Lidman, Sara

(1923-)
   Recognized as one of Sweden's foremost writers of her generation, Lidman is a best-selling novelist and playwright who is also widely known for her political activism. Born in a small village in northern Sweden, she contracted tuberculosis during her youth and spent considerable time at sanatoriums. Her opportunities for education were limited, but she managed to prepare for her university matriculation examinations by correspondence study, after which she studied French, English, and pedagogy at Uppsala University. After a stint as a teacher she published her first novel, Tjardalen (1953; The Tar Pit), which has as its setting a fictional village, Eckstrask, that is modeled on her home community. Stylistically, Lidman's debut novel is a mixture of modernism and the speech patterns of the people among whom she had grown up, while thematically it sets the tone for her lifelong concern for how the weak are exploited by the strong. Its language often has a biblical ring, reflecting the religious traditions of the author's home district.
   Lidman's next novel, Hjortronlandet (1955; Cloudberry Country), takes its title from the prolific and highly prized cloudberries of northern Scandinavia, and the action takes place in an area of homesteaders similar to the setting in Knut Hamsun's novel Markens Grøde (1917; tr. Growth ofthe Soil, 1920). A collective novel, it celebrates the culture and linguistic resourcefulness of the people that Lidman knows and loves.
   The two novels Regnspiran (1958; tr. The Rain Bird, 1962) and Bara mistel (1960; Bearing Mistletoe), by contrast, have a traditional protagonist, the young woman Linda Stahl, who also hails from Lid-man's fictional Eckstrask but whose complex personality makes it difficult for her to find happiness. In both novels, family dynamics play a major part. Concerns with family return in Jag och min son (1961; My Son and I), in which the first-person narrator is a Swedish expatriate in South Africa who is working to be able to go back home to northern Sweden and take care of his son. By this time Lidman had traveled extensively in Africa, particularly in South Africa and Kenya, where she lived for a while. Her second Africa novel, Med fem diamanter (1964; With Five Diamonds), attests to her intimate understanding of Kenya and its culture. Its protagonist is a young man named Wachira who goes to Nairobi in order to earn money to pay the bride price that is customary in his tribal culture. However, his life is destroyed by the colonialist social and economic system he encounters in the city.
   For the next decade Lidman abandoned traditional fiction writing. A vocal opponent of the war in Vietnam, she wrote books and articles and gave numerous speeches against the actions of the United States and its supporters. Turning her attention to what she perceived as gross injustices in her native Sweden, she became a pioneer of literary documentarism in Scandinavia. Her best-known book in this vein is Gruva (1968; The Mine), which contains interviews with the workers at several government-owned iron ore mines in northern Sweden.
   She returned to fiction in the mid-1970s with Jernbaneepos (Railway Epic), a series of novels about the bringing of the railroad to northern Sweden. Consisting of Din tjanare hor (1977; Thy Servant Obeys), Vredens barn (1979; The Children of Wrath), Nabots sten (1981; tr. Naboth's Stone, 1989), Den underbare mannen (1983; The Marvelous Man), and Järnkronan (1985; The Iron Crown), this work draws on her own family history as it shows how local subsistence farmers were transformed into loyal and effective cogs in the capitalist machinery that was used to extract huge profits from Sweden's northern forests. Greed, materialism, and consumerism combine to destroy the traditional way of life, and the ethical and moral damage done by the railway project is epitomized by the bankruptcy and conviction for embezzlement of the railroad's main local advocate, the charismatic but impractical leader Didrik. Two additional novels, Lifsens rot (1996; The Root of Life) and Oskuldens minut (1999; A Minute of Innocence), depict the life of Didrik's family in the wake of their economic catastrophe.
   Two plays by Lidman bear mention. Her first drama, Job Klockmakares dotter (The Daughter of Job Watchmaker) was commissioned by the director of the Gothenburg City Theater. First performed on 26 December 1954, it was a huge success in Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Oslo, as well as on tour. Aina, with a sanatorium as its setting, was first performed on 25 August 1956 and was also very successful. Lidman is the recipient of several prizes, the most prestigious being the Nordic Literary Prize, which she received in 1980.
   See also Theater.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lidman, Sara — ▪ Swedish author in full  Sara Adela Lidman  born Dec. 30, 1923, Missenträsk, Swed. died June 17, 2004, Umeå  novelist, one of the most acclaimed and widely read of the post World War II generation of Swedish writers.       Lidman grew up in the… …   Universalium

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