The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909
Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf
Born: 20 November 1858, Mårbacka, Sweden
Died: 16 March 1940, Mårbacka, Sweden
Residence at the time of the award: Sweden
Prize motivation: "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings"
Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) was born in Östra Emterwik, Värmland, Sweden. She was brought up on Mårbacka, the family estate, which she did not leave until 1881, when she went to a teachers' college at Stockholm. In 1885 she became a teacher at the girls' secondary school in Landskrona. She had been writing poetry ever since she was a child, but she did not publish anything until 1890, when a Swedish weekly gave her the first prize in a literary competition and published excerpts from the book which was to be her first, best, and most popular work. Gösta Berlings Saga was published in 1891, but went unnoticed until its Danish translation received wide critical acclaim and paved the way for the book's lasting success in Sweden and elsewhere. In 1895 financial support from the royal family and the Swedish Academy encouraged her to abandon teaching altogether. She travelled in Italy and wrote Antikris mirakler (1897) [The Miracles of Antichrist], a novel set in Sicily. After several minor works she published Jerusalem (1901-1902) [The Holy City], a novel about Swedish peasants who emigrated to the Holy Land and whom she had visited in 1900. This work was her first immediate success. A book intended as a primer for elementary schools became one of the most charming children's book in any language: Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (1906) [The Wonderful Adventures of Nils].
None of her later works matched the power or success of Gösta Berlings Saga. In the mid-twenties she published the historical trilogy: Löwensköldska Ringen (1925), Charlotte Löwensköld (1927), and Anna Svärd (1928) [The Ring of the Löwenskölds, 3 vols.]. She also published several volumes of reminiscences under the title Mårbacka (1922-32).
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Selma Lagerlöf died on March 16, 1940.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1909
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