Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

When Dagbok for Selma Lagerlöf was published in 1932, it was supposed by many to be a juvenile work of the famous author, composed week by week during the period from January to May of 1873, as the careful dating of the passages suggests. The naive tone, the simple diction, and the frequent use of the present tense, alternating with an immediate past, all strengthened this impression. Critics who were familiar with her novels, however, sensed that in this autobiographical work the seventy-four-year-old Selma Lagerlöf was simply adopting the persona of her past self, as in her novels she had frequently adopted the persona of a young and innocent fictional character. While the characters of The Diary of Selma Lagerlöf were real and the events of the book had actually taken place sixty years before, the author was not publishing a long-lost book but instead writing a book of recollections, which she had chosen to cast in this form.

In order to write The Diary of Selma Lagerlöf, Lagerlöf had to do more than merely recall the events which began two months after her fourteenth birthday; in a sense, she had to become the person she had been so many years ago, with the same hopes and fears, the same certainties and uncertainties. The period which she recorded was a significant one in her life, for during these months Selma ventured forth from the security of the family estate, Mrbacka, to assess her character and her imagination while she was living in a distant city away from her immediate family.

Admittedly, this was not Selma’s first period away from home. Five years before, she had been sent to Stockholm for some months so that she could be treated for the...

(The entire section is 700 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Danielson, Larry W. “The Uses of Demonic Folk Tradition in Selma Lagerlöf’s Gosta Berlings saga,” in Western Folklore. XXXIV (July 3, 1975), pp. 187-199.

Edstrom, Vivi. Selma Lagerlöf, 1984. Translated by Barbara Lide.

Gustafson, Alrik. Six Scandinavian Novelists, 1940.

Johannesson, Eric O. “Isak Dinesen and Selma Lagerlöf,” in Scandinavian Studies. XXXII (February, 1960), pp. 18-26.

Pehrson, Elsa. “Glimpses from the Hidden Workshop of Selma Lagerlöf,” in The American Scandinavian Review. XXXIII (March, 1945), pp. 41-44.

Radzin, Hilda. “Idealism, Imagination, and Spiritual Perception in the Literary Work of Selma Lagerlöf,” in Folio: Papers on Foreign Language and Literature. XI (1978), pp. 129-135.