Agneta Pleijel was born in Stockholm in 1940 into a Swedish-Indonesian family. She spent her childhood in the Swedish Lund and in the USA (New Jersey and California). Back in Sweden, she studied Philosophy, Literature and Anthropology. After finishing her studies, she worked over the years as a cultural editor and literary critic in Stockholm and wrote theatre plays. “The theatre”, she says, “had an important influence on me and was for a long time the literary genre which I was closest to.”
After several poetry volumes and theatre plays, her first novel ‘Vindspejare. Boken om Abel målaren’ came out in 1987 and was a bestseller in Sweden. For this she received several literary prizes, including the ‘National Book Prize’. It was translated into many languages.
The novel tells the story, in retrospect, of the ancestors and descendants of the painter Abel who leaves Sweden in the 1890s to search for happiness in Indonesia, at that time the Dutch East Indies. He leaves behind a promising career as a painter and his fiancee whom he asks to wait for him. But he doesn’t return until thirty years later, with many exotic adventures behind him but nevertheless robbed of all illusions and dreams. It is told through the view of the granddaughter who herself is in search of her own identity and whose view is strongly influenced by her own dreams and desires.
Abel’s history is traced back to his youth and childhood. With this it is more of a development novel than adventure. A leading motif in her work is the misunderstanding that arises between individual humans, who due to different social backgrounds, reach the borders of their understanding.
‘Lord Nevermore’ came out in 2000 and was described by the critics as one of the most significant new works. Here the story of two friends from Poland is told, Bronislaw and Stanislaw, strongly leaning on two figures who really existed. The models for these figures are the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski and his friend from his youth, Stanislaw Witkiewicz, who was an expressionist painter and writer and who is still regarded today as a significant figure in art history in Poland.
The writer received numerous awards, among them the renowned Övralid Prize for her complete work (1999), the Selma Lagerlöf Literature Prize (2001) and the Gustaf Fröding Prize for Poetry (2005). Agneta Pleijel lives in Stockholm.
© international literature festival berlin