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Författarsagan som blev verklighet: Pär Lagerkvists väg till debuten 1912
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Literature.
2004 (Swedish)In: Samlaren: tidskrift för svensk litteraturvetenskaplig forskning, ISSN 0348-6133, E-ISSN 2002-3871, Vol. 125, p. 112-171Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Håkan Möller, Författarsagan som blev verklighet. Pär Lagerkvists väg till debuten 1912. (How the Writer’s Tale Became Reality: Pär Lagerkvist’s Path to His First Publication, 1912.)

During the last weeks of December 1906 Pär Lagerkvist wrote a short story and called it "The Tale of a Writer". He was fifteen years old and had just finished his first senior term at high school. The story tells how fifteen-year-old Erik Burén succeeds in realising his dream of educating himself and — above all — of becoming a writer.

"The Tale" shows how early Lagerkvist resolutely determined to concentrate on becoming a writer. It also shows how soon he decided to make use of literary form to work through the violently conflicting feelings involved in his dream. "The Tale" also makes clear how far the aspiring writer had already staked out the path he had chosen for himself, a path which he then followed with remarkable single-mindedness right up to his debut in print in 1912, overcoming the obstacles harsh reality placed in his way.

As I hope to demonstrate, many traces of both a need and a determination to discuss and resolve, in one way or another, the problems raised by his dream of becoming a writer and by the role that being a writer would demand of him, can be found particularly in his early attempts at prose, but also in the school essays, poems and dramatic works he wrote during the period before his first published work. A series of themes closely connected with the dream and role of being a writer appear in one form or another in the texts he produced during this period: free thinking (especially in religion and politics), opposition/revolt/ breaking away (the need for revolt, and the guilt feelings this causes) together with the struggle, exclusion and individualism involved in breaking away. This thematic mix also includes a strongly idealised and romantically coloured conception of the writer’s role.

An essential stage in the development of a writer’s identity is making contact with existing literature and the work of established writers. Lakerkvist showed an early interest in literature that was considered suspect at home, and this orientation and his curiosity were considerably stimulated during his senior high school years. Classes in Swedish language and literature gave him a chance to deepen his knowledge of the work of writers who had already caught his eye: Strindberg, Geijerstam and Fröding, to mention the most important. During this period it was above all the Strindberg of the 1880s, and in particular the widely accepted Strindberg of Röda rummet, Mäster Olof, Svenska öden och äfventyr and Hemsöborna, that Lagerkvist developed a passion for. This Strindberg for the most part accords with what was early approved in the histories of literature and dominated teaching in secondary schools and universities well into the twentieth century. For Lagerkvist, Strindberg was first and foremost the pattern for what a writer should be: a heroic radical who, at the head of a new generation, breaks down what is old and opens up to the embryo writer a new road to the future.

Lagerkvist was a great admirer of Gustaf af Geijerstam, a colleague of Strindberg’s that Strindberg came to despise. Lagerkvist particularly valued Geijerstam’s descriptions of the lives of ordinary people, finding in Geijerstam’s work inspiration for his own writing.

At the turn of the century, the young in particular were specially interested in the truth-seeking social critics of the 1880s. Strindberg was the idol of many. We may see a connection between, on the one hand, Lagerkvist’s orientation towards what he considered this pioneering generation of eighties writers and the tendency in his own work towards social engagement and naturalistic description and, on the other, his attraction to those among his fellow-students who, during his senior school years, expressed themselves in various ways as radicals. We should not underestimate the importance of Lagerkvist’s circle of friends for the development of his view of himself as a man apart and a suitable subject for creative writing. Above all, the support and encouragement of his friend Pontus Fransson was clearly extremely important during the difficult and uncertain years after his matriculation in 1910, a time when he was working hard to make his dream of becoming a writer come true. Together with his brother Gunnar Lagerkvist, Fransson was his most important supporter in this connection.

But to succeed as a writer in the market-place one needs more than the encouragement of friends. Lagerkvist made great efforts to establish contact with people who would be able to add credibility to his work by offering good advice, being ready with letters of recommendation or, best of all, accepting his MSS for publication. He became his own salesman, diligent and dauntless. It is no surprise that Erik Burén in "The Tale of a Writer" succeeds in his attempts to find work as a journalist, educate himself, and become a writer. Lagerkvist himself failed to get a job as a journalist and his university studies led nowhere, but every set­back seems merely to have renewed and reinforced his determination to write. In moments of defeat he took refuge in writing — as he was in any case compelled to do by economic circumstances. But it was not until 1913 that he became a regular contributor to Stormklockan, mostly with reviews. His second and third books, Två sagor om livet and Ordkonst och bildkonst, came out that year. When his first book, Människor, had been published the year before, he had been only 21. It was a debut that had forced the debutant himself to pay the cost of printing, but nonetheless a decisive step in making his Tale of a Writer come true. It brought him a special kind of victory: making him visible — as a writer.

English translation by Silvester Mazzarella

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2004. Vol. 125, p. 112-171
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-70658OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-70658DiVA, id: diva2:98569
Available from: 2005-04-26 Created: 2005-04-26 Last updated: 2017-11-21

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