Ellen Landquist was a journalist and an author. She wrote the first Swedish novel about female university students.
Ellen Landquist was born in Stockholm in 1883. Her parents were the pastor Carl Axel Emil Landquist and his wife Maria Augusta Unér. She had two brothers, one of whom, John Landquist, later became a professor and was a well-known critic. According to his memoires their father was tirelessly active not just within parish-related spheres but also in his children’s upbringing in terms of their education, their books, their nourishment, swimming, and holiday arrangements.
Ellen Landquist was a student at Uppsala university during the period of 1905–1910. She was part of the first generation of female students there. She was a very good friend of Lisa Rolf and Greta Beckius, two of her much talked-about contemporaries at Uppsala.
On the completion of her studies in 1910 Ellen Landquist began to work as a journalist for Svenska Dagbladet in Stockholm. She became a part of the so-called ‘Ligan’ whose members included Elin Wägner, Célie Brunius, Elisabeth Krey, Vera von Kræmer, Ester Blenda Nordström, and Ellen Rydelius. She played the lead role as the investigative reporter in Ligan’s legendary satirical 1911 film Hon fick platsen eller Exkonung Manuel i Stockholm, for which Elin Wägner had written the manuscript.
In 1915 Ellen Landquist published her first novel, Suzanne, a portrayal of student life in Uppsala from a young female student’s perspective. The lead character, Suzanne Dahlmark, is ‘Den nya kvinnan’ (the ‘new woman’) personified whose dreams of a relationship based on equality are crushed. Although her parents are supportive of her desire to study, she is almost destroyed by the gendered social structures she is confronted with at Uppsala. Her unravelling is instigated by the spreading of rumours. Suzanne’s first setback occurs in relation to the distrust she develops both as a female student and as a friend. The man she is in love with succumbs to the slander and abandons her. Following the loss of her lover she is raped by a male friend, who is the welfare officer for the student-body she belongs to. Her final great disappointment ensues after engaging in physical relations with an older poet. As she gazes at his sleeping, lifeless face Suzanne experiences the emptiness of what had been their shared eroticism.
Suzanne’s problems lie not just in her experiences but also in the perceived taboo which makes it impossible for her to talk about them. This is vividly portrayed in a scene in which she is sitting alone at Slottsbacken in Uppsala watching the sunrise. Her body begins to shake, she emits a scream: “and no-one heard her release a low, broken scream which emerged from a deep, wild pain”. Ellen Landquist’s fictional character Suzanne actually survives, in contrast to Greta Beckius – on whom Suzanne was modelled – who took her own life. In the final scene, after repeatedly pressing the muzzle of a revolver against her temple, Suzanne throws the gun away.
Greta Beckius left a (still) unpublished novel behind called “Marit Grene” in which the central theme is suicide. “That men seduce women, abandon them, yes, dishonour them, we know all this”, she wrote in her novel, however it is the unintentional and unconscious crimes, the “silent soul murders” which are based in men’s self-evident power to define reality which is the most threatening of all. The concept of “soul murder” also became connected to Ellen Landquist’s Suzanne and to Hildur Sandberg, the Lund student whose death occurred in remarkable circumstances.
Ellen Landquist’s brother Johan Landquist, who had been heavily involved in the romantic intrigues at Uppsala, served as a literary advisor for his sister – along with his wife, Elin Wägner – and assisted Ellen in getting her novel published. When it was released it generated a lot of attention and many considered it to be bordering right on the improper.
The novel Suzanne was Ellen Landquist’s only book. The year after it was published she suffered from anaemia and died. She was largely forgotten throughout the 1900s. In 2013 Suzanne was re-issued, leading many to reconsider Ellen Landquist as a forerunner of Agnes von Krusenstjerna.
In 1922 Elin Wägner wrote the novel Den namnlösa, which was partly inspired by Ellen Landquist.
Ellen Landquist died in 1916.