Poisonings, love affairs, and DaVinci’s Last Supper: the moral duality of the Italian Renaissance from the perspective of the court dwarf. Pars Lagerkvist’s Nobel Prize winning novel is a provoking examination of human nature and evil.
Par Lagerkvist was born in 1891 in Vaxjo, a small episcopal town in Sweden where his father was a railway worker. He was raised within a bourgeois, religious milieu, where his family read from the Bible at night, accompanied by the sound of trains whistling past. His childhood and adolescence were calm, but he was troubled, probably as a result of his religious education, by a sense, which was passed over in silence at the period, of the overwhelming mystery of existence.
At secondary school he lost his faith. He expressed his radicalism in numerous ways; he frequented the Red Club, a group with progressive opinions. He explored socialism, Darwinism and scientism. Despite his radical tendencies, he retained an affection and a nostalgia for a pure faith for its own sake, although he disapproved of the forms in which it found expression.
When Lagerkvist became a student in 1910, he was convinced that his vocation was to write. In 1913 he decided to abandon his History of Art studies at the University of Uppsala to move to Paris. He had already published two collections of short stories. A Swedish critic remarked that the first collection contained 1200 words and 12000 suspension marks…
Paer Lagerkvist - World Literature ..
He spent the war years in Denmark where he published Angest (Anguish, poems, 1916), which contained the first expressionist poems to appear in Sweden. He married a Danish woman. Several years, later, however, the couple separated, and Lagerkvist remarried in Sweden. But it was in Denmark that he began to study theatre. An admirer of Strindberg and critic of naturalism, he wrote in his essay, Theatre (1918) that: “Our era is, through its lack of equilibrium and heterogeneity, baroque and fantastic – much more fantastic than realism can convey.” Lagerkvist’s success as a writer lies precisely in the combination of a symbolist agenda with an eye for realist detail. Between 1918 and 1928 he demonstrated a considerable diversity as a dramatic writer.
In the 1920s he spent long periods of time in Italy and France. He published Cruel Stories in 1924, and Guest of Reality, in 1925. The latter, often described as the most autobiographical of his works, dealt not only with the confusion engendered by his crisis of faith, but also with the metaphysical meditation which this inspired.