerlof–sallsk., 1992

  • Mammas Selma : Selma Lagerlofs brev till modern / redigering och kommentarer av Ying Toijer–Nilsson – Stockholm : Bonnier, 1998

  • En riktig forfattarhustru : Selma Lagerlof skriver till Valborg Olander – Stockholm : Bonnier, 2006

Translations into English:

  • Gosta Berling’s Saga / authorized translation from the Swedish by Lillie Tudeer – London : Chapman & Hall, 1898

  • The Story of Gosta Berling / translated from the Swedish of Selma Lagerlof, by Pauline Bancroft Flach – Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1898

  • Invisible Links / [translated by Pauline Bancroft Flach] – Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1899 – New ed, Iowa City : Penfield Press, 1995

  • The Miracles of Antichrist : a novel / translated from the Swedish by Selma Ahlstrom Trotz – New York : Lovell, 1899

  • The Miracles of Antichrist / translated from the Swedish of Selma Lagerlof by Pauline Bancroft Flach … – Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1899

  • Jerusalem / [Jessie Brochner, translator] – London : Heinemann, 1903

  • From a Swedish Homestead / [Jessie Brochner, translator] – New York : McClure, Philips & Co., 1910

  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils / translated by Velma Swanston Howard ; decorations by Harold Heartt – New York : Doubleday, 1907 – Rev. ed., Iowa City : Penfield Press, 1994

  • Christ Legende / translated from the Swedish by Velma Swanston Howard – New York : Holt, 1908

  • The Girl From the Marsh Croft / translated from the Swedish by Velma Swanston Howard – Boston : Little, Brown, and Company – 1910

  • Further Adventures of Nils / [Velma Swanston Howard, translator] – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1911 – Rev. ed., Iowa City : Penfield Press, 1994

  • The Legend of the Sacred Image / translated by Velma Swanston Howard. – New York : Holt, 1914

  • Jerusalem : a novel / [Velma Swanston Howard, translator] – Garden city, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1915

  • The Emperor of Portugallia / translated by Velma Swanston Howard – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1916

  • The Holy City : Jerusalem II/ translated by Velma Swanston Howard – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1918

  • The Outcast / [W. W. Worster, translator] – London : Gyldendal, 1920

  • Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness! / translated by William Frederick Harvey – London : Odhams Press, 1921

  • The Lighting of the Christmas Tree / adapted by Josephine L. Palmer and Annie L. Thorp from “The Christmas guest”, by Selma Lagerlof – New York : French, 1921

  • Herr Arne’s Hoard / [Arthur G., Chater, translator] – London : Gyldendal, 1923

  • Marbacka / translated by Velma Swanston Howard – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1924

  • The Treasure / translated from the Swedish by Arthur G. Chater – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1925

  • Charlotte Lowenskold / [Velma Swanston Howard, translator] – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1927

  • The General’s Ring / translated from the Swedish by Francesca Martin – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1928

  • The Ring of the Lowenskolds / The General’s Ring, translated by Francesca Martin ; Charlotte Lowenskold, translated by Velma Swanston Howard ; Anna Svard, translated by Velma Swanston Howard – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1931

  • Gosta Berlings Saga / translated by L. Tudcar – [S.l.], 1933

  • Memories of My Childhood : Further Years at Marbacka / translated by Velma Swanston Howard – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1934

  • Harvest / translated by Florence and Naboth Hedin – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1935

  • The Diary of Selma Lagerlof / translated by Velma Swanston Howard ; illustrated by Johan Bull – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1936

  • The Legend of the Christmas Rose – Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1942

  • Treatment of Selma Lagerlof : Gosta Berling’s Saga / translation by Henry Harlow – Copenhagen : Tower, 1947

  • Herr Arne’s Hoard / translated from the Swedish by Philip Brakenridge – Stockholm : Jan Forlag, 1952

  • Gosta Berlings Saga / [translated from Swedish by Pauline Bancroft Flach and W. H. Hilton–Brown] – Stockholm : Fritzes, 1959

  • From a Swedish Homestead / translated by Jessie Brochner – Freeport, N.Y. : Books for Libraries Press, 1970

  • Christ Legends and Other Stories / [translated by Velma Swanston Howard] – London : Floris Books, 1977

  • The wonderful adventures of Nils : and, The further adventures of Nils / translated by Velma Swanston Howard ; illustrated by Hans Baumhauer – London. Dent, 1984

  • Sister Kavin and Sister Sisla / translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck – Lampeter : St. David’s University College, 1986

  • The Lowenskold Ring / translated by Linda Schenck – Norwich : Norvik Press, 1991

  • The Changeling / translated from the Swedish by Susanna Stevens – New York : Knopf, 1992

  • Scandinavian Kings & Queens : Three Stories : Astrid, Sigrid Storrade, and The Silver Mine – Iowa City, Iowa : Penfield Press, 1995

  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils / translated from the Swedish and edited by Velma Swanston Howard ; illustrated by Thea Kliros – New York : Dover Publications, 1995

