Gösta Berlings saga, 1891 (The Story of Gösta Berling, 1898; also known as Gösta Berling’s Saga, 1918)
Antikrists mirakler, 1897 (The Miracles of Antichrist, 1899)
Jerusalem I: I Dalarne, 1901 (Jerusalem, 1915)
Jerusalem II: I det heliga landet, 1902 (The Holy City: Jerusalem II, 1918)
Herr Arnes penningar, 1904 (The Treasure, 1925)
En saga om en saga, 1908 (The Girl from the Marshcroft, 1910)
Liljecronas hem, 1911 (Liliecrona’s Home, 1914)
Kejsaren av Portugallien, 1914 (The Emperor of Portugallia, 1916)
Bannlyst, 1918 (The Outcast, 1922)
Löwensköldska ringen, 1925-1928 (collective title for the following 3 novels; The Ring of the Löwenskölds: A Trilogy, 1928)
Löwensköldska ringen, 1925 (The General’s Ring, 1928)
Charlotte Löwensköld, 1925 (English translation, 1928)
Anna Svärd, 1928 (English translation, 1928)
Höst, 1933 (Harvest, 1935)
Osynliga länkar, 1894 (Invisible Links, 1899)
Drottningar i Kungahälla, 1899 (From a Swedish Homestead, 1901; also in The Queens of Kungahälla and Other Sketches, 1917)
Kristuslegender, 1904 (Christ Legends, 1908)
Troll och människor, 1915, 1921 (2 volumes)
Zachris Topelius, 1920
Mårbacka, 1922 (English translation, 1924)
Ett barns memoarner, 1930 (Memories of My Childhood, 1934)
Dagbok, Mårbacka III, 1932 (The Diary of Selma Lagerlöf, 1936)
Children’s/Young Adult Literature:
Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige, 1906-1907 (2 volumes; The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, 1907, and The Further Adventures of Nils, 1911)
By the last decade of the nineteenth century, Swedish literature was following the lead of the realistic movement. The style and subject matter had been set by Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Émile Zola, and serious artists were seeking ways to express the latest scientific discoveries in literary form. Into this cultural situation came a woman whose sensibility had been shaped by the folk legends of agrarian Sweden and who was not at all concerned with demonstrating scientific truths in literature. With The Story of Gösta Berling, Selma Ottiliana Lovisa Lagerlöf (LAH-gur-lurv) began a long career as Sweden’s leading Romantic novelist.
One of a large family, Selma, born at Mårbacka on November 20, 1858, was a sickly child. At the age of three she was stricken with a disease, possibly poliomyelitis, that left her lame for the rest of her life. Unable to play with the other children, she read all the books on her father’s large estate and absorbed the folk legends of Värmland from her grandmother and the servants. At fifteen she began to write poetry; at twenty-two she went to Stockholm to study for a teaching career. In 1882 she entered the Royal Women’s Superior Training Academy and in 1885 began teaching at a girls’ school at Landskroiva in Skåne.
Thinking about the legends of her Värmland home, in 1890 she began writing The Story of Gösta Berling in her spare time. She reworked the material many times, even experimenting with a poetic version, but finally modeled her style on the Romantic rhetoric of Thomas Carlyle, whose work she admired. When she learned that the literary magazine Idun was holding a competition, she entered her five completed chapters and won first prize. Soon after, the novel was published and had a resounding success; it broke all the rules of realistic writing, but it tapped the interest of the Swedish people in their immediate past. (A film version starring Greta Garbo brought both women a new level of fame.)
Her next book, Invisible Links, was successful enough to allow her to support herself by writing. She left teaching in 1895 and began to travel on a grant arranged for her by King Oscar and Prince Eugene. Lagerlöf toured the Near East in 1900 and in Jerusalem met a group of Dalecarlian peasants who had gone there in order to live like the first Christians. Attracted by their idealism, she wrote Jerusalem, a two-volume novel centering on the conflicts experienced by the members of a religious sect who decide to move from Sweden to Jerusalem. The novel’s sweeping scope and fine characterizations made Lagerlöf world famous.
When the National Teachers’ Association commissioned her to write a group of stories telling of the folklore and geography of the various areas of Sweden, she produced the folk-fantasy known in translation as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, a textbook that has become an enduring children’s classic. Her trilogy, The Ring of the Löwenskölds, also had a great international success. It is a study of inherited character traits which are destroying a family until the curse is removed by a peasant girl.
Lagerlöf’s own values were firmly rooted in the Värmland earth. A lesbian living in an unaccepting age, she lived most of her life at Mårbacka, the family manor, and cared for the tenant farmers until her death. In 1909 she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and in 1914 the first woman to become a member of the Swedish Academy. The two world wars affected her deeply; she donated her Nobel gold medal to the Finnish defense fund shortly before her death in 1940.