If you enjoy reading books written in Swedish, this list of the best Swedish authors will satisfy your appetite for great literature.
If you look in any bookstore in person or online, you’ll find that Swedish authors are ubiquitous. The first known written Swedish literature dates back to 800 AD. Of course, Swedish books have evolved a great deal since then. Like Australian authors, Swedish authors tend to write stories that reflect events and circumstances they lived.
We’ve assembled a list of the best Swedish authors who have made significant contributions to the world of Swedish literature.
- 1. John Ajvide Lindqvist, 1968 –
- 2. Astrid Lindgren, 1907 – 2002
- 3. Henning Mankell, 1948 – 2015
- 4. Per Olov Enquist, 1934 – 2020
- 5. Jan Guillou, 1944 –
- 6. Pär Lagerkvist, 1891 – 1974
- 7. Jonas Jonasson, 1961 –
- 8. Hjalmar Söderberg, 1869 – 1941
- 9. Johan August Strindberg, 1849 – 1912
- 10. Kerstin Ekman, 1933 –
1. John Ajvide Lindqvist, 1968 –
Best known as the author of Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist is one of the world’s most prolific authors of horror fiction. His novels have been translated into 29 languages, making him an international bestseller. During his career, he has written scripts for television series, short stories, screenplays, novels, and non-fiction.
Let the Right One In was written in seven months, but it took Lindquist several years to find a publisher. The Swedish author has also written several zombie novels. His stories often reveal shocking truths about society that translate to truths about humanity in the real world.
Interestingly, Lindquist spent 12 years performing standup comedy, which evolved after he fell in love with magic as a pre-teen. He excelled at both, winning a silver medal for close-up magic in a Nordic card trick championship. His writing frequently involves at least a hint of magic and supernatural elements. He also tends in a style that is found in folk tales.
2. Astrid Lindgren, 1907 – 2002
Voted Swede of the century in 1999, Astrid Lindgren was an author best known for her children’s books. Her books have been translated into more than 100 languages. Her series include Emil of Lönneberga, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, and, most well-known to American audiences, Pippi Longstocking. Born in a picturesque town in southern Sweden, Lindgren was the second of four children. Her father was a tenant farmer, and her mother was a housewife. Lindgren’s parents supported her passion for writing, which began when she was a child.
Her first novel, The Confidences of Britt-Mari, was published in 1944. She was then hired to work as an editor for Raben and Sjogren. Astrid Lindgren was a vocal advocate for children’s rights and animal welfare, fighting against corporal punishment and violence. She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, a Swedish alternative Nobel Prize, which recognizes those who support nonviolence and justice. Astrid Lindgren died in 2002, but her works remain popular worldwide.
3. Henning Mankell, 1948 – 2015
Henning Mankell is a Swedish writer known for his brilliant detective series Kurt Wallander. He wrote more than 40 novels and plays during his lifetime as well as screenplays for film and television.
His work has been translated into 45 languages. Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm and later moved to Paris, where he became an activist and writer. Mankell has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, the Nils Holgersson prize, and the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. In addition to his crime fiction, he authored many children’s books.
4. Per Olov Enquist, 1934 – 2020
Throughout his lifetime, Per Olov Enquist was recognized as a world-renowned writer and playwright, having written several novels, essays, and travel books before his death in 2020 following a long illness. The recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Selma Lagerlof Prize, Enquist’s work has been translated into a dozen languages. He also received awards from the Nordic Council and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. Enquist has been praised as one of the most influential writers from Scandinavia.
Before becoming a novelist, Enquist worked as a journalist and columnist, writing for numerous newspapers and magazines in Scandinavia. He also worked as a debate moderator on Swedish television. His novel, The Royal Physician’s Visit, won him international acclaim. Per Olov, Enquist had a particular interest in biographical and historical subjects and often explored themes of religious and philosophical ideas in his work.
5. Jan Guillou, 1944 –
Jan Guillou began his career in the public eye as an investigative journalist in Sweden when he uncovered a story about an underground intelligence organization in the country. Currently, he co-owns one of the biggest media companies in Sweden. Guillou won the Great Journalist Award in 1984 and the Manadens Book award in 2000. He was also awarded the Norwegian prize for historical writing. He was formerly the second highest-earning writer in Sweden after Astrid Lindgren.
