Marie Louise Ramnefalk was a literary historian and theatre historian, a higher-education teacher, a poet, a reviewer, and a translator.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk was born in Stockholm. Her parents were Sid Ramnefalk, a managing director, and his wife Inez. Marie Louise Ramnefalk grew up in Stockholm and gained her school-leaving certificate in 1959. She then began to study law but soon transferred into the humanities to read literature and theatre history, amongst other subjects. She gained her Bachelor’s degree in 1964, her licentiate in 1968, and finally her PhD in literature in 1974. Her thesis is entitled Tre lärodiktare: studier i Harry Martinsons, Gunnar Ekelöfs och Karl Vennbergs lyrik. Her thesis investigated the didactic elements of Martinson’s, Ekelöf’s, and Vennberg’s lyrical work and presented an original perspective on modern lyricism.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk made her literary debut in 1968 with a TV-play called Hans mellan Peter och Sven-Åke. In 1975 she published her first poetry collection, entitled Enskilt liv pågår. Like its successor, Verkligheten gör dig den äran, published in 1978, the work is characterised by a strong feminine presence, a burlesque sense of humour, and harsh satire. She has been described as “a full-blooded ironist in the vein of Karl Vennberg and T.S. Eliot”. Her next poetry collection, Någon har jag sett, from 1979, in which she portrays the untimely loss of a beloved spouse, uses the same stylistic tools to keep the depths of her sorrow and confusion in check. An example of this is her description of missing the sight of her husband’s underwear swirling around beside her own in the washing machine. The emotions aroused upon the death of a loved one are depicted in a low-key and often humorous manner. This collection attracted a lot of attention and favourable responses. It gained a wide readership and later Marie Louise Ramnefalk wrote an opera libretto for it. The opera premiered in 1988.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk wrote several opera librettos, as well as lyrics for choral music. Music formed an important part of her life and for a number of years she worked with the composer Eskil Hemberg. Together they wrote the opera Om kärlek: opera i fyra akter, based on Robert Grave’s poems which Marie Louise Ramnefalk had translated into Swedish. The English-language version of the opera, Love, love, love had its premiere at the Opera Rotunda in 1973.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk was very productive during the 1980s. She published three poetry collections in quick succession: one entitled Kungsådra in 1981, another called Levnadskonster in 1983, and Adam i paradiset, sub-titled En diktberättelse, in 1984. These consolidated her image as a spot-on satirist who happily held modern bureaucratic society and its assorted ideological variations, including feminism, hostage. She was sometimes “wretchedly and joyfully nasty towards her own sisterhood”. She released no further poetry collections until 2001 when she published poems about her father, Lugna ner sig till det gråa, which portrays the loss of her father to the fog of Alzheimer's disease.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk worked as a dramatic advisor for the TV-theatre from 1967–1968. She taught at the universities of Umeå, Stockholm, and Karlstad as well as at Borås college. She was also a productive critic. She wrote articles and reviews on literary topics, in journals including Vår Lösen, Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, BLM, and Hufvudstadsbladet. She regularly contributed literary reviews to Aftonbladet during the 1979–1986 period, and to Svenska Dagbladet from 2001 until her death.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk also became known as a talented essayist. Although her collection of essays entitled Författaren, världen, språket, from 1996, was intended for writers’ circles she did not give direct or robust advice but rather expressed herself in essays which bore titles such as “Sanning”, “Kitsch”, and “Moral”. Her discomfort with culture and feeling of being stuck within contemporary materialism engendered an interest in the religious mystics. This took her in the direction of the English medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, amongst others, and gave rise to a poetic retelling of the mystic’s experiences in Julian såg Gud, from 1992, illustrated by Lena Cronqvist. Her essay collection, called Mystik – en kärlekshistoria, from 1997, provides a detailed image of medieval English mysticism. She tells of a series of mainly female mystics from England in the 1500s who had written and described their experiences of God’s deeds in dreams and visions. Marie Louise Ramnefalk believed that the modern era lacked something important – and that we all secretly have knowledge that we are unaware of.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk was very active within a number of authors’ organisations. She was on the board of the Författarförlaget publishing house from 1977–1984. She was a member of the board of Sveriges Författarförbund (Swedish writers’ union) from 1979–1983. She became an elected member of Svenska kyrkans kulturråd (cultural council of the Swedish church) in 1991. She also held positions within Statens kulturråd (Swedish arts council) and Författarens Fotokopieringsfond (authors’ photocopying fund). In early 1980 she, along with Anna Westberg, edited Kvinnornas Litteraturhistoria, which had been set up by Författarförlaget.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk edited a series of easy-reading books, so-called LL books. She took a great interest in fairytales and in 1999 she published the first part of Tusen och en natt in an easy-reading format. In 2008 she published a book of classic folktales, Skönhet, odjur, häxor, prinsar: sagor återberättade av Marie Louise Ramnefalk, illustrated by Peter Bergting.
Further to her writing, Marie Louise Ramnefalk was also active as a local politician and as a councillor representing Folkpartiet in Danderyd.
In 1999 Marie Louise Ramnefalk was awarded the Sten Hagliden prize in recognition of her “penetrating and tender poetry which with relentless precision and a rich tone not only captures the everyday but also that which is life-definingly unique.” In 2004 Marie Louise Ramnefalk was given the Karl Staaff plaque for many years of liberal contributions.
Marie Louise Ramnefalk died in 2008.