Pär Lagerkvist Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist displayed his predisposition to independence in his very first appearance in print, a letter to the local newspaper in October, 1905, written when he was fourteen:Every schoolboy is surely aware of the hostility that exists, not only in Växiö but in other cities as well, between elementary-and secondary-school pupils. This hostility may appear to be insignificant, but it certainly is not; it is nothing other than the beginning of a pernicious class hatred in Sweden. For how easily does a boy from elementary school, who during his entire schooling grows accustomed to harboring the same hostility toward a secondary-school pupil that the socialists harbor toward the upper social classes, how easily does such a boy fall victim to pernicious socialism. Conversely, a secondary-school pupil can easily begin to hate not only the elementary-school students but also, when he is older and more mature, all members of the working class. Therefore, comrades, let’s begin to lay aside this bad habit and rather try, in harmony, to further the best interests of our country. [signed] A schoolboy.

In five to seven years’ time, Lagerkvist would become sufficiently amenable to socialism to lend his creative talents to the Social Democratic journals Fram, Stormklockan, and Norskensflamman.

Thirteen months after his debut in the local newspaper, he published a prose sketch entitled “Moderskärlek” and signed “Jagibus.” It is a sentimental piece with a trace of bitterness over the emigration to the United States of which Småland had seen much during the last half of the nineteenth century.

The burgeoning of Lagerkvist’s literary career coincides with the development of cubism from 1907 to 1914. In 1909 and 1910 he published thirteen poems under the pen name “Stig Stigson.” The first work published in his own name was the poem “Kväll” (“Evening”), written in February, 1911, in honor of the poet Gustaf Fröding, who had recently died. In 1912, he published seven new poems, a copy of two hitherto unpublished Strindberg letters that he had discovered, a prose fantasy entitled “Gudstanken” (“God’s Thought”), and his first novel, Människor (people). Many of Lagerkvist’s early works, particularly his poems, have a militant socialist focus that would give way by 1916 to his broader humanistic expressions of längtan (longing), ångest (anguish), and kärlek (love). Adumbrations of his plays and later novels are evident in “God’s Thought,” in which a Diana figure (to reappear in a 1960 novel), as a vestige of a dead religion, serves to turn a man toward the experience of his own being and, consequently, away from preoccupation with the supernatural, and in a 1912 poem, “Min Gud” (“My God”), which begins, “My god is a proud, defiant man/ — —my god is a child gone astray,” asserts midway, “My god is what life has given me/ to mold into worship and belief,” and concludes, “my god—my god—: he is I!—he is I!— — —.” Lagerkvist’s maternal grandparents had been farm people, severely uncompromising in their fundamentalist religion. In their presence, Lagerkvist learned the cold terror of a religion of judgment. His father, Anders Johan Lagerkvist, a foreman at a railroad yard, and his mother, née Johanna Blad, were devout Christians, but their persuasion was marked more by the solace of the Gospel than by the rigidity of the Law. Ultimately, Lagerkvist abandoned the faith of both his grandparents and his parents.

In 1913, Lagerkvist published three poems and two prose sketches in Stormklockan, to which he also contributed twelve reviews, including his review of Fyodor Dostoevski’s Unizhennye i oskorblyonnye (1861; The Insulted and Injured, 1887). His review article on Guillaume Apollinaire’s Les Peintres cubistes: Méditations esthétiques (1913; The Cubist Painters: Esthetic Meditations, 1944) appeared in Svenska dagbladet. He also published that year Två sagor om livet (two tales of life, a pair of short stories) and his very important essay Ordkonst och bildkonst (Literary Art and Pictorial Art, 1982), which established his championship of cubism and helped to change the literary climate in Sweden. He saw cubism as greatly superior to impressionism and naturalism and developed...

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Pär Lagerkvist Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist was born May 23, 1891, in Växjö, Sweden, to Anders Johan and Johanna (Blad) Lagerkvist, an orthodox Lutheran couple, who stressed religious training. In 1910, he matriculated at the University of Uppsala, where he briefly studied the humanities. Lagerkvist began his literary career with a novella, Människor. In 1913 he traveled to Paris, where he was influenced by the visual arts. He applied the boldness of Fauvism, the simplicity of Primitivism, and the contrasting perspectives of cubism to literature in his first critical essay, Ordkonst och bildkonst (1913; Literary Art and Pictorial Art, 1982).

In 1915 Lagerkvist moved to Denmark, where he remained throughout World War I, establishing his literary reputation with a volume of poetry, Ångest, which is considered the first expressionistic work in Swedish. In Copenhagen, he turned his literary attention to the theater and in 1918 married Karen Dagmar Johanne Sørensen. Returning to Stockholm, he became a drama critic for Svenska Dagbladet, writing his final review in June, 1919. Thereafter he sustained himself writing fiction.

