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Brita Hedvig Elisabet af Geijerstam

1902-03-202003-09-09

Danspedagog, översättare, författare

Brita af Geijerstam was an author, translator and dance instructor. She ran her own ballet school, where her pupils included the Haga princesses (the three daughters of Prince Gustav Adolf).

Brita af Geijerstam was born in Sönnarslöv in Scania in 1902. She and her two sisters also spent their early childhoods there. When she was six years old the family moved to Stockholm where her father, an engineer, became the managing director of Finpappersbruken (a paper mill). Initially they all lived in an apartment near Tegnérlunden, but it was not long before they moved into a house on Lidingö. Brita af Geijerstam learned German, English and French at school. She also took piano and violinlessons for several years. However, it was dance which truly captivated her. Brita af Geijerstam first attended Anna Behle’s dance school when she was ten years old. Anna Behle had studied song at Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (today Kungliga Musikhögskolan) but had been so strongly inspired by Isadora Duncan that she changed the course of her career and opened a Duncan dance school in Östermalm, Stockholm. Anna Behle played a significant role in introducing free dance into Sweden.

Having completed her education at a girls’ school, Brita af Geijerstam spent a year studying at a college in England, where she made many lifelong friendships. She continued her dance training by spending three years at the Jaques Dalcroze institute in Geneva. She was part of a group of students who toured through England and other countries and made an annual visit to Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet in Stockholm.

Brita af Geijerstam’s first husband was Ragnar af Geijersam. They married in 1926. A couple of years later he became the manager of Rockhammar’s works in Bergslagen. While they were living in the area Brita af Geijerstam opened a dance school in Lindesberg. The couple had three children together, of which one – Christina – died at an early age. When Ragnar gave up his job in order to focus on writing and translating the family moved to Stockholm. There they had another two children together. In order to improve the family finances Brita af Geijerstam worked a few days a week at Tipstjänst and taught English. A decisive moment was that she started renting premises in Konserthuset in 1934 and opened a dance school for children. Her pupils included the so-called “Haga princesses”. She also held classes for adults at Danshögskolan. Her teaching style was based on the Dalcroze method and included rhythmical and improvised movements. Eventually she also moved her children’s classes to Danshögskolan where she remained as a teacher until she was 75 years old.

Brita af Geijerstam received Alan Alexander Milne’s Winnie the Pooh as a birthday present from a friend in England. She translated it into Swedish in order to read it to her eldest son. She showed the translation to Georg Svensson at Natur & Kultur and he encouraged her to approach Albert Bonnier’s publishing house. She convinced Tor Bonnier that Winnie the Pooh would become a classic and it was published in 1930. Three years later her translation entitled Nalle Puhs hörna was released, followed by two books of her translations of Milne’s poetry for children. The two authors met in London in the 1940s and came to have a long friendship.

Brita af Geijerstam’s Swedish translations of the Winnie the Pooh books are an admirable combination of staying true to the original whilst also retaining the translator’s own voice, which in terms of inventiveness is on a par with Milne’s original. Her translations have been cited in books like Tao, enligt Puh. The well-known birthday greeting “Hätila ragulpr på fåtskliaben”, which Owl wrote to Ior on a parcel from Pooh, has become the name giver of a manifesto for concrete poetry by Öyvind Fahlström, which was printed in the journal Odyssé in 1954.

Brita af Geijerstam also composed 25 of her own books for children, including song books and several collections of children’s poetry. She made her debut as an author with Hagaprinsessornas visor, 1940. Toward the end of her life she also published two volumes of lyrical poetry for adults, entitled Vad är kärlek, 1999, and Nära, 2002. In addition to her own output she also translated everything from Aisopos fabler and Hans och Greta to old nursery rhymes and a couple of Danish children’s books. She also translated a couple of books on ballet. Between 1939 and 1943 she also translated a number of English detective stories, including four written by Ngaio Marsh.

A few years after Ragnar af Geijerstam's death, Brita remarried to his cousin, Bengt af Geijerstam. After his death in 1962 she continued her career as a dance instructor, author and translator.

Brita af Geijerstam died in 2003 in Bromma.


Birger Hedén
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)



You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Brita Hedvig Elisabet af Geijerstam, www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/BritaafGeijerstam, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Birger Hedén), retrieved 2019-05-24.




Other Names

    Maiden name: Gemmel


Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Edit Wilma Teodora Gemmel, född Hultner
  • Father: Harald Julius Gemmel
  • Sister: Ingeborg Margareta Gemmel, gift Jakobsson
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Education

  • Flickskola, Stockholm
  • Övrigt, Stockholm: Piano- och fiollektioner
  • Yrkesutbildning, Stockholm: Dansutbildning, Anna Behles Plastikinstitut
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Activities

  • Profession: Lärare, danspedagog, skolledare
  • Profession: Lärare, danspedagog, skolledare för dansskola för barn
  • Profession: Översättare
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Contacts

  • Mentor: Anna Behle
  • Friend: Alan Alexander Milne
  • Friend: Inga Tidblad


Residences

  • Birthplace: Sönnarslöv
  • Sönnarslöv
  • Lidingö
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Prices/awards



Sources

Literature
  • Fransson, Birgitta, Brita af Geijerstam: samtal inför en högtidsdag, Bonnier Carlsen, Stockholm, 2002

  • Lövgren, Carl-Agnar (red.), De skrev för barn: porträtt av 15 klassiska barnboksförfattare, Bibliotekstjänst, Lund, 1977



Further References