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Jenny Bergenmar

Making way for a new authorship. Selma Lagerlöf and women networks in Denmark and the Netherlands.


An important key to the success following Selma Lagerlöf's first novel, Gösta Berlings saga (1891), was the women networks that made her debut known in Europe. In November 1891, before the whole novel had been published in Sweden, she read parts of it for a 200 person audience in the Women’s Reading Club in Copenhagen. The reading was organized by Sophie Alberti and Ida Falbe-Hansen, and the latter also became Lagerlöfs translator. The Danish translation received wide critical acclaim and paved the way for the book's reception in Europe. The following years, the novel was translated to German, English, Dutch and Finnish.

There are over 40 000 letters to Selma Lagerlöf held in the National Library of Sweden, concerning her authorship and literary work. The project “Reading Lagerlöf. The Letters from the Public to Selma Lagerlöf 1891–1940” examines letters from ordinary readers representing a cross-section of society: men and women of all ages and social classes from both urban and rural settings. Due to the size of the collection, we have decided to survey her Swedish audience, but there are also many letters from other parts of Europe – accounts of reading her work, requests for permission to translate them and invitations to different organizations and societies. In this paper I will discuss how this collection of letters may be of interest for the COST Action, using Lagerlöfs contacts with women in Denmark and the Netherlands in connection to her debut, as examples.

AsK, September 2012

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