Pär Lagerkvist Additional 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.


(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.)


(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,...

(The entire section is 680 words.)


(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.


(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.)