Linnéa Fjällstedt was an author whose books described the difficult conditions faced by the Norrland settlers.
Linnéa Fjällstedt was born in the small wilderness village of Stalon near Vilhelmina in Västerbotten. Her parents, Viktor Persson and Katarina (née Sjögren), were crofters. Her home was a poor one and she had already begun to contribute to the household income before she completed her six years of elementary schooling. Linnéa Fjällstedt was not able to continue her academic interests despite her enthusiasm for learning and was forced to work as a maid. Later, however, she attended agricultural college and in 1947 she became the mistress of Solbacka school student accommodation. In 1948 she married Bror Fjällsted, a crofter, and they had five children together. Later in life she began to write for Västerbottens Folkblad. She travelled around the country to collect stories from the inhabitants of deepest Norrland. This allowed her to collate a large amount of material about the dire conditions for the inhabitants of the area, which came to form the basis of her literary output.
Linnéa Fjällstedt made her publishing debut in 1965 with her poetry collection entitled Ödets nornor. Her public breakthrough came ten years later through her novel Hungerpesten. This novel is based on her maternal grandmother’s life. It is marked by a great empathy for the difficult conditions experienced by the Norrland settlers, who suffered long periods of hunger. The men in this environment posed a threat to women, even when – as is the case with the leading character, Matilda – they were chosen through love. Matilda is forced to tolerate his alcoholism and his constant attacks because she cannot manage on her own. His death, as a result of ball lightning, comes as both a relief and a catastrophe for Matilda as she cannot provide for her children and has to give them up.
Hungerpesten was very successful and set the tone for Linnéa Fjällstedt’s ensuing output. Her next two books, Ödeslotten, 1977, and Befrielsen, 1979, are in many ways similar to her debut novel. They tell of propertyless Ante and his wife Kristina, who head out into the wilderness to make a living as settlers. Linnéa Fjällstedt’s broad knowledge base and understanding of the environment and the people who lived in it allows her to produce a vivid and detailed portrayal of the everyday life of a settler family, their vulnerability in the wilderness and their basic fight for survival.
Hungerpesten is a novel based on a true story. As Linnéa Fjällstedt herself said, it is based on “a powerful human fate”. Ödeslotten and Befrielsen are also based on genuine stories that Linnéa Fjällstedt wanted to “be a mouthpiece for”. She wanted to document the unwritten history and the forgotten people of the north. This documentary aspect is also prevalent in Missgärningen, 1984, and Poas Söner, 1986, both of which are based on the records of legal proceedings.
In 1993 Linnéa Fjällstedt introduced an autobiographical element into her writing with Silverskredet, which was continued in Bortom Bergen, 1994, Sytarjäntan, 1997, and finally brought to a close in Årsringarna, 1998. At that point the leading character, Linna, is 15 years old and despite all the difficulties she has experienced she begins to see that it is possible for her to live her own life.
Linnéa Fjällstedt published 13 novels in total, as well as one poetry collection, and one children’s book. A recurring theme in her work is the oppression of women and their dependent status. Her books transmit a strong sense of social pathos alongside her documentary ambitions. The society described within them is synonymous with a world of landowners where those without property do not matter and where they can expect neither their entitled rights nor any form of human solidarity.
Linnéa Fjällstedt died in 2015.