The author of the Pippi Longstocking books, Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), began a war diary the day World War II began. This diary, 15-16 handwritten booklets (including newspaper clippings which are reproduced in a selection), is now published as Astrid Lindgrens Krigsdagböcker 1939-1945 (Astrid Lindgrens War Diaries 1939-1945; Salikon förlag).
Lindgren’s war diaries were presented May 7th on the Royal Library in Stockholm, by Lena Törnquist (organiser of Lindgren’s archive), Karin Nyman (Astrid’s daughter) and Jan Bergman (author, his mother was involved in the Swedish intelligence service during WWII). The diaries begin the 1st of September 1939: “Oh! Today the war begins. Nobody wanted to believe it”.
Karin Nyman (Astrid’s daughter)
Swedes celebrated the war’s end May 7th, as the German capitulation became known, and Astrid Lindgren writes: “This is V Day! The War is over! The War is over! THE WAR IS OVER! … Insane jubilations lies this very moment over Stockholm. King’s Street is covered by inches of paper, everyone behaves as if crazy”.
The war diaries are being translated to German, Danish, Norwegian and Polish – English wasn’t mentioned, but an English edition seems very likely. Lindgren writes about developments during the war, comments upon politics with contempt for Hitler and Stalin but lots of sympathies for Norway, Finland, Britain and the US, describes troubles in eeryday life like all the rationings, and sorrow over the persecution of the Jews.
From left : Lena Törnquist (organiser of Astrid Lindgren’s archive), Karin Nyman (Astrid’s daughter) and Jan Bergman (author, his mother was involved in the Swedish intelligence service during WWII)
Astrid Lindgren was better informed than most, since she during the war worked for the clandestine mail control office, which opened and read all mail to/from abroad and military servicemen (and censored them in case they had sensitive information). From this mail she often found information not available to the general public. Some stories of tragedy from the letters are mentioned (without giving names) in the diaries. She got this sensitive job as mail controller after being recommended by the legendary Swedish policeman and criminologist Harry Söderman, for whom she had worked as secretary. Some believe that Söderman is the inspiration for Lindgren’s Karlsson on the Roof character, the little man flying around with a propeller on his back.
The diaries presents an author with talent and a strong voice, despite Lindgren not being published yet at that time (except being an intern on a local newspaper and having had minor short stories published). But as the war ended, the first Pippi Longstocking book emerged.
And peace and the strongest girl in the world both made the world a little better.
© Ahrvid Engholm (Sweden)
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Ahrvid Engholm is a swedish author, editor, journalist and SF fan.