Kerstin Ekman (b. 1933)

In her wealth of work since her first breakthrough publication in 1974, the Swedish novelist Kerstin Ekman has explored themes such as the transformation of Sweden through industrialisation, the interrelation of the Sami, Swedish and Norwegian cultures and, latterly, ecocritical perspectives and cultural perspectives.

Black and white photograph of a lighthaired young woman reaching for a book from a bookshelf
Swedish author Kerstin Ekman stands at a bookshelf in her home in 1959. Photo: Upplandsmuseet (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

The Swedish novelist Kerstin Ekman was born in Risinge, Östergötland, in 1933 and gained a degree at the University of Uppsala. Having initially established herself as a thriller writer, she made her breakthrough with a tetralogy tracing the transformation of Sweden through industrialisation and urbanisation from the perspectives of several generations of female characters: Häxringarna (1974) (Witches’ Rings, 1997), Springkällan (1976) (The Spring, 2001), Änglahuset (1979) (The Angel House, 2002), and En stad av ljus (1983) (City of Light, 2003).

Rövarna i Skuleskogen (1988) (The Forest of Hours, 1998) is a bold exploration of culture and identity in Western Europe, the central character a troll who lives to be 500 years old. While Händelser vid vatten (1993) (Blackwater, 1995) utilises the framework of the thriller to investigate culture and memory in the context of the sparsely-populated north of Sweden, the trilogy - consisting of Guds barmhärtighet (1999) (God’s Mercy, 2009), Sista rompan (2002) (The Last String) and Skraplotter (2003) (Scratchcards) - uses a similar border setting but develops the interconnections of Norwegian, Sami and Swedish cultures throughout the twentieth century to investigate themes such as identity, narrative and art.

The essay Herrarna i skogen (2007) (Masters of the Forest) is a study of the forest in Sweden, linking cultural history with ecocritical perspectives. Grand final i skojarbranschen (2011) (Grand finale in the Swindler Business) is a novel problematising celebrity, gender and identity in the context of a critical exploration of post-war Swedish society.

Ekman has received several major prizes, including the Swedish August Prize for fiction in 1993 and 2003 and the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 1994. Elected to the Swedish Academy in 1978, Ekman effectively left in 1989 in protest against the Academy’s failure to express support for Salman Rushdie following the death sentence placed on him by Iranian fundamentalists.


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