Guardian about the war diaries

Today Guardian’s Alison Flood writes about the recently published War Diaries by Astrid Lindgren:

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.

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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 Krigsdagböcker (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 The book includes facsimile images of the pages, which Lindgren peppered with press cuttings, as well as unpublished family photographs from the war years.

“The family has always known about her diaries. We have always thought, what a pity it was that we couldn’t show them to more people, but we considered it impossible on account of their cumbersome size. At last we decided that her notes without the cuttings are interesting enough to publish. They make a coherent story,” said Lindgren’s daughter, Karin Nyman, the original audience for Lindgren’s tales of the mischievous Pippi.
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“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.”

The diaries, Nyman added, were kept by her mother “in an old chip basket, originally used as a vessel for sending food supplies from Astrid’s parents on their farm, things like eggs, butter, bread, that were scarce in Stockholm during the war.”

“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.”

A “terrible despondency” is “weighing on everything and everyone”, she goes on, in a translation by Sarah Death. “The radio churns out news reports all day long. Lots of our men liable for military service are being called up. A ban has been imposed on private motoring. God help our poor planet in the grip of this madness!”

Continue Reading here.
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