Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909
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."
Prize share: 1/1
Selma Lagerlöf was born on the Mårbacka estate in Värmland County, Sweden. Her father was a serviceman. Selma trained as a teacher and began her career as an author as a side job while working at a school in Landskrona. In 1895 she moved to Falun, where she began supporting herself solely on her writing. Selma Lagerlöf took several long trips around Europe together with her friend Sophie Elkan. After her father was declared insolvent, the Mårbacka estate was sold, but the Nobel Prize gave Selma Lagerlöf the opportunity to buy back her family home and she lived there for the rest of her life.
Selma Lagerlöf's authorship is deeply rooted in folk tales, legends, and stories from her home district in Värmland County, Sweden. Her début novel, Gösta Berling's Saga, broke away from the then-prevailing realism and naturalism and is characterized by a vivid imagination. Even so, her works provide realistic depictions of people's circumstances, ideas, and social lives during the 19th-century religious revival. Selma Lagerlöf wrote in prose. Her stories characterized by a captivating descriptive power and their language by purity and clarity.