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Author photo. Selma Lagerlöf - photo edited by Pieter Kuiper

Selma Lagerlöf - photo edited by Pieter Kuiper

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Selma Lagerlöf was born in Östra Emterwik in the province of Värmland, western Sweden, and raised at Mårbacka, the family's estate there. Her parents were Erik Gustav Lagerlöf and his wife Louise Wallroth. She had five siblings. An early illness left her lame in both legs for a while, but she recovered and later said she had a happy childhood. She began writing poetry at an early age. She was educated at home, and in 1881 went to Stockholm to train as a teacher. In 1885, she took a job at a girls' high school in Landskrona, where she wrote her first novel, Gösta Berlings Saga (1891). The book went unnoticed at the time but later became her most popular, and played a part in the Swedish Romantic revival of the 1890s. In 1895, she won a scholarship from the Swedish Academy and gave up teaching to devote herself to her writing. After a visit to Italy, she published Antikrists mirakler (The Miracles of the Antichrist, 1897). With her close friend Sophie Elkan, she took a trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1899 that inspired her book Jerusalem (two volumes, 1901–02), her first big hit, which established her as one of the leading Swedish novelists of her generation. Other works included the children's geography book Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, 1906). In 1909, Lagerlöf became the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. World War I disturbed her deeply, and she wrote little until publishing her memoirs Mårbacka (1922), Ett barns memoarer (Memories of My Childhood, 1930), and Dagbok för Selma Lagerlöf (The Diary of Selma Lagerlöf 1932). She also produced a trilogy of historical novels set in Värmland: Löwensköldska ringen (The Ring of the Löwenskölds, 1925), Charlotte Löwensköld (1925), and Anna Svärd (1928). She was deeply attached to her childhood home Mårbacka, which was sold after her father’s death, and used her Nobel Prize money to buy it back. She was also a friend of the German-Jewish writer Nelly Sachs, and helped her escape the Nazis to Sweden.
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