Saturday, May 23, 2015

Astrid Lindgren's second world war diaries published in Sweden By Alison Flood

Years before her stories of the red-braided Pippi Longstocking would make her famous, Astrid Lindgren was a 32-year-old mother in Stockholm with two small children, recording the nightmares of the second world war in 17 volumes of diaries that have just been published in Scandinavia for the first time. Documenting the progress of war and how it affected her family life, the diaries run from 1 September 1939 until the end of hostilities in 1945 – the year that the publication of Pippi Longstocking would change the Swedish author’s life for good. It took a team led by Lindgren’s granddaughter Annika Lindgren two years to turn the 17 handwritten volumes into the just-published Krigsdagb√∂cker (War Diaries). The book includes facsimile images of the pages, which Lindgren peppered with press cuttings, as well as unpublished family photographs from the war years. “They make fascinating reading, these records of happenings in a neutral, non-belligerent country, squeezed in between Hitler- or Stalin-attacked or occupied countries. Spared, but often in anguish,” said Nyman. “It seemed timely [to publish this year], 70 years after the peace of 1945.” “Oh! War broke out today. Nobody could believe it,” writes Lindgren on 1 September 1939. “Yesterday afternoon, Elsa Gullander and I were in Vasa park with the children running and playing around us and we sat there giving Hitler a nice, cosy telling off and agreed that there definitely wasn’t going to be a war – and now today! The Germans bombarded several Polish cities early this morning and are forging their way into Poland from all directions. I have managed to restrain myself from any hoarding until now, but today I laid in a little cocoa, a little tea, a small amount of soap and a few other things.” Six years later, on 7 May 1945, she celebrates: “The war is over! The war is over! The war is over!”, writing of the “wild sense of jubilation” on the streets of Stockholm, where “everyone’s behaving as if they’ve gone crazy”. Towards the end of the diaries, in 1944, there are notes about Lindgren “amusing” herself with Pippi Longstocking, her children’s character, whose stories would go on to sell more than 60m copies around the world, in more than 70 languages. She died in 2002 at the age of 94, one of Sweden’s best-loved authors and the author of more than 100 books, and was also famous as an advocate of children’s welfare and animal rights. The Guardian Photo