Viveka Starfelt is primarily known for her books for girls, but she was also productive in many other genres. In addition to her literary output she also worked as a translator, journalist and film censor on Statens biografbyrå (the national censorship bureau).
Viveka Starfelt was born in Helsingborg in 1906. She was the daughter of Emil Starfelt and Vera Francke. After graduating from school she studied languages at Lund University. She married three times; her final husband was the author and translator Sven Barthel.
Viveka Starfelt made her debut as an author in 1938 with Narkissos. The novel can be described as a book for girls in which a girl’s development is connected to a man who becomes her life companion. In the novel the young, self-absorbed girl Narkissos matures into a woman by dint of meeting her great love, Gösta. It is probable that Viveka Starfelt’s decision to write books for girls was a result of her work translating English-language books for girls.
Although this girls’ book is absolutely true to the nature of its genre, Viveka Starfelt’s writing has been associated with portrayals of the problems surrounding female sexuality and has thus been placed alongside the work of the likes of Agnes von Krusenstjerna. Sexual theory and psychoanalysis also appear as frequent themes in her novels. For example, her second novel, Silverbröllop, 1939, features a Nazi assistant teacher who is a strong critic of psychoanalytical sexual theory. He defends the Nazi book burnings saying “they knew what they were doing, creating a magnificent bonfire with the illustrious Mr Freud’s dirty books”. In the novel Viveka Starfelt also allows the characters to contemplate other trends of the time, such as “it really is trendy to be religious”, and that it was socially acceptable as “many of the refined and educated people had become Oxford”. The Oxford movement was a widespread phenomenon in the bourgeois and intellectual milieu which comprised Viveka Starfelt’s world at that point.
Despite this commentary on the social situation Viveka Starfelt is not usually described as a distinctly political author. Nevertheless she already problematized Nazism in her first novel where a dinner guest is made to listen to a pro-Nazi opinion regarding how the treatment of the German Jews was highly justifiable and worthwhile, and that “Kinder, Küche und Kirche should be the ideal life goals for all true women”. The following novel even includes a Nazi as main character. Viveka Starfelt’s treatment of Nazism and Nazis reveals a clear rejection, and her portrayals largely consist of ridicule or ironic aloofness. In the latter novel the Nazi’s behaviour and doings is described with an ironic distance. Fired up by the Führer’s orders to persecute everything Jewish, the assistant carries out an act which "behoves a Nordic man and a member of the party”, namely slamming shut the gate right in front of his neighbour, the Jewish lecturer Landstein. The assistant teacher’s mother is also influenced by her son’s anti-Semitism. In the following fragmentary passage from the novel she defends Hitler and his anti-Semitism and how he establishes “law and order” not least with regard to the position of women: “The Jews are a pack, and everyone thinks so, just consider Isaac Schwartz and how he tricked me with that radio, and he is absolutely right in saying that women should stay at home and look after their own, not stick their noses into men’s business, and he is keeping law and order on the streets everywhere and in the shops, and there are no more beggars or thieves anymore”.
Viveka Starfelt’s writings spanned more than five decades. In the 1940s she wrote some books with autobiographical elements, while later she wrote historical novels, as well as two detective novels under a pseudonym. Flicka med flätor, 1941, Skärvan i ögat, 1949, Blindbock, 1951, Ej så, min kung, 1957, and Pors och lavendel, 1965, are just a few of the sixteen novels she published. Her last novel, Lika barn -, was released in 1974. Before that, in 1968, she was awarded the Swedish authors’ fund prize in recognition of her literary achievements.
In addition to being a writer Viveka Starfelt was an active translator. For example, she made one of the many translations of Ethel Turner’s classic book for girls, Sju syskon, as well as translations of Pearl Buck and Agatha Christie, and Franz Kafka’s letters. These examples show how her translation encompassed several languages and several genres. Viveka Starfelt translated Karin Blixen’s short story collection Vintersagor in collaboration with her husband Sven Barthel. In total her translation work comprised almost 40 titles, including both fiction and non-fiction.
Viveka Starfelt died in 1976 and is buried at Norra cemetery in Solna.