Verner von Heidenstam

Verner von Heidenstam

Portrait by Johan Krouthén, 1931
Born Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam
(1859-07-06)6 July 1859
Olshammar, Örebro County, Sweden
Died 20 May 1940(1940-05-20) (aged 80)
Övralid, Östergötland, Sweden
Occupation Poet, novelist
Nationality Swedish
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature
Spouse Emilia Uggla (m. 1880, d. 1893); Olga Wiberg (m. 1893, div.); Greta Sjöberg (m. 1900, div.)
Relatives Gustaf von Heidenstam (father)

Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam (6 July 1859 – 20 May 1940) was a Swedish poet, novelist and laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916.[1] He was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1912.[2] His poems and prose work are filled with a great joy of life, sometimes imbued with a love of Swedish history and scenery, particularly its physical aspects.


He was born in Olshammar, Örebro County on 6 July 1859 to a noble family. He studied paintings in the Academy of Stockholm, but soon left because of ill health. He then traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and the orient.[3] He was at once greeted as a poet of promise on the publication of his first collection of poems,[4] Vallfart och vandringsår (Pilgrimage: the Wander Years, 1888). It is a collection of poems inspired by his experiences in the orient and marks an abandonment of naturalism that was dominant then in Swedish literature.

His love for beauty is shown also by the long narrative poem Hans Alienus (1892). Dikter ("Poems", 1895) and Karolinerna (The Charles Men, 2 vols., 1897–1898), a series of historical portraits of King Charles XII of Sweden and his cavaliers, shows a strong nationalistic passion.[5][6] English translations of short stories from Karolinerna can be found in the American-Scandinavian Review (New York), May 1914, November 1915, and July 1916.[4] The two volumes of Folkunga Trädet (The Tree of the Folkungs, 1905–07) are the inspired, epic story of a clan of Swede chieftains in the Middle Ages.

In 1910 a controversy was waged in Swedish newspapers between a number of Swedish literary men on the topic of the proletarian “degradation” of literature, the protagonists of the two opposing camps being August Strindberg and Heidenstam. Professors Lidforss and Böök also took part. Heidenstam's chief contribution was the pamphlet, directed chiefly against Strindberg, "Proletärfilosofiens upplösning och fall" ("The Decline and Fall of the Proletarian Philosophy").[7]

Heidenstam's poetical collection Nya Dikter, published in 1915, deals with philosophical themes, mainly concerning the elevation of man to a better humanity from solitude.

He died at his home Övralid on 20 May 1940.


Verner von Heidenstam in 1915

Works in English translation

See also


  1. Stork, Charles Wharton (1916). "Verner von Heidenstam," The Nation, Vol. CIII, No. 2683, p. 509.
  2. Warme, Lars G. (1996). A History of Swedish Literature. University of Nebraska Press, p. 276.
  3. Sohrabi, Bahram (2005). "Early Swedish Travelers to Persia," Iranian Studies 38 (4), pp. 631–660.
  4. 1 2 Rines 1920.
  5. Facos, Michelle (1998). Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination: Swedish Art of the 1890s. University of California Press, p. 63.
  6. Barton, H. Arnold (2002). "The Silver Age of Swedish National Romanticism, 1905-1920," Scandinavian Studies 74 (4), pp. 505–520.
  7. Gustafson, Alrik (1940). "Nationalism Reinterpeted: Verner von Heidenstam." In: Six Scandinavian Novelists. New York: Biblo & Tannen, p. 169.
  8. Here the author advocates a sort of artistic exclusiveness; Heidenstam appears as the champion of the classic spirit, which he considers essentially aristocratic, as opposed to the Germanic attitude which he considers democratic and reprehensible.

 Jacob Wittmer Hartmann (1920). "Heidenstam, Verner von". In Rines, George Edwin. Encyclopedia Americana. 

Further reading

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Cultural offices
Preceded by
Carl David af Wirsén
Swedish Academy,
Seat No.8

Succeeded by
Pär Lagerkvist
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