His first novel was about a fictional Swedish spy named Carl Hamilton. The book was adapted to a film, and Guillou followed that success by creating a series of 10 spy fiction books with that same character. He then wrote a follow-up book called Hamlin, in the same vein. Arguably, his best book series is The Crusades Trilogy.
6. Pär Lagerkvist, 1891 – 1974
Often described as the founder of Swedish 20th-century literature, Pär Lagerkvist was a renowned writer whose intense private life reflected his creative process and revealed the significance of his literary calling. His writings have received considerable critical attention and have been translated into many languages.
In his early years, Lagerkvist was influenced by modernist and radicalized ideas. He traveled extensively, living in Paris and Copenhagen for long periods. In his early twenties, Lagerkvist wrote his first book, a short prose piece called Manniskor. After World War I, Lagerkvist was involved in socialist movements and the anarchist movement. In the early 1930s, though, he recognized the danger of violence.
He wrote his poem Bodeln as a protest against brutality in the world. He was encouraged to rewrite it as a drama and was subsequently performed as a play in Amsterdam and London. His later novel, Barabbas, marked a new direction in his writing that reflected his changed world views.
7. Jonas Jonasson, 1961 –
Jonas Jonasson is a Swedish author of five novels that have sold 16 million copies in 46 countries. Jonas Jonasson was born in Vaxjo, southern Sweden. He studied languages at the University of Gothenburg. He began his career as a journalist but eventually turned to writing fiction. After a stint as a media consultant, Jonasson launched a production company and set off on the road to literary fame.
His first book, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, became a runaway bestseller in Sweden. His most well-known book in the U.S. is The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Jonasson has amassed several awards and honors, including a national award for journalism, the best novel of the year, and a Swedish equivalent of the Emmys.
8. Hjalmar Söderberg, 1869 – 1941
Listed among the greats of Swedish literature, Hjalmar Söderberg is recognized as Sweden’s national poet. One of the best-known of his collections of writings is Historietter. His contributions to the Swedish literary canon are largely unrivaled and have been translated into over twenty languages. His novels and short stories are some of the most readable and memorable pieces of literature produced in Sweden.
Söderberg was born in Stockholm in 1869 but spent the last thirty years of his life in Copenhagen. He was known to be a voracious reader and writer and wrote for a variety of publications. He was also a prolific writer of poems and short stories and his works have been adapted for the screen in both Swedish and English. He is credited with putting a modern spin on the Nordic classics. He has been honored with a number of awards and honors. Most notably, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Söderberg in 1939.
9. Johan August Strindberg, 1849 – 1912
Among the great Swedish writers, Johan August Strindberg is best remembered as a playwright. He was also a poet, an essayist and a painter. Strindberg was born in Stockholm in 1849. His father was a shipping agent and his mother was a domestic servant. In 1875, Strindberg married the woman he later described in his autobiographical novel, The Son of a Servant. Strindberg’s first play, Master Olof, was inspired by the writings of Gustave Guiche and Henri de Lavedan and portrays the 16th-century Reformation leader, Olaus Petri. Strindberg’s first marriage ended in divorce, as did his second. Afterward, he lived in the archipelago of Kymmend.
He was an influential writer, much admired by the working class. His book, The Father, describes the tangled relationships in a working-class home between the father, wife and son. In the late 1880s, Strindberg produced several of his most important works. His plays foreshadowed the theatre of the absurd and expressionism.
10. Kerstin Ekman, 1933 –
As one of Sweden’s most prolific authors, Kerstin Ekman has created a diverse body of work comprising 17 novels. She has received several awards and has been a member of the Swedish Academy. She has also been awarded the Selma Lagerloef Prize. Born in Risinge, Ostergotland County, Sweden, Kerstin Ekman’s father was an agricultural engineer. Ekman went to school at Uppsala University, specializing in literary history, graduating with a master’s degree in 1957.
In the 1960s, Kerstin Ekman started writing detective novels. Her first novel was Tre sma maestare, which was a winner of the Swedish Crime Fiction Prize. She then wrote Lopa varg, which explores the relationship between humans and animals. An example of this is The Dog, about the relationship between a man and his dog. Her most recent novel, Blackwater, was an international bestseller. Ekman writes on various themes, including the role of women in a small Swedish town, the dynamics of a community, and individual responsibility in a post-anthropocentric world.
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