The writer who gave away her Nobel Prize (1940)

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Friday, 16 March 2018

1940 -

Today we commemorate Selma Lagerlöf, who died today in 1940. Selma Lagerlöf was a Swedish writer, perhaps best known for her Nils Holgerson book “The wonderful adventures of Nils”. She didn’t always plan to become a writer though. Writing was more of a hobby at first. However, this would change drastically.

Writing isn’t just a hobby any more
Selma had written poems as a kid, but never published any. She went on to become a teacher, but she never stopped writing on the side. She entered a literary contest with a few chapters of her first book. She won the contest and was allowed to finish the book “The Story of Gösta Berling”. It wasn’t a hit from the start. But when the book was translated to Danish, a Danish reviewer loved it. She rose up in popularity and focussed more on writing.

Giving away a Nobel Prize
In 1909 Lagerlöf won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This was for her “lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception”. At the start of World War II, she sent her Nobel Prize to Finland in order to raise money to fight the soviets. This touched the Finnish and they were able to raise enough money.

360 trivial fact
In her writing career Selma met the female writer Sophie Elkan, who became a very good friend. Their letters suggest Lagerlöf fell deeply in love with her. The women travelled the world, from Egypt to Palestine.


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