Annalisa Forssberger was one of the great female authors of the 1930s. She has been described as a worker’s author, but also as portrayer of the Swedish countryside.
Annalisa Forssberger was born in Stjärnsund in 1906. Her father was the manager of the local sawmill. Her mother, Ester Wahlkvist, came from Småland. Aged 20 Annalisa Forssberger married a worker from Långshyttan. She had three daughters with him. By the 1940s she had divorced him, moved away from the industrial area and settled in Stockholm. She remarried and had a son. In addition to her writing she also worked as a librarian. After a few years in Stockholm she moved to Örebro where she would remain until her death.
Annalisa Forssberger’s first publication was her 1934 novel Barmhärtighetens temple, a novel set in a hospital. The novel differed from the popular nurse novels of the time, which portrayed an upbeat image of life in the hospital. Annalisa Forssberger did not shy away from repugnant things: “False teeth, enemas, vomit, blood and puss.” The main character, a trainee nurse, struggles with the almost repulsive patients and realises that she does not have a true calling for her trade. This debut novel contains elements of floating or fragmentary language use. At the time Annalisa Forssberger was considered to be a modernist author, but she moved away from that style in her later works. Uvertyr, 1936, similarly figures a young woman who has left home as the main character. However, the theme here is the polarity between countryside and town. The main character suffers severe homesickness in the foreign university town she is in and is ill with longing for “the stones” (of home): “She is almost obsessed with her home”. So she returns to the countryside and “passionately draws in the scent of the hay, the earth”. The novel places Annalisa Forssberger among the many portrayers of Swedish countryside at the time and is the first of many such novels to be penned by her.
Högt över oss är hyttan is more ambivalent with regard to the countryside and industrialised areas. The foundry serves as a unifying force and the last page of the novel summarises its all-encompassing meaning: “The foundry rises far above us. Secretive and black. Family after family in its bowels.” The image of industrialised society that Annalisa Forssberger presents in this novel is not a positive one. She fell out with the people of Långshyttan who felt that she had mocked the workers and denigrated the workers’ movement activists in her portrayal. This is perhaps because the novel was not an unambiguous celebration of the working class, but chooses to highlight class issues. The central character comes from a bourgeois background and finds it hard to adjust to the working class environment after marrying a worker from the industrial site. Annalisa Forssberger may even have been writing about her mother in this story. Her mother, originally from the south of Sweden, had been forced to fit in with the mining environment. To be an outsider in the parish was like being a foreigner. The novel probably reflects Annalisa Forssberger’s own experiences. A biographer noted in 2000 that Annalisa Forssberger during this part of her life struggled both with her own upbringing in a white-collar environment at a time when workers belonged to an entirely separate class and with her endorsement of the workers’ movement. She was mostly interested in the situation of women in this industrial community and it was their lives and working experiences that she portrayed. The novel has a clear feminist slant in that it depicts how women were not only submissive to the factory owners but were similarly oppressed by their own men.
Annalisa Forssberger’s literary breakthrough with both critics and the public was Mörk idyll, 1948. It was published by Kooperativa Förbundets bokförlag (a cooperative publishing company), which shows Annalisa Forssberger’s positioning within the ranks of workers’ authors. Mörk idyll is subtitled “Bilder från ett gammalt bruk”, which again underlines the defining roll of the industrial environment in her writing. The novel recounts the story of a young girl’s rupture with her family background and her ensuing climb up the social ladder.
Annalisa Forssberger is perhaps better known in her home district of Bergslagen as a community and industrial historian rather than a writer of fiction. Det förvandlade bruket, 1957, could be categorized as both documentary and fiction, a fitting description of several of her works. This book portrays Stjärnsund and Långshyttan in the southern Dalarna region, places which had played a significant role in her own life. The former represents what is ancient and full of tradition, while the latter represents modernity. Minne från Äppelbo – en herrgårdsflygel på Stjernsund, which was published thirty years later, is based on the surviving papers of the old industrial site, account books and visitor books, giving an insight into the everyday life and celebrations of the workers. The portrayal also includes Annalisa Forssberger’s own childhood, as she was born and raised in the area. Throughout her writings she frequently obliquely depicts her own life. She herself admitted that she had a love-hate relationship with the industrial environment.
Annalisa Forssberger’s multifaceted writing spanned five decades and comprises around 20 books in different genres. In addition to novels she also wrote short stories, poetry collections, travelogues and studies on literary science. Vardag, 1936, was her first published collection of poems, with Resa om natten following in 1941. Flykt till våren, 1949, and Eva hör music, 1953, are both short story collections. Her travelogues include journeys both near and far: Över en tallrik oxsvanssoppa from 1978 is an account of Copenhagen while Dagar vid kanalen, 1984, describes Venice. Annalisa Forssberger was also active as a literary reviewer. Ekon och speglingar, 1961, comprises reflections on the writings of Victoria Benedictsson, Johanne Luise Heiberg and Herman Bang.
Annalisa Forssberger died in 1988.