Mats Öhlén, Stockhom News, July 26, 2009
The classic Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf had connections with the ideology of racial biology according to a new article that has stirred up a debate.
In the last years several famous Swedes, for example Ingemar Bergman and Ingvar Kamprad, have admitted that they had leanings towards racial biologist ideology in their youth.
This is rather sensitive in the today’s media-Sweden with a self-image of a liberal and tolerant country. Now another celebrity, Selma Lagerlöf is accused of leanings towards race biology in her youth.
It is an article by Bosse Schön published at the online debate site Newsmill.se that has stirred up emotions. He writes that although Selma Lagerlöf did reject antisemitism (she helped the German-Jewish writer Nelly Sachs to escape to Sweden) she supported a racial biologist ideology.
Bosse Schön bases his ‘accusation’ on a beauty contest in Stockholm arranged by the Swedish Race Biological Institute in 1921. This was a special kind of beauty contest in which the competitors were judged by their racial purity. Selma Lagerlöf is supposed to have donated a book and her autograph to the prices.
We must nevertheless remember that this was common sense in Sweden during the 1920´s. Sweden was in the front in the world when it comes to racial conciousness and it had since 1922 a public institute for guarding the ‘purity’ and ‘health’ of the Swedish people.
Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) is one of Sweden’s most beloved writers. Her books are most famous for their romantic and sentimental style. The most famous is ‘Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige’ (Eng. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils). She won the Nobel price in literature in 1909.