Alice Lyttkens is largely remembered as one of Swedish literature’s most productive and well-read authors of fiction. Her comprehensive writing also included several emancipation novels, memoirs and a three-volume set of women’s history.
Alice Lyttkens grew up in Malmö in a well-off, upper middle class family. Her father was a doctor and Alice Lyttkens often accompanied him on his visits, which gave her an insight into the social injustices of her time. Upon completing her studies at a girls’ school in 1915 she enrolled as an “extra” student at Malmö hospital, but never completed her training. She met the man who became her husband, Yngve Lyttkens, in 1918. It was not long before she fell pregnant, which in turn led to a swift engagement and quick wedding. The family moved to Stockholm, where Yngve Lyttkens gained employment at a lawyer’s office. As a consequence of the Kreuger crash the family returned to Lund, but moved back to Stockholm again after just a few years. Once established in Stockholm their home became a meeting place for many contemporary writers and members of the cultural elite.
Alice Lyttkens’ started as a contemporary realist writer. Her first novel, Resan norrut, which told the story of a young male provincial doctor, was published as a serial in Idun in 1936 after initial rejection by Bonniers. Her debut as a novel writer came in 1932 with her novel Synkopen, which discussed women’s options to combine happy marital life with successful independent employment. During the 1930s Alice Lyttkens wrote another five emancipation novels, which can now be viewed as contributions to the ongoing debates regarding a woman’s place in the home and in her profession and the difficulties of combining both worlds: Flykten från vardagen, 1933, …kommer inte till middagen, 1934, along with the trilogy about the lawyer Ann Ranmark, Det är inte sant, 1935, Det är mycket man måste, 1936, and Det är dit vi längtar, 1937.
In 1939 Alice Lyttkens published Falsk vittnesbörd, which portrayed one family’s fate in the early twentieth century. Her writing subsequently entered a new phase. Alice Lyttken herself stated she had been encouraged to write historical novels by her friend Sigrid Undset. The first of these, Lyckans temple, was published in 1943 and it was followed by another forty, often set in the eighteenth or nineteenth century and forming four-volume sets. The so-called Tollmansviten, published between 1943 and 1949, follows a family’s history from the late eighteenth through to the mid-nineteenth century, and served as the basis for the TV drama Längtans blåa blomma, which aired on Swedish national television in 1998 as a four-part series. While Alice Lyttkens’ historical novels were viewed by many as purely light entertainment, they have been commended for their historically accurate descriptions of settings and have even been noted for their depictions of strong and independent women.
Alice Lyttkens’ career as a writer spanned nearly 60 years and comprised several genres. In the 1970s she released a three-volume women’s history: Kvinnan finner en följeslagare, 1972, Kvinnan börjar vakna, 1973, and Kvinnan söker sin väg, 1974. She began to write her memoirs as she approached 80 years of age. They were published between 1977 and 1989 in a seven-volume set entitled Leva om sitt liv. Alice Lyttkens died in 1991 and is buried at Norra cemetery in Stockholm. Her last book, Jag minns, was posthumously published in 1992.