From the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century
In the 1880s naturalism, promoted in Denmark by G. Brandes, became the dominant literary fashion also in Sweden, and had the maximum representative in JA Strindberg, who inspired novelists such as AC Lefflern, V. Benedictsson, and opera singers like O. Hansson. If in the 1890s Strindberg himself abandoned naturalistic modules to approach new expressive forms, at the turn of the century the first to violently attack naturalist principles in the name of recovering the aesthetic and moral values belonging to the national tradition was V. von Heidenstam. Animated by a similar faith in the positive force of art, refined poets such as G. Fröding and EA Karlfeldt draw the lifeblood of their poetry from the nature and life of their native regions, Dalecarlia and Värmland respectively. The fiction of the Nobel laureate writer Sweden Lagerlöf owes its deep rhythm and mythical resonances to the legends and folk tales of Värmlandfor literature in 1909. Stockholm, which already appears in the works of the naturalist Strindberg, returns as a protagonist in the novels of H. Söderberg, a typical representative of the uncertainty of the end of the century that also affects Sweden. The dullness of existence appears in the poetry of B. Bergman, while it is the life of the province that dominates the narrative and theatrical production of H. Bergman, one of the most notable figures in Swedish literature. Between aestheticism and classicism the poetic vocation of V. Ekelund is still affirmed, in which the tradition of the ‘Scania Poetic School’, formed around Hansson, culminates. The tendency to a greater simplicity of style shows, since the beginning of his vast and successful production, the poet A. Österling, culturally and sentimentally linked to Italy. The tradition of the Swedish song in the style of Bellman continues with B. Sjöberg, popular author of Fridas visor (“Songs of Frida”, 1922), and with D. Andersson, renewing himself with N. Ferlin.
● Even in the neutral Sweden, the First World War gave rise to a crisis of values and the birth of new expectations, also due to the renewal and multiplication of contacts with other European countries. The first and highest interpreter of the profound unease and anxiety of his generation is PF Lagerkvist, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951, poet, thinker and playwright whose metaphysical anxiety is expressed now in distorting expressionist violence, now in humanistic research. harmony, now, finally, in rarefied otherworldly atmospheres. Among the first to welcome the modernist lesson of Lagerkvist’s lyric, the Finnish Swedish-speaking poets G. Björling, H. Diktonius, and especially E. Södergran. The new aesthetic creed is definitively imposed with the publication of the anthology Fem unga (“Five young men”, 1929), on the initiative of A. Lundkvist, who will continue to open new literary horizons to his compatriots, with a particular interest in American cultures. Among the young people who debut in Fem unga is the self-taught H. Martinson, while the same uncertain climate of ferment and research is shared, albeit with very personal solutions, by the refined B. Malmberg, H. Gullberg, K. Boye, KR Gierow.
● Literary phenomenon typical of the 1930s, but with twenty-year roots and consequences in the two subsequent decades, is the birth and affirmation of a so-called proletarian literature by writers almost always self-taught, coming from the urban or rural proletariat: the aforementioned Martinson, V. Moberg, EE Johnson, I. Lo-Johansson. The Second World War is experienced by many, in the neutral Sweden, with a feeling of guilt on which the influence of existentialism of French derivation is grafted. Gathered around KG Vennberg and E. Lindegren, the young authors refer to models such as TS Eliot, F. Kafka, J.-P. Sartre and A. Camus, confronting the anxieties that run through all of Western civilization. Embodiment of the myth of the 1940s, SH Dagerman seals with his tragic death the inability to counteract the absurdity of existence. Among the writers who debuted in recent years is also L. Ahlin, who in his long career contributes to the renewal of Swedish fiction.
From the 1950s to the early 21st century
It is difficult to identify a commonality of purpose or style in the rich production of the 1950s, in which L. Forssell, poet as well as appreciated playwright, the Catholic B. Trotzig, the narrators F. Fridell, Sweden Arnér and A. Lindgren, make their debut. children’s writer and creator of the successful character of Pippi Langstrump (“Pippi Longstocking”). The literary tradition survives in a cultured poetic line that claims the priority of aesthetic values: it is in this period that the great poetry of BG Ekelöf and the voice high and rigorous by TG Tranströmer.
● An attempt at social appeal, more radically and politically oriented than in the past, broadened the horizons of the ordered, satisfied and sleepy Swedish society at the end of the 1960s to give voice to geographically distant political and social problems: the war in Vietnam, the cultural revolution in China, apartheid in South Africa are observed in person by writers such as Sweden Lidman, J. Myrdal, Sweden Lindqvist, who adopt reportage as the only form of literature acceptable from an ethical point of view. Symbol of these years is the poem (1965) on the war in Vietnam by G. Sönnevi.
● According to RELATIONSHIPSPLUS.COM, the revival of fiction, and in particular of the novel, is the true sign of the renewal of literature at the end of the 1960s., although never completely disappeared, interest in revisiting the past, evoked with a new socio-political awareness. In this line are placed Sweden Delblanc and K. Ekman (Häxringarna “Dance of witches”, 1974; Stad ai ljus “City of light”, 1983). PO Enquist investigates the past by experimenting with new narrative and dramatic techniques, while the recovery of local traditions, albeit with very different intentions and outcomes, is central in G. Tunström and T. Lindgren. The renewed taste for narration is also evident in the literary biographies, which multiplied in the 1980s to form a fruitful and characteristic vein, of which we will all remember the discussed August Strindberg (1979) by O. Lagerkrantz, a true master of the genre also in autobiographical writings in which he investigates the mechanisms of artistic creation. The operation of I. Bergman is not very different, who after having published the subject of the film Fanny och Alexander (1982) as a novel, dedicates a series of volumes to his artistic training and to the merciless re-enactment of family history. An open criticism of the parents’ pedagogical methods is also Barndom («Infancy», 1982) by J. Myrdal, son of the two champions of Swedish socialism A. and KG Myrdal.
● The theater, after a decade of attempts focused on political representations and experimentation, becomes a place of expression for some of the best talents, such as the aforementioned Enquist, already known for his novels, and above all L. Norén, who after a painful poetic path chooses the theater as ‘the only possible way of confrontation’.
● From the end of the 1980s onwards we witness, in fiction as in opera, often experimented alternately by new authors, to the explosion of an intense and chaotic activity. Dulling all ideology, we pass from relativism to the denial of any objective reality. The works draw their reality solely from the text, and if at times the attention to writing explores the limits of virtuosity, at other times the desire to merge genres and styles dominates, as happens to P. Nilsson, who crosses the boundaries between narrative and scientific dissemination, or to P. Odensten in his visionary experiments, or to P. Kihlgård, skilled manipulator of myths. Also worth mentioning are: U. Lundell, the Swedish ‘Kerouac; K. Östegren; Sweden Larsson, also active as a poet; M. Kandre, true artist of the word and careful interpreter of child psychology.