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Selma, Valborg and Sophie - a domestic triangle (s.c.nordic texts)
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Selma, Valborg and Sophie - a domestic triangle



From: Björn Skolander <Skolander@bahnhof.se>
Subject: Selma and Valborg - A Love-story
Newsgroups: soc.culture.nordic
Date: 22 May 1996 08:42:22 GMT
Organization: Bahnhof Internet Access AB

Selma Lagerlöf and Valborg Ohlander

- a Swedish Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas love-story

In a new book "Selma på Mårbacka" the journalist Lars Westman throws new light on the life of Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940), author, Nobel Prize winner and member of The Swedish Academy.

The chapter "Beloved Valborg! Beloved Selma!" deals with the relationship between Selma Lagerlöf and the school-teacher Valborg Ohlander. "If anyone ever has written love-letters to each other it is Selma and Valborg" says Westman in the book.

Lagerlöf and Ohlander lived apart from each other much of the time, but Ohlander was often visiting the well-known author at her Mårbacka home. She typed many of Lagerlöf's manuscripts, answered letters etc. as Alice B. Toklas hade done for Gertrude Stein.

The two women's love for each other was complicated by Lagerlöf's friendship with the author Sophie Elkan. The two authors did a lot of travelling together, but Valborg was always present mentally. "You do not choose Valborg instead of me, do you?" wrote Elkan to Lagerlöf in 1901.

According to Westman, Lagerlöf's love for Elkan, which is also documented in a large number of letters, was only platonic, whereas the relationship with Ohlander included physical love. Westman is further convinced, that the two women wanted the world to know about their love. A lot of their most intimate correspondance was destroyed, but they left deliberately enough material for coming generations to know about the nature of their relationship. All of Lagerlöf's correspondence was however, for reasons we understand today, sealed until 1991, fifty years after her death.

Selma Lagerlöf was one of the internationally most well-known Swedish authors of her time. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909. Several of her novels did later appear as screen versions, as Gösta Berlings saga (The tale of Gösta Berling), directed by Mauritz Stiller and starring Greta Garbo.

Lagerlöf's portrait decorates the Swedish 20 kroner note. She thus actively parttakes in the present lesbian visibility project. After having read "Selma på Mårbacka", I am inclined to believe, that she is quite happy with that situation.

Her Mårbacka home in Värmland county is now a museum, open to the public. It includes a Valborg Ohlander and a Sophie Elkan room.

Björn Skolander <skolander@bahnhof.se>

Thanks to Birgitta Tollan Driesel, a Copenhagen based journalist, for making me aware of Selma and Valborg's relationship, and for the initial information she sent me.



Carl Larsson has made a portrait of Selma Lagerlöf:


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Selma Lagerlöf



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