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Around Karlstad: Selma Lagerlöf’s house at Mårbacka

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Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940) was the first female winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1909, and is arguably Sweden’s best-known author of her generation and familiar to every Swede. Her fantastical prose was seen as a revolt against the social realism of late nineteenth-century writing; commissioned to write a geography book for Swedish children, Lagerlöf came up with The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, a saga of myth and legend infused with affection for the Swedish countryside, which became compulsory reading at every school in the country. Lagerlöf never married, but had a long-term relationship with another woman, though this wasn’t generally acknowledged until their love letters were published some fifty years after Lagerlöf’s death. The first woman to gain membership of the Swedish Literary Academy, her be-hatted features now appear on 20kr notes, which Swedes affectionately refer to as “Selmas”.

Her house, complete with portico supporting a wonderfully long balcony, was completely rebuilt after Lagerlöf won the Nobel Prize. Upstairs is her study, much as she left it, along with a panelled library and an extensive collection of her work.

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