Selma Lagerlöf, 1858-1940

Portrait

Biographical note

Selma Lagerlöf, who was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1858, has had a series of honors, the climax of which has been the winning of the Nobel prize.

No other Swedish writer of any period has so faithfully mirrored the soul of the Swedish people as has Selma Lagerlöf, nor has any other writer been so worshipped by her people. In her native province her work has sunk deep into the hearts of the people. The places and characters she has described have become so intimately associated with her stories and legends that the real names are constantly being confused with the fictitious ones she has given them in her Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Gösta Berling. Everywhere in Sweden one finds postal cards representing scenes from the Wonderful Adventures of Nils. This is an enchanting fairy story that may be compared to the fairy classics of Grimm and of Hans Andersen. In it fact and fancy are delicately interwoven with the geography and natural history of Sweden.

Her popularity is not confined exclusively to Scandinavian countries, however. In Germany, Russia, and Holland, she is more widely read than almost any other foreign writer.

She might be called the founder of a new school of literature. She turned away from the general tendency of the European literature of her day, a tendency to morbid realism, or dealing with the ugliest facts of life, instead turning the light on what is biggest and strongest in people. This idealistic tendency may be readily traced in the story of “The Silver Mine,”. It was for Optimism in Literature that Selma Lagerlöf was given the Nobel prize.

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