Lagerkvist traveled a great deal during the 1920’s, especially to France and Italy, his pessimism dissipating as he observed Europe recovering from the war. His autobiographical novella Guest of Reality was published in 1925, the same year that he divorced his wife and married a Swedish widow, Elaine Luella Hallberg. In the 1930’s he became an outspoken critic of totalitarianism and fascism in such works as The Hangman. This work was revised as a play in 1934 and became the most significant Scandinavian play of the decade. His final collection of short stories, I den tiden, was published in 1935.

As Europe again became engulfed in war, Lagerkvist wrote his first mature novel, Dvärgen (1944; The Dwarf, 1945). His international reputation was established when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature following the publication of Barabbas. He continued writing allegorical novels until he suffered a stroke, passing away July 11, 1974.

Pär Lagerkvist Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist was born on May 23, 1891, in Växjö, Sweden, a small town in the southern region of Småland. His father, Anders Johan Lagerkvist, was the railway agent at the station in Växjö, and the family lived in a small apartment above the station’s restaurant. His mother, Johanna Blad, was, like her husband, from a simple peasant family. Lagerkvist was the youngest of seven children, and, like the others, he attended the local primary and secondary schools, spending summer vacations with his maternal grandparents in the country. Though normally reticent about biographical disclosure, Lagerkvist described his early environment as a mixture of the fundamentalist conservatism of his parents with the radical nonconforming Calvinism of his maternal grandparents. Between these two competing religious attitudes, the young Lagerkvist was torn, and his inability to reconcile their contradictions eventually resulted in his abandonment of both.

During his secondary education at the Växjö Gymnasium, Lagerkvist’s rebellious attitude toward his family’s conservative influence began to surface. Together with four of his friends, he formed a study group named the Red Circle. Wearing the broad-brimmed hat and flowing bow tie that indicated their affiliation with the growing Socialist movement, they met each Sunday morning at eleven o’clock—the precise hour that services were held at the nearby cathedral. With the Red Circle, Lagerkvist studied the works of Charles Darwin, Camille Flammarion, Thomas Huxley, Pyotr Kropotkin, Strindberg, and Henrik Ibsen—purveyors of a new view of the world that, Lagerkvist later said, “was sweeping God and all hope asidelaying life open and raw in all its nakedness, all its systematic absurdity.”

Following his graduation from the Gymnasium in 1910, Lagerkvist left home, going to live with his older brother, Gunnar, who was a schoolteacher in western Sweden. In the fall of 1911, Lagerkvist entered the University of Uppsala, where he studied art history and literature briefly, leaving in dissatisfaction after only one semester.

In this prewar period, from 1908 to 1914, Lagerkvist’s lifelong attitude of rebellion against conformity in thought and traditional values in literature became increasingly apparent. Among his earliest published works are the idealistic “revolutionary songs of struggle,” in which he identified with the...

(The entire section is 994 words.)

Pär Lagerkvist Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (LAH-gur-kvihst) was born on May 23, 1891, in Växjö, a small town in a province of Sweden that appears to have been named Småland (slight land) because of its unpromising soil and relatively low agricultural productivity. The stony soil of Småland had been improved through the labor of its inhabitants by the time of Lagerkvist’s youth, but steady emigration from the area is indicative of its pronounced bleakness. This atmosphere was to provide a tone for Lagerkvist’s prose, poetry, and drama. There was bleakness, too, in the formidable, humorless Protestantism that constituted Lagerkvist’s religious environment.

Pär was the youngest of seven children. Anders Lagerkvist, his father,...

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Pär Lagerkvist Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pär Lagerkvist’s contribution to literature is a unique combination of structure and theme. The structure entails a cubistic elimination of nonessentials as a means of giving lyrical voice to a multiplicity of spatial, temporal, and spiritual perspectives. The theme is an examination of the existentialist authenticity by which individuals expect no more from life than the fullness of living.

(The entire section is 61 words.)

Pär Lagerkvist Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (LAH-gur-kvihst), the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951, was instrumental in bringing Sweden into the mainstream of European movements in twentieth century literature and art. He gained international recognition as a somber, original stylist in fiction and drama. He was born in Växjö, a small town in the Swedish province of Smaland, on May 23, 1891, the seventh child of Johanna Blad and Anders Johan Lagerkvist. His father, who worked as a railroad signalman, figures, along with the author’s family life in youth, in at least three of Lagerkvist’s early stories.

Before he was nineteen, Lagerkvist had decided to become a writer. He published his first novel, Människor,...

(The entire section is 1062 words.)