Ebba Richert was a well-known and much-read author of the mid-twentieth century. Two of her novels, Brödernas kvinna and Ta hand om Ulla, have been turned into films and achieved great success.
Ebba Richert was born in Stockholm in 1904. Her parents had different class backgrounds. Her father, Johan Richert, was a bookkeeper and came from a family of businessmen and lawyers. Her mother, Amanda Olsson, came from a family of crofters and fishers. Ebba Richert spent her earliest years as a foster child on Gotland, where her mother had been born and raised. During her first year at school Ebba Richert’s mother came to collect her and took her back to Stockholm.
Ebba Richert was first married to Jo Guldemond. Following a very brief marriage, which she herself gave an account of in her autobiographical Vem är jag. En hänsynslös självbiografi, 1967, she met the man who became her second husband, Karl Hugogård, at Brunnsvik local college in Dalarna. They married in 1934 and moved first to Robertsfors, and then to Stockholm. They adopted a son called Arne.
Ebba Richert was one of many women who emerged as a writer in the 1930s who had also previously worked as a journalist. She published in Svenska Morgonbladet while she was studying and regularly wrote short stories for weekly journals throughout her writing career. Her first novel, Lejdeträsk, 1937, is situated in Dalarna and Västerbotten. Ebba Richert subsequently located her novels in Gotland, where she had spent her early years. Gotland became an almost mystical landscape in her work. In her autobiography from 1967 she relates how she always longed to go back to the island.
In En anständig kvinna (a proper woman), 1943, the main character is a woman from Gotland. She decides to move to Stockholm and train as a seamstress and is employed by one of the city’s most eminent tailor’s studio. The novel is, according to Ebba Richert, one of her “most honest books”, “directly inspired” by her mother’s stories including those of her parents’ marriage and particularly of her father who died when Ebba was only four years old, leaving a twenty-year-old widow behind. According to the autobiography, Ebba’s mother was preoccupied with the notion of propriety, as reflected in the novel’s title. The daughter in the novel is plagued by “the great need to be pure and innocent” and her own longing to be able to experience her youth.
Ebba Richert’s breakthrough as an author had already occurred a few years earlier with her book Brödernas kvinna, 1939. The novel was translated into several languages, released in paperback and turned into a film in 1943 starring Viveca Lindfors in the role of the beautiful Emma, who marries a farmer from Gotland. He brings his young wife to his farm where his younger brother also lives. The novel depicts the love triangle that develops between them. To Ebba Richert’s dismay, the film became infamous as the decade's great porn film. Ta hand om Ulla, a pre-war novel from 1941, was also turned into a film the following year, starring Marianne Aminoff as the lead character. One reviewer described it as “a portrayal of a marriage set in Stockholm, which went on to become a major film success”. Another reviewer claimed that the novel was “one of the more captivating ones to appear on the Swedish book scene in recent years. The characters are clearly and succinctly depicted, forcing the reader to respond to them and to follow their movements both out of curiosity and interest.” This best-seller confirmed Ebba Richert’s position as a popular author in the eyes of the general public and gained the critics’ attention. She did not feel that she was respected, however, by the established authors who were in her network. During the 1940s her novels were released in rapid succession. The titles reveal the central place of women in the stories: God afton fröken Madeleine, 1942, Sanningen om Elisabeth, 1945, and Porträtt av Kristine, 1947. Despite this Ebba Richert was usually associated with the weekly press as she often contributed short stories and wrote agony aunt columns such as “Fru Valentin”.
After the novel Skilsmässa, 1949, which portrays the difficulties of marriage – a subject already apparent in the earlier novels – Ebba Richert suffered a series of rejections and the ensuing decades only saw sporadic publications by the author. There was a thirteen-year gap between Son till en director, 1952, and the next release, a collection of short stories called Judasros, 1965. Vem är jag. En hänsynslös självbiografi was her thirteenth book. The subtitle (an inconsiderate autobiography) was telling. Ebba Richert, in wanton disregard for herself, reveals the innermost thoughts of her life. She tells of her first short-lived marriage, which ended on the honeymoon when she was abandoned at a hotel room in Paris and the ensuing illegal abortion. In order to make ends meet she sacrificed the story of her marriage and her first husband’s subsequent suicide in the short stories written for the weekly press, as she admits in her autobiography. She further narrates her second husband’s adultery, her divorce in 1952, her abuse of alcohol and drugs, her inability to care for her adopted son, and her many periods in hospital and rehabilitation centres. Her autobiography is a show-down but also a story of reconciliation and the return to life and motherhood. When her second husband died in 1962 she took over responsibility for and the care of her son. Her two ensuing books, Trollbunden, 1973, and Udda ungen, 1977, also contain autobiographical material and they are once again situated in Gotland.
During the period of Ebba Richert’s life when her written output decreased she studied psychology and the occult. Her interest in spirituality was first awoken when she came into contact with the author Jan Fridegård. This interest then hotted up when she experienced what she believed to be supernatural contact with her first husband. Ebba Richert exhaustively recounts her contacts with the dead in her autobiography. After her second husband’s death contact with her first husband was replaced with a new spiritual connection with her second. Ebba Richert spoke openly about her séances and asserted that the spiritual world gave new meaning to her life.
Ebba Richert died in Stockholm in 1980.