Gun Bergman was a journalist and a translator of South Slavic, Russian, and French literature.
Gun Bergman was born in Linköping in 1916. She was the daughter of Robert Hagberg, a restaurateur, and his wife Ebba Hagberg. Once she gained her school-leaving certificate in her hometown, Gun Bergman moved to Stockholm where she worked partly as a dancer for private theatres, and partly for AB Tipstjänst and Albert Bonnier publishing house. She later worked as a journalist and a dance teacher, including covering fashion for Expressen.
Gun Bergman married twice. Her first marriage was to Hugo Grut, an engineer, and it ended in a grueling divorce. Shortly afterwards she remarried, this time to the famous film director Ingmar Bergman and their marriage lasted from 1951 to 1959. Ingmar Bergman wrote in his autobiographical book Laterna magica that Gun Bergman had been the role model for many of the strong women portrayed in his films. Her contemporaries spoke of her as a charismatic cheerful woman. Gun Bergman had two sons in her first marriage, and a third son in her second marriage.
Gun Bergman began to research and teach during the 1950s. This was also when she began to translate. In 1964 she defended her thesis in Slavic languages at Uppsala university. It was based on an edition of a Russian manuscript. Having made use of several travel stipends to go to the Soviet Union and to Yugoslavia, she became very knowledgeable about those countries, as displayed in the well-informed guidebook on Yugoslavia she published in the spring of 1971. Gun Bergman often functioned like an invisible cultural mediator and was sometimes employed by the likes of Sveriges Radio, for example, to critique Yugoslavian plays which could prove worth producing. She also translated several Russian plays for the Radioteater.
Gun Bergman’s major professional efforts consisted in translating from Serbo-Croatian. She translated several works by the Yugoslav Ivo Andrić, who was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1961, including Bron över Drina, from 1960, and Konsulerna, from 1961. Taking on Andrić’s historical novels was demanding work, requiring skills in textual analysis as well as knowledge of an archaic and dialectical vocabulary. Andrić himself believed that Gun Bergman’s translations helped in the decision to award him the Nobel prize. The task appears even greater when it is considered that Gun Bergman rarely felt comfortable writing in Serbo-Croatian when corresponding with Andrić, and so she almost only wrote to him in French. In 1962 Gun Bergman received the Swedish Academy’s prize for translation.
Gun Bergman spent the latter part of her life translating poetry by South Slav and French-language African poets, two of which were posthumously published: Elegier, by the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor, in 1969, and Livet jag ville göra till dikt, by the Bulgarian Elisaveta Bagrjana, in 1970, Den ena benknotan till den andra, by the Serbian-language poet Vasko Popa, in 1972, and De underbara vapnen, by the French-speaking Aimé Césaire from Martinique, in 1975. Three of these collections were interpreted in collaboration with Artur Lundkvist, and Bagrjana’s work was undertaken with Carin Davidsson.
Gun Bergman died as a result of a motorcycle accident in Yugoslavia in 1971. She is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.