Lagerkvist Per 1891 - 1974 (83)

Bitter, too, to be forced to acknowledge in one's heart how little love has to do with kindness.


Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (1891 - 1974) was a world-renowned Swedish writer who won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Literature.

He was born on May 23, 1891, in Småland, a historic district in southern Sweden, and was the last of seven children of a religious, traditional family. From his adolescence he moved away from the religious beliefs of his home and focused on writing. Lagerkvist wrote poetry, plays, novels, short stories and essays.

In his early years Lagerkvist advocated modernist and aesthetically radical views, one of his first works being Ångest (Agony, 1916), a collection of poems with intense frustration and anxiety about death, World War I and his existential crisis. He tried to explore how a person can find a meaningful life in a world where a war kills millions for no apparent reason. Pessimism gradually faded as evidenced by his later works, Det eviga leendet (The Eternal Smile, 1920), the autobiographical novel Gäst hos verkligheten (Guest of Reality, 1925), (The Lost Life, 1927), in which faith dominates man.

Ten years after "Agony" he wrote the poetry collection Hjärtats sånger (Songs of the Heart) (1926) describing his pride and love for his second wife, whom he had recently married. This collection established him as one of the leading Swedish poets of his generation. Bödeln's short novel ("The Hangman", 1933), later adapted for the theater (The Hangman, 1934), shows his growing concern for the totalitarianism and barbarism that began sweeping across Europe in the years before World War II.

The 1944 novel Dvärgen (The Dwarf), an ironic tale of reasonless evil, was the first to bring him international attention. This was followed by Låt människan leva (Let Man Live, 1949), and then Barabbas (1950), which was hailed as a masterpiece and established him in the world literary scene.

Lagerkvist died in Stockholm in 1974 at the age of 83, and his wife died in 1967.