Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was a writer. Her debut novel, Sparvöga, and the two following novels quickly made her well-known within Swedish literary circles.
Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was born in Eksjö, Småland. She grew up in the industrial town of Reftele, a place that she describes in her books as like “a redneck/hillbilly town from the ‘50s where the jungle-drums would beat and everything was a sin”. It is likely that these ‘jungle-drums’ beat extra-loudly when she fell pregnant herself, at age 15, and went about the town with her growing belly on display.
Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was the daughter of Tor Alverfors – known as Tore – a store manager, and his wife Margareta, née Andersson. Ann-Charlotte Alverfors describes her father, who was born in 1913, as a consumptive and kind-hearted bicycle-repairman who dreamt of being an author. He introduced his daughter to the famous poetical works. Her mother was forced to provide for the family due to her husband’s illness and so she trained herself to be an office clerk and got a secretarial position at the local factory. At this time – the 1950s – it was exceedingly unusual for the man of the house to be unemployed at home whilst his wife was responsible for providing for the family financially. Although this only added to the family’s social exclusion it also served as a great starting point for someone who wanted to become an author, as Ann-Charlotte Alverfors herself said.
When she was just eight years old Ann-Charlotte Alverfors got one of her stories published in the weekly magazine, ICA-Kuriren. The story told of a princess who did not want to go to school. Ann-Charlotte Alverfors, encouraged by her father, was strongly convinced that she would one day be an author but she lacked the requisite education. Following a period spent working at the factory and in a restaurant kitchen, and having become a mother at the tender age of 16, Ann-Charlotte Alverfors went through several years of isolation and writing for herself before she applied initially to Värnamo folkhögskola (public college), which she attended from 1968–1969, and then to Jära folkhögskola, where she studied from 1972–1974.
Ann-Charlotte Alverfors made her debut as a poet in 1972 on the publication of a collection entitled Paternosterhissar, which was then followed up three years later by another collection called Jönköping 6. Ann-Charlotte Alverfors and her husband, Krister Persson, a photographer whom she had met at one of the colleges, had moved to Jönköping and Jönköping 6 was the name of the post-office in Österängen where they and their young daughter, Rebecca, lived. That post-office was where Ann-Charlotte Alverfors went to post her poems in a fat, brown envelope addressed to Bo Cavefors publishers who accepted her poems. In 1973 she became an elected member of Smålands Författarsällskap (writers’ society).
Ann-Charlotte Alverfors released her first novel, Sparvöga, in 1975. It was the first part in what was a partly autobiographical series of three books and it tells the story of seven-year-old Gertrud – nicknamed ‘Sparvöga’ (sparrow-eye) by her maternal grandfather. He felt that she should “have an open and steady gaze instead of large and fearful blinking (sparrow) eyes”. Gertrud comes from a working-class family and lives in a Småland industrial town with her parents and both sets of grandparents. The novel, with its coarsely comical language and similarly coarsely comical characters, became much talked about for its heavy use of adjectives. The story was adapted for television in 1989 as a popular series with the actors Sten-Åke Cederhök, Per Oscarsson, Irma Christenson, and Halvar Björk. Marie Fredriksson sang the series theme tune, Sparvöga which became a big hit.
The next two novels in the trilogy, Hjärteblodet and Snabelros, were published in 1976 and 1977 respectively. By that time Ann-Charlotte Alverfors had become a well-known name and her language and style were seen as innovative – opulent, daring, lively, and feisty with lots of humour and irony. With regards to the content of her books, the unusually colourful family history she created – in which each member was given a hilarious name – presented her with rich material. Several of her books used similar contraptions, such as in Aldrig, published in 1993, whose characters include Lusasken (fleabag) and Dövöra (literally: deaf ear). Similarly, social class distinctions tended to form the cornerstone of her stories.
On ‘Bokens dag’ (the day of the book) in 1993 in Jönköping Ann-Charlotte Alverfors read extracts from what was then her newly published book, Aldrig. This is a lively contemporary account of the lives of three women and their romantic relationships. She was awarded both the LO cultural prize and the Martin Koch prize for this novel.
Following the publication of Sparvöga Ann-Charlotte Alverfors released several critically-acclaimed works of poetry, prose and drama, including Stjärneklok, from 1986, which is a dramatic story of evil, power, pride, and innocence. Barn av samma ögonblick, published in 2000, tells of money and passion. In 2007 Ann-Charlotte Alverfors released an autobiographical educational novel, Vem ska trösta Gösta?, and two years later she published Igelkottsklubben, which tells of Dolores Johnsson, a nostalgic pensioner who is weighed down by the types of memories which one never tells another soul about. Elise Karlsson, a writer for the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, included the latter amongst her list of the most interesting Swedish portrayals of social classes, akin to work by Moa Martinson. Ann-Charlotte Alverfors’ work has also been highlighted by several others as a significant contribution to Swedish working-class literature of the twentieth century.
In early 1993 Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was elected into the Smålands Akademi but resigned from it just three years later. She didn’t believe that she belonged in that circle which she portrayed rather hilariously in Vem ska trösta Gösta?. To her the society, intended to cast splendour and light on Småland’s belles-lettres, instead comprised “small older men who were so close to exploding from their conceited sense of learning and amour-propre that they always gave off an odour of stale erudition”.
Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was twice married: firstly, from 1974 to 1983 to the photographer Krister Persson, and secondly, to Arnulf Merker, a geneticist, who died in 2010 from the effects of cancer. Just a couple of years later Ann-Charlotte Alverfors was diagnosed as suffering from the same illness. Her final book, Vitnäbb, published in 2015, tells of a constant stream of medical investigations, treatments, and stays in hospital. It is a diary-like account of the inexorable decline through disease and of the ominous cackling of ‘Vitnäbb’, the bird of death.
“Live now!” These are the last words in her final book. Nevertheless, three years later, in 2018, Ann-Charlotte Alverfors died. The bird of death had finally sung for Sparvöga, the very Vitnäbb which her father had told her about when she was a child – Vitnäbb who reveals himself and sings to those who are about to perish. Ann-Charlotte Alverfors is buried at Västra kyrkogården (the Western Cemetery) in Gothenburg.