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Nordic FAQ - 7 of 7 - SWEDEN
Section - 7.5 Swedish literature

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   Swedish writing dates back to 11th-century runic inscriptions, but
   actual literature originated in the Catholic Middle Ages. Saint
   Birgitta (1303-1373) wrote her Revelations, which became
   internationally known, in Latin. Another important work from the 14th
   century is the Erikskrönikan, which recounts historical events in
   poetic form. Most medieval Swedish writings served nonliterary
   purposes, with the exception of the folk ballads.
   
   Gustav Vasa's reformation of the church contributed to a cultural
   decline in the 16th century. However, of vital importance to the
   development of the Swedish language were Olaus Petri's Bible
   translations of 1526 and 1541. Another important 16th century work,
   although in Latin, was Olaus Magnus' Historia De Gentibus
   Septentrionalibus (History of the Nordic Peoples, 1523). During this
   period there also appeared Sweden's first lyric poet, Lars Wivallius.
   Another significant early poet is Georg Stiernhelm in the 1600's.
   
    The Age of Freedom
    
   The 18th century, a period of enlightenment, was dominated by prose.
   Only toward the close of the century, during the reign of Gustaf III,
   did other genres emerge in the wake of French cultural influence.
   Noteworthy is Carl Michael Bellman's rococo ballads. Emmanuel
   Swedenborg's mystical visions influenced many authors and thinkers
   around Europe and prompted the Swedenborgian religion that still
   exists.
   
   
   
  7.5.3 Romanticism and Modernism
  
   Erik Johan Stagnelius's Neoplatonism, Esaias Tegner's and Erik Gustaf
   Geijer's glorification of the nation's past, and Abraham Viktor
   Rydberg's idealistic liberalism all reflect the philosophical
   orientation of Swedish 19th-century romanticism. Carl Jonas Love
   Almqvist, initially a mystic and romantic, came later to herald new
   trends of realism in prose works characterized by social awareness.
   The poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, with his heroic and romantic poetry,
   had enormous influence in the Swedish speaking literary circles.
   Runeberg, as well as many other of the important writers of the 18th
   and 19th century lived in Finland, as for instance Frese and Topelius,
   and are better covered in section 4.7 of this FAQ.
   
   But the most important figure of the century was, however, August
   Strindberg (1849-1912), Sweden's greatest writer and the father of
   modern Swedish drama and fiction. Moving in his later plays from
   naturalism to dreamlike symbolism, Strindberg fore-shadowed
   expressionism. A novelist and playwright, he defied social convention
   by writing dramas of sexual conflict and psychological torment, drawn
   largely from his personal life. His plays are now esteemed as classics
   of the modern stage. Important works include e.g the Red Room (Röda
   Rummet), Olaus Petri and Inferno. With Strindberg a new era was
   established, the era of the industrialization and urbanization.
   Strindberg and later authors are still very popular, while earlier
   (National-Romantic) Swedish authors seems antiquated or alien
   Strindberg represents the modern society which we still live in.
   
   The socially opinionated prose writers of the 1880s were succeeded by
   a new wave of romantics, who preferred verse and emphasized the past
   (Selma Lagerlöf) and the countryside (Erik Axel Karlfeldt). About
   1900, Hjalmar Söderberg published exquisite short stories set in the
   streets of Stockholm; but the novelists of the next decade favored
   small-town Sweden. Modernism was introduced in the 1920s by the
   Finland-Swedish poets Edith Södergran (1892-1923), Gunnar Björling,
   and Elmer Diktonius, and it was affirmed in Pär Lagerqvist's
   innovative dramas and Gunnar Ekelöf's surrealistic poetry. A new
   social class of self-educated country writers entered Sweden's
   literary world in the 1930s, among them the 1974 Nobel laureates Harry
   Martinson and Eyvind Johnson.
   
   Sweden managed to avoid the world wars, but its literature from the
   1940s (Erik Lindegren, Karl Vennberg) reflects the general postwar
   depression. The feeling of pessimism and guilt worsened during the
   following decades because of the Vietnam War and Third World problems.
   An intense questioning of literature's social function and a mistrust
   of language found many literary expressions -- from "new simplicity"
   and "concreteness" in poetry, to documentaries in prose, but the
   stories of Astrid Lindgren stand out with their delighting humor and
   humanity. Swedish literature of the end of the 1970s was characterized
   by a new trust in the word and a new delight in traditional fiction
   writing.
   
   After the second world war popular authors as Vilhelm Moberg
   (1898-1973), Astrid Lindgren and Jan Guillou has taken part also in
   the political debate. Still in the mid-1990:ies Astrid Lindgren in her
   high age appears in radio as an defender of vulnerable children and
   animals, as for instance for a 11 years old girl threatened by
   deportation after eight years in Sweden.
   
   For electronic versions of some of the works of Nordic literature, see
   the collection of Project Runeberg:
     * Icelandic Literature
     * Literature from the Viking Age
     * Medieval Nordic Literature
     * Danish Literature
     * Norwegian Literature
     * Literature of Finland
     * Literature from the Age of Liberty [ in Sweden and Finland
       (1719-1772) ]
       

[ the sections above are available at the www-page
  http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/scn/faq75.html ]

   
   



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