In preparation for my Scandinavian literary tour in July, I have been delving into the life and writings of Astrid Lindgren. She was a remarkable woman. In the 1920s she had an illegitimate baby and had to place him in foster care for some years. This made her really think about children’s needs, and would hugely influence her writing. She was an early environmentalist, she wrote about bullying before it became fashionable to do so, and she influenced politics, animal welfare and helped shape decades of children’s fiction.
The first biography of Astrid Lindgren in English is Astrid Lindgren: The Women Behind Pippi Longstocking by Jens Andersen – a most interesting read. Did you know that she is the 4th most translated writer for children (after Enid Blyton, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm) and the 18th most translated writer in the world (95 different languages). Recently the diaries she kept during the war have also been translated into English and published as A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939 – 1945.
Stieg Larsson read Pippi Longstocking and decided he would depict Pippi grown up – he did this with Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lindgren has appeared on a bank note and a postage stamp, a minor planet has been named after her, there is a Lindgren theme park, her former homes are museums, and statues of her adorn several parks. Her books about the Bullerby children (in English the first one is known as The Children of Noisy Village) have given rise to ‘Bullerby Syndrome’, which is an over-rosy view of Swedishness (coloured wooden houses, crystal lakes, deep green forests and happy blond-haired children). Astrid Lindgren’s influence has been extensive.
And now a biopic about her life, focusing on the birth of her baby out of wedlock (highly scandalous in what was then a very puritanical Sweden), has been made. ‘Becoming Astrid’ was released at the Berlin Film Festival in February with Alba August as Astrid. Hopefully we will soon get to see it in Australia.
What do you think of the Pippi Longstocking stories? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
Astrid Lindgren, The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking by Jens Andersen
A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939 – 1945 by Astrid Lindgren
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