  • Girl From the Marsh Croft and Other Stories / selected and edited by Greta Anders on – Iowa City, Iowa : Penfield Press, 1996

  • Memories of Marbacka / translations from Doubleday ; compilation and notes by Greta Anders on – Iowa City, Iowa : Penfield Press, 1996

  • Gosta Berling’s Saga / edited by Greta Anders on ; translated from the Swedish by Lillie Tudeer – Iowa City, Iowa : Penfield Press, 1997

  • The Emperor’s Vision and other Christ Legends / translated by Velma Swanston Howard ; illustrated by Ronald Heuninck – Edinburgh : Floris, 2002

  • Gosta Berling’s Saga – Paperback ed. / translated from the Swedish by Lillie Tudeer – Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications, 2004

Literature (a selection):

  • Berendsohn, Walter A., Selma Lagerlof : Her Life and Work / adapted from the German by George F. Timpson – London : Nicholson & Watson, 1931

  • Vrieze, Folkerdina Stientje de, Fact and Fiction in the Autobiographical Works of Selma Lagerlof – Assen, Netherlands : Van Gorcum, 1958

  • Nelson, Anne Theodora, The Critical Reception of Selma Lagerlof in France – Evanston, Ill., 1962

  • Olson-Buckner, Elsa, The epic tradition in Gosta Berlings saga – Brooklyn, N.Y. : Theodore Gaus, 1978

  • Edstrom, Vivi, Selma Lagerlof / translated by Barbara Lide – Boston : Twayne Publishers, 1984

  • Madler, Jennifer Lynn, The Literary Response of German-language Authors to Selma Lagerlof – Urbana, Ill. : University of Illinois, 1998

  • Selma Lagerlof Seen From Abroad = Selma Lagerlof i utlandsperspektiv : ett symposium i Vitterhetsakademien den 11 och 12 september 1997 / redaktor: Louise Vinge – Stockholm : Kungl. Vitterhets-, historie- och antikvitetsakad : Almqvist & Wiksell International [distributor], 1998

  • De Noma, Elizabeth Ann, Multiple Melodrama : the Making and Remaking of Three Selma Lagerlof Narratives in the Silent Era and the 1940s – Ann Arbor, Mich : UMI Research Press, cop. 2000

  • Bergenmar, Jenny, Forvildade hjartan : livets estetik och berattandets etik i Selma Lagerlofs Gosta Berlings saga – Eslov : B. Ostlings bokforl. Symposion, 2003 – Summary: Hearts Run Wild : the Aesthetics of Life and the Ethics of Narration in Selma Lagerlof’s Gosta Berlings Saga

  • Watson, Jennifer, Swedish Novelist Selma Lagerlof, 1858-1940, and Germany at the Turn of the Century : O du Stern ob meinem Garten. – Lewiston, NY : Edwin Mellen Press, 2004

  • Nordlund, Anna, Selma Lagerlofs underbara resa genom den svenska litteraturhistorien 1891-1996 – Eslov : B. Ostlings bokforlag Symposion, 2005 – Summary: The Wonderful Adventures of Selma Lagerlof Through Swedish Literary History 1891-1996


1909: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Claes Annerstedt, President of the Swedish Academy, on December 10, 1909

History tells us that there was a time when Sweden fought for a world prize on the field of martial honour. The time of arms has passed, but in the international competition for peaceful prizes our people have for a long time held a position of esteem, and now the hour has finally come when Sweden can enter into literary competition with the great nations. The realm of the mind is determined by living powers that are not measured by population or golden millions but by the idealistic and ethical demands which they satisfy.

Geijer, Tegner, or Runeberg, to mention only them, could justly have laid claim to the Nobel Prize, and the development which these great men have started has grown to fuller bloom. But among the writers of the younger generation who have contributed so much to our literature, there is one name that enjoys the special splendour of a star of the first magnitude. In the works of Selma Lagerlof we seem to recognize the purest and best features of our Great Swedish Mother. Five years ago the Swedish Academy recognized the importance and strength of her achievement for Swedish poetry by awarding her the Gold Medal «because of the imaginative wealth, idealism, and narrative talent that are evidenced in her works, which are beloved inside and outside the borders of Sweden». This homage was strongly appreciated by all classes in our nation. Surely the same nation will be proud to hear today that the Swedish Academy has found Selma Lagerlof’s literary achievement so important that her works should be counted among those considered the property of all mankind and that they are full of the idealism which Nobel required for the award of the Nobel Prize. It should not be thought that this decision was inspired by excessive national self-esteem, especially since many important foreign opinions have supported her candidacy. Nor would anybody consider it a lack of modesty if the Nobel Prize, which is now being awarded for the ninth time, remains in the country of its founder; on the contrary, such modesty could be interpreted as a lack of national self-confidence.

