1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lagerlöf, Selma

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LAGERLÖF, SELMA (1858-), Swedish writer, was born Nov. 20 1858 at Mårbacke in Värmland (Vermland). She grew up among country surroundings in a province in which tradition and folk-lore survived to an extent unknown elsewhere in the land. After going through the course in the Royal Women's Superior Training College of Stockholm, she became a teacher in the girls' high school at Landskrona. A weekly journal offered a prize for competition. She sent in some chapters of her first work, Gösta Berlings Saga, and won the prize. Thus began her public career as author. The book was a collection of tales, each to some extent independent of the others, gathered together in one framework: wild and moving scenes from Värmland life, depicted with lively imagination in a style of diction in keeping with her subject. The book is peculiarly Swedish in its character but it has been translated into English, Danish, German, Finnish, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Portuguese, Czech and Russian. In 1894 she published Osynliga Länkar (Invisible Links).

In 1895 she was able to give up her work as teacher. Two journeys abroad which she now made, one of them to Italy, the other to Palestine and other parts of the East, were largely instrumental in providing material for her next book. In Antikrists Mirakler (1897) she gives a picture, in legendary shape, of the mystical and socialistic aspects of Sicilian life. In Jerusalem (1901-2) she tells of a strange flitting from the Swedish province of Dalarne to the Holy Land. Among her other works may be mentioned Drottningar i Kungahälla, stories from Swedish history (1899); En Herrgårdssägen (1899); Kristuslegender (1904); Herr Arnes Penningar (1904); Nils Holgerssons Underbara Resa (1906-7), a book for children, recounting a small boy's remarkable adventures on a journey through Sweden on the back of a wild-goose, embodying at the same time a series of stories touching on Swedish nature and history; En Saga om en Saga (1908); Liljecronas Hem (1911); Körkarlen (1912); Dunungen, a comedy (1914); Kejsarn av Portugallien (1914); Troll och Människor (1915); Bannlyst (1918) and Kavaljersnoveller (1918); as well as a volume of essays entitled Hem och Stat, published in 1911. Most of her books have been translated into English and other languages.

Honours and marks of esteem began gradually to come to her. In 1907 she was given a doctor's degree by Upsala University; in 1909 the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel prize for literature, and subsequently she was elected one of its 18 members — the first woman to be elected since its foundation in the 18th century. She purchased and restored the old farm in Värmland which was the home of her fathers.

See M. Kristenson, Selma Lagerlöf (1917); O. I. Levertin, Selma Lagerlöf (1904).