Lagerkvist, Pär Fabian

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Lagerkvist, Pär Fabian

(pâr fä`bēän lä`gərkvĭst), 1891–1974, Swedish poet, dramatist, and novelist. Lagerkvist is considered one of the most significant figures of modern Swedish literature. His central concern is the human soul, his main theme the problem of good and evil. With the short novel The Hangman (1933, tr. 1936) and the play The Man Without A Soul (1936, tr. 1944) he became a major spokesman against totalitarianism. Midsummer Dream in a Workhouse (1941, tr. 1953) and Let Man Live (1949, tr. 1951) are experimental dramas. Of his novels, The Dwarf (1944, tr. 1945) deals with human destructiveness, while Barabbas (1950, tr. 1951), The Sibyl (1956, tr. 1958), and The Death of Ahasuerus (1960, tr. 1962) concern the human search for God. Lagerkvist's verse, marked by simple diction and imagery, includes Songs of the Heart (1926) and Evening Land (1953, tr. 1975). He received the 1951 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bibliography

See his autobiographical Guest of Reality (1925); studies by W. Weathers (1968), R. D. Spector (1973), and L. Sjöberg (1976); bibliography by A. Ryberg (1964).

Lagerkvist, Pär Fabian

 

Born May 23, 1891, in Växjö. Swedish writer; member of the Swedish Academy (1940).

Lagerkvist graduated from the University of Uppsala in 1912. In his youth he participated in the socialist movement. In 1912 he published the collection of novellas People. Lagerkvist’s early poetry and prose works revealed his interest in formalistic innovations. The collection of novellas Iron and Men (1915) and such expressionistic poems as “Anguish” (1916) and “Chaos” (1919) caught the pessimism engendered by World War I (1914–18).

The play The Eternal Smile (1920) and such expressionistic dramas as The Last Man (1917) and The Invisible One (1923) are characterized by the representation of reality as absurd and chaotic and an interest in the problem of evil as an abstract metaphysical principle, an essential element in Lagerkvist’s work. The realistic principle intensified in the satirical collection Evil Tales (1924) and in the autobiographical work Guest of Reality (1925).

Lagerkvist’s books of the 1930’s enunciated the necessity to fight fascism, which he considered the extreme manifestation of eternal evil—for example, the allegorical novella The Hangman (1933), the collection of essays The Clenched Fist (1934), the collection of satirical short stories At That Time (1935), the play The Man Without a Soul (1936), the poetry collection The Song and the Battle (1940), and Lagerkvist’s masterpiece, The Dwarf (1944).

In his postwar books, Lagerkvist related the problem of evil to man’s complicated moral yearning—for example, the collected poems The Evening Land (1953) and the plays and philosophical novels and novellas on biblical subjects. Barabbas (1950), The Sibyl (1956), and The Death of Ahasuerus (1960). He received the Nobel Prize in 1951.

WORKS

Prosa, [vols.] 1–6. Stockholm, 1951–60.
Dramatik, [vols.] 1–3. Stockholm, 1956.
Dikter. Stockholm, 1965.
In Russian translation. [Novelly.] In Shvedskaia novella XIX-XX vv. Moscow, 1964.
V miregost’: Povesti i rasskazy. Introduction by S. Belokrinitskaia. Moscow, 1972.

REFERENCES

Oberholzer, O. Pär Lagerkvist: Studien zu seiner Prosa und seinen Dramen. Heidelberg, 1958.
Henmark, K. Frä mlingen Lagerkvist. Stockholm, 1966.
Synpunkter på Pär Lagerkvist. Stockholm [1966].
Malmström, G. Menneskehjertets verden: Hovedmotiv i Pär Lagerkvists diktning. Oslo, 1970.
Scandinavica. New York-London, May 1971.

A. A. MATSEVICH