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Elin Wägner in the 1920s. Image credit: Albert Bonniers Förlag

It’s 70 years since Elin Wägner, feminist, pacifist and pioneering environmentalist, renowned author of prose fiction and journalism, was elected to the Swedish Academy. She was only the second woman ever to be elected; the first was Selma Lagerlöf, also published by Norvik Press.

Penwoman, Wägner’s classic novel from 1910 about the Swedish campaign for women’s suffrage, translated by Sarah Death and published by Norvik Press in 2009, revolves around a young female journalist, as quick-witted as she is intrepid:

 

‘Well Penwoman, you’ll soon have driven them all away,’ said the Scanian, smugly admiring his pretty reflection in the landlady’s largest pier-glass from his vantage point in the most comfortable chair.

9781870041744Penwoman, catching her breath after the heat of the battle, looked up: ‘Oh no, do you think so? I don’t mean to. But it’s impossible for me to stay calm when anybody attacks women’s suffrage.’

‘No, it can’t be easy for someone with such a pugnacious spirit to be a woman,’ he teased. ‘Tell me, Miss Penwoman,’ he said, squinting up at her, as she stood by the door, ‘wouldn’t you love to be a man?’ Penwoman screwed up her left eye and pondered for a moment.

‘No, but wouldn’t you?’ she asked in turn.

In Sweden the novel remains one of Wägner’s best-known works. Witty and poignant Penwoman, ‘beautifully translated’ (Belletrista), offers incomparable insights into the Swedish suffrage campaign. Read more about Penwoman here.

9781909408142Also available from Norvik Press is Helena Forsås-Scott’s Re-Writing the Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner (2nd ed., 2014). The first full-length study in English of Wägner’s output, it covers texts representing a wide range of genres and shows some of her work to be considerably more radical than has been observed previously. The book has been described as ‘a standard work’ on Wägner (Avain – Finnish Review of Literary Studies). Read more about Re-Writing the Scriphere.

Elin Wägner’s Penwoman, translated by Sarah Death, available at all good bookstores and online.

Helena Forsås-Scott’s Re-Writing the Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner,(2nd ed., 2014), available at all good bookstores and online.

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