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Why do the French and Italians love the Swedish author Stig Dagerman?

29.09.2008 - (idw) Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

Stig Dagerman is one of Sweden's most widely read and beloved authors in France and Italy. In other countries, on the other hand, he has not been as successful. Literary scholar Karin Dahl at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden examines in her dissertation how Dagerman's works have been received by French and Italian readers. Stig Dagerman's complete works have been translated into French, which is unusual for a Nordic author. His plays are continually being staged by French theaters, and his books are being published in new editions. Following this success in France, the Italians have taken Dagerman to their hearts, and he is referred to in Italy as "the Swedish Camus." The French call him "the Nordic Rimbaud."

Of course, Dagerman is read as a foreign author in these two countries, and his Nordic exoticism has largely contributed to the mythical image he has generated. However, the enabling force for this mythologizing is his suicide, as is often the case with myths about artists.

Dagerman's Nordic origins trigger an avalanche of associations in his critics, with social, literary, and climate connections. These references coincide with already existing myths about the Nordic region, such as it being a remote place where "eternal winter" prevails.

The anguish in Dagerman's texts more than satisfies readers' expectations regarding what Nordic culture might be like, including notions of "Nordic melancholy." In this, of course, they have also been influenced by Ingmar Bergman. Karin Dahl stresses that Dagerman has been extremely well received and that Dagerman's gloominess is indeed seductive. We recognize the French existentialists. Dagerman­the native of Älvkarleby­thus seems to reflect something in their own national soul.

Karin Dahl also takes up questions that involve the position of translated literature, the reading of foreign literature, and more specifically the image of Sweden conveyed in fiction. What is it that makes a certain foreign author and not another be added to the literary canon in a certain country? Stig Dagerman's success in Paris is shown to have been a key to his discovery in other countries, primarily Italy, but also for his being rediscovered in his native Sweden.

Dissertation title: La mythification d'un écrivain étranger. La réception de l'ouvre de Stig Dagerman en France et en Italie.

For further information, please contact Karin Dahl, cell phone: +46 (0)707-67 11 31,

Press contact: Barbro Ryder Liljegren, Faculty of Arts, University of Gothenburg , phone: +46 (0)31-786 48 65;

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