Few first novels have attracted so much attention as Gosta Berlings Saga (1891). The work was significant not only because it broke decisively with the unhealthy and false realism of the times, but also because of its own original character. Yet the work was not unanimously praised; if most people admired it greatly, some criticized it severely. There could be no better proof of its extraordinary character. One could not help admiring an imagination that had not had its peer since Almqvist’s days. However peculiar the characters and situations created by this imagination might be, they were covered by the marvellous bloom of artistic genius, and the presentation at times exhibited rapturous beauty. The reader was particularly moved by the profound feeling that in this work he was encountering a forgotten piece of what had once been Swedish country life; his heart was captured, just as the curious, radiant surface of the picture enchanted his senses. This first novel did have its weaknesses; how could it be otherwise! Where is gold found pure; when does a genius enter the world completely mature? But one thing was abundantly clear: a new genius of genuine Swedish nature was trying its wings.

Soon she was to enter the realm of her true heritage, the mystical world of fairy tales and legends. Only a soul that had fed on legends since the days of childhood, and that added love to a rich imagination, could dare to interpret the secrets of the invisible world that the visionary always sees beside or rather beneath the visible world. The visionary quality that is so characteristic in Lagerlof’s writings has been stronger in her than in anyone since the days of St. Birgitta. Just as refractions in the hot air of the desert create a vivid fata morgana for the wanderer, so her warm and colourful imagination possesses a wonderful power of giving to her visions the force of living reality, which is instinctively recalled by whoever listens to her poetry. This is particularly true of her description of nature. For her, everything, even what is called inanimate nature, has its own, invisible, but real life; and therefore her artist’s hand is not content with representing the outward beauty of nature. Her loving eye follows the inner life whose silent language has been caught by her fine ear. That is why she has succeeded in eliciting beautiful secrets from fairy tales, living folk legends, and saints’ stories; secrets that had been hidden from the wordly-wise but which true simplicity perceives because, as the poet has the old grandmother say, it has eyes to see the secrets of God.

As a painter of peasant life she is completely original and can compete with the best of other countries. Tosen fran Stormyrtorpet (1908) [The Girl from the Marsh Croft] is inimitable in its realistic and faithful descriptions, and it contains a new and deeper beauty in the irresistible power of unselfish love which underlies the whole work. And there are many other pieces of equal beauty. But Selma Lagerlof’s talent comes out most clearly in the proud achievement that bears the name Jerusalem (1901-02) [The Holy City]. The deep spiritual movements that have from time to time aroused the peasant population of our country have rarely been traced so clearly as in this description of the pilgrimage of the people of Dalekarlia to the Holy Land. The reader sees things as dearly as if he himself were experiencing how this strong breed with its serious and introspective character goes its way, brooding heavily over the riddles of life. And it is not surprising if these people, torn between belief and superstition, in the painful struggle between their love of the inherited soil and their fear that they may not walk with God, finally abandon home, since they believe that the bells on high admonish them to march toward the holy city. But it is no less natural if these children of voluntary exile, in the midst of their delight at having seen the earth that had been touched by the foot of the Saviour, are deep in their hearts consumed by the desire for the simple green soil far north in old Dalarna. The sound of rivers and forests is always in their ears. With loving perception the poet has sounded the secret depth of their souls and a bloom of purest poetry transforms the realistic and faithful description of their touching and simple lives. The introduction to Jerusalem, entitled «Ingemarssonerna» [Ingemar’s Sons], movingly intimates that the lives and deeds of the fathers work like a force of destiny on later generations.

Selma Lagerlof’s style deserves our full appreciation. Like a loyal daughter, she has administered the rich heritage of her mother tongue; from this source come the purity of diction, the clarity of expression, and the musical beauty that are characteristic of all her works.

Purity and simplicity of diction, beauty of style, and power of imagination, however, are accompanied by ethical strength and deep religious feeling. And indeed it could not be otherwise in someone to whom the life of man is a thread on God’s great loom. In poetry of such elevation the air is always pure; more than one of her beautiful legends reflect the simplicity and loftiness of Scripture. But what makes Selma Lagerlof’s writings so lovable is that we always seem to hear in them an echo of the most peculiar, the strongest, and the best things that have ever moved the soul of the Swedish people. Few have comprehended the innermost nature of this people with a comparable love. It is her own heart that speaks when in Tosen fran Stormyrtorpet the strict judge, whose severe features have increasingly brightened at the sight of the sacrificial love of the young girl, finally says with deep emotion to himself: That is my people. I shall not be angry with them since there is so much love and fear of God in one of their humblest creatures. Such an intimate and profound view is possible only for one whose soul is deeply rooted in the Swedish earth and who has sucked nourishment from its myths, history, folklore, and nature. It is easy to understand why the mystical, nostalgic, and miraculous dusk that is peculiar to the Nordic nature is reflected in all her works. The greatness of her art consists precisely in her ability to use her heart as well as her genius to give to the original peculiar character and attitudes of the people a shape in which we recognize ourselves.

We are acting according to the will of the founder if we honour those who have had such success in appealing to the best sides of the human heart, and whose name and achievement have penetrated far beyond the borders of Sweden. Nor should anyone who bears a famous literary name, whether inside or outside the country, be envious if the Swedish Academy today pronounces that it has awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature to Sweden’s distinguished daughter, Selma Lagerlof…


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