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The Swedish secretary and journalist who sold 144 million books worldwide


- SVT has produced a three-part documentary about Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, whose stories have fed more than 70 features

The Swedish secretary and journalist who sold 144 million books worldwide
Astrid Lindgren

“I simply live by the belief that you should always take every day as if it were your last,” said Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, who died in 2002, aged 94. “The words ‘this day, one life’ followed her through life, love and art like a mantra: ‘seize it, enjoy it, use it’,” explained Danish author Jens Andersen, when earlier this year (30 October) he published the first Lindgren biography in 40 years.

The story far from ends here. Between 25 December and 1 January, Swedish pubcaster SVT will air Swedish director Kristina Lindström’s Astrid, a three-part documentary about the former secretary and journalist from Småland, who invented her first fictional characters for stories that she told her little daughter. “Lindgren was an exceptional person whose life and books have so many layers – she never ceases to surprise,” said Lindström, who – together with Maud Nycander – directed Palme [+see also:
film profile
(2012), the documentary on Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, who was assassinated in 1986.

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Lindgren is portrayed as brave and audacious, deeply melancholic, committed, the writer, a dreamer at night. She thought that without Lasse – the child she had when young and unmarried, and who she was forced to leave with others – she would never have become a famous writer. “Everyone has their own relation to her; when I was a child, she was The Voice – The Voice from the radio. There is still nobody like her,” concluded Lindström, who met and interviewed Lindgren in the 1980s.

Born Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson in Vimmerby, she became “Astrid” to Sweden and “Astrid Lindgren” to the world, where she sold an estimated 144 million books, to become the 18th most-translated author (the third for children’s books, after Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm).

She has lent her name to a minor planet, 3204 Lindgren, discovered by a Soviet astronomer; the €0.5 million Memorial Award given annually for childen’s and youth literature by the Swedish government; a cultural centre in Vimmerby, incoporating her birthplace and childhood home; and contributed her portrait to the 20 kronor banknote from the Bank of Sweden. 

Her stories about Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson-on-the-Roof and the Six Bullerby Children have inspired more than 70 features, mostly produced in Sweden (followed by Russia). Swedish director Olle Hellbom (1925-1982) adapted 17 films and TV series, including The Brothers Lionheart (1977), the first Swedish movie sold to China. Furthermore, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In [+see also:
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film focus
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile
/2008, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [+see also:
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film profile
/2011) is currently working on a new take on the 1973 children’s novel.

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