Disa Holberg was an author of books for children and young people, as well as an established editor and columnist.
Disa Holberg was born in Skara in 1890. Her parents were Mathilda Bergfeldt-Torell and Waldemar Holberg, a postmaster and distant relative of the author and dramatist Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754).
During much of her life, Disa Holberg worked as a clerk and editor at various Swedish magazines and newspapers. For nine years she was the family and competitions editor for Hvar 8 Dag, then based in Gothenburg. After that she worked for Åhlén & Åkerlund and was responsible for the portrait gallery and competitions in Veckojournalen. For a while she was even employed at the major national daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet to look after the registry.
At the beginning of the 1920s, Disa Holberg started publishing columns in Svenska Dagbladet and another major national daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, under the signature “Theodora”. In her columns, she offered everyday contemplations from Stockholm and Lund, in which she sometimes reflected over women’s role, often with a literary tone and humoristic twist.
Disa Holberg made her debut as a children’s author in 1924 with Barnungar, published by Lars Hökerberg’s publishing company and illustrated by Ossian Elgström. Her debut novel was praised by the critics for its pleasant and humorous narrative art. Elgström was enthusiastic in his foreword about Disa Holberg’s unique humour, that he found pleased adults as well as children.
With her novel Barnungar, Disa Holberg wanted to express an “ordinary” child’s thoughts and feelings, and her point of departure according to the preface in the book was her own childhood memories from Skara. In the story, a mischievous girl has the same kind of adventures as are usually found in conventional books for boys. As a forerunner to Astrid Lindgren’s Emil i Lönneberga there is a chapter in the book about how a tin potty was put on the girl’s head and its devastating consequences, like Astrid Lindgren’s story about the soup bowl. Apart from situational comedy from a girl’s point of view, the story gives the reader an idea of the modernisation taking place in the community.
The year after, Disa Holberg published the novel I slynåren. För tjugo år sedan, illustrated by Gerhard Gyllenhammar. The novel was considered to be in a class of its own and is described as a story with the humour of a mischievous boy. In the novel Första stegen på egen hand: barnförbjuden bok för unga flickor, from 1926, Disa Holberg depicted instead a young student, an artistic bohemian in Gothenburg. The novel is remarkable for its fast-paced language and its realistic and self-experienced feeling, and also for its large dose of genuine situational comedy.
Disa Holberg settled down after a while in Lund. Her younger sister Dagmar was living there already and had been widowed. Dagmar was an invalid for a period and Disa Holberg took great emotional and also economic responsibility for her sister. In Lund she continued her authorship and published more than a handful of books for children and young people in the 1920s, for example the childhood depiction Kisse berättar in 1927 illustrated by Maj Lindman.
Apart from books and newspaper columns, Disa Holberg wrote humorous sketches that were produced during the 1930s and 1940s all over Sweden, at various women’s clubs among other places. The contemporary view of comediennes included the idea that women had no humour, also expressed in a review in which it was asserted that Disa Holberg contradicted that norm.
Disa Holberg was a well-read humorist who throughout her life advocated unaffected literature for the young and also criticised the unfair economic status of the writing profession.
Disa Holberg died in 1954 in Lund, at 64 years of age. She is buried in the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm.