Marianne Fredriksson was an innovative journalist and the most widely read Swedish author of the final decades of the twentieth century.
Marianne Fredriksson grew up in Gothenburg. She was the daughter of Hugo and Hilda Persson. Her father ran a haulage company. In 1947 Marianne Fredriksson married Sven Fredriksson, a sea captain, with whom she had two daughters: Anna Helena and Turid. The couple divorced in 2002.
During the 1960s and 1970s Marianne Fredriksson was an influential innovator within the Swedish press. She began her professional career working as a proofreader for Göteborgs-Tidningen (a Gothenburg newspaper) but soon transitioned into journalism. She worked at the publishing house Åhlén & Åkerlund from 1962-1974, serving as chief editor of the interior decoration magazine Allt i hemmet. She also set up the innovative and successful special-interest magazines Vi föräldrar and Allt om mat. In 1974 she was recruited by the Stockholm-based national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet for which she introduced the Idag page focusing on existential issues, psychology, and emotions. This led other newspapers to follow suit and to start including similar material in their own publications.
Marianne Fredriksson’s debut novel Evas bok was published in 1980. It was written whilst she was undergoing a personal crisis. Marianne Fredriksson has described how the story came to her while she was meditating. Even after she became a highly productive professional writer she still described her writing as the result of an intuitive and highly sensitive process, following which she would rarely edit her texts.
Marianne Fredriksson’s account of the Biblical character Eve was a feminist re-write of the creation myth which targeted orthodox Lutheran Christianity. Like several of her later novels, including Kains bok (1981), Noreas saga (1983), and Syndafloden (1990), her debut work mixed Biblical themes with deep psychological thoughts influenced by Carl Gustav Jung’s theories.
The lead characters of Marianne Fredriksson’s novels are often more perceptive and have greater understanding than most people. Those who open the door to the spiritual realm tend to be women. They are the bearers of extrasensory powers who, according to Marianne Fredriksson, have become lost within modern society. Klara Horner and her daughter, Sofia, in Blindgång (1992) as well as Lillemor in Gåtan (1989) and Karin in Simon och ekarna (1985) are all described as mediums of one kind or another. Further, they all exhibit a special connection to nature.
The original woman —Eve —in Evas bok is well known for her knowledge of the healing properties of plants. She embodies, like the other strong female characters in Marianne Fredriksson’s works, a maternal aspect which is the basis of her strength. This power is often expressed in these novels by the nature of the female characters’ laughs: the wise Agnes in Blindgång, for example, has a resounding laugh. Elisabeth Enoksson, the female priest who assists Lillemor in gaining enlightenment in Gåtan, laughs so hard on a car journey that she almost shatters the vehicle’s windows. These women not only dare to be life-affirming but also to take on board elements which defy reason.
The novel Simon och ekarna served as Marianne Fredriksson’s major public breakthrough. It is situated in Gothenburg during the 1940s and portrays the worries induced by war and anti-Semitism. Marianne Fredriksson herself has said that this novel is extremely auto-biographical, even though the lead character is a boy. The novel has subsequently been adapted both for the stage and the silver screen.
Marianne Fredriksson’s novels abound in emotions and she allows her lead characters to move beyond the limitations of reason. She portrays the struggle against evil, the power of love, and the ability of spirituality to expand the world. After being awarded great respect during the 1980s she found herself increasingly subjected to criticism from the established corps of literary critics during the following decade. Her novels were denounced and ridiculed, resulting in her disappearance from the public literary scene, all the while her readership was expanding.
Marianne Fredriksson wrote a total of 15 novels. Her work has been translated into 47 languages. Her popularity and the circulation of her works in Germany attained extraordinary proportions. Both her novels Simon och ekarna and Anna, Hanna och Johanna have been included on the list of the ten most widely sold books throughout the world.
Marianne Fredriksson died in 2007.