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Lo-Johansson, (Karl) Ivar 1901-1990

LO-JOHANSSON, (Karl) Ivar 1901-1990

PERSONAL: Born February 23, 1901, in Oesmo, Stockholm, Sweden; died April 10, 1990 (some sources cite April 11), in Stockholm, Sweden; son of Gottfrid (a laborer) and Lovisa (a manual laborer; maiden name, Ersson) Lo-Johansson.

CAREER: Stonecutter, farmhand, journalist, and manual laborer in France, England, and Hungary, 1925-29; writer, beginning 1927.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prize from Nio Society, 1941, for Bara en Mor; award from Foundation for the Promotion of Literature, 1953; Dobloug Prize, 1953 and 1973; Ph.D., University of Uppsala, 1964; Nordic Council Prize, 1979, for Pubertet; officer of French Order of Arts and Letters, 1986.



Godnatt, Jord (novel; title means "Goodnight, Earth"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1933, translation, notes, and afterword by Rochelle Wright published as Breaking Free, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1990.

Bara en Mor (novel), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1939, translation, afterword, and notes by Robert E. Bjork published as Only a Mother, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1991.

Lyckat (novel), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1962, translation from the Swedish by Allan Tapsell published as Bodies of Love, Souvenir Press, 1971.

Peddling My Wares, translated, and with an introduction, by Rochelle Wright, Camden House (Columbia, SC), 1995.


Måna är Död (novel; title means "Maana Is Dead"),

Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1932.

Kungsgatan (novel; title means "The King's Street"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1935, reprinted with epilogue by Ragner Oldberg, 1966.

Statarna (short stories; title means "The Farm Workers"), two volumes, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1936–37, reprinted, 1961.

Jordproletärerna (title means "Proletarians of the Soul"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1941, reprinted, Foerfattarförlaget, 1970.

Traktorn (novel; title means "The Tractor"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1943, reprinted, Trevi (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

Statarnoveller: Statarna och Jordproletärerna (title means "Stories of the Farm Workers"), two volumes, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1945.

Geniet: En Roman om Pubertet (novel; title means "The Genius"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1947, reprinted, 1964.

Ungdoinsnoveller: Ett Lag Historier; Tidiga Noveller (title means "Stories of Youth"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948.

Noveller (title means "Short Stories"), commentary by Arne Haeggqvist, Svenska Bokförlaget, 1960.

Astronomens Hus (title means "House of the Astronomer"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1966.

Elektra, Kvinna år 2070 (novel; title means "Electra, Woman of the Year 2070"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1967.

Martyrerna (title means "The Martyrs"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968.

Passionerna: Älskog (short stories; title means "The Passions"), seven volumes, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968–72.

Girigbukarna (title means "The Misers"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1969.

Karriäristerna (title means "The Careerists"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1969.

Vällustingarna (title means "The Lechers"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1970.

Lögnhalsarna (title means "The Liars"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1971.

Vishetslärerna (title means "The Teachers of Wisdom"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1972.

Nunnan i Vadstena: Sedeskildringar (title means "The Nun of Vadstena: Moral Stories"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

Ordets Makt: Historien om Spraket (title means "The Power of Words"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

Folket och Herrarna (title means "The People and the Masters"), two volumes, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

Furstarna: en Krönika från Gustav Vasa till Karl XII (title means "The Rulers"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1974.

Lastbara Berättelser (title means "Stories of Vice"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1974.

Passionsnoveller (title means "Stories of Passion"), two volumes, Aldus (Stockholm, Sweden), 1974.

Statarnoveller: Jordproletärerna (sequel to Statarnoveller: Statarna och Jordproletärerna; title means "Stories of the Farm Workers: The Proletarian of the Earth"), Forum (Stockholm, Sweden), 1975.

Romanem om Måna (title means "A Novel about Måna"; contains Måna är Död and Astronomens Hus;), Trevi (Stockholm, Sweden), 1976.

En Arbetares Liv: Proletärnoveller (title means "A Worker's Life: Proletarian Stories"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1977.


Analfabetan: En Berätteise från Min Ungdom (title means "The Illiterate"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1951, reprinted, Aldus/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1966.

Stockholmaren (title means "The Stockholmer"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1956, reprinted, Aldus/Bonnier, 1964.

Journalisten (title means "The Journalist"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1956.

Socialisten (title means "The Socialist"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1958.

Soldaten (title means "The Soldier"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1959.

Proletärförfattaren (title means "The Proletarian Writer"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1960.

Gårdfarihandlaren (title means "The Country Peddler"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), reprinted, 1963.

Also author of Författaren (title means "The Writer"), published by Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden).


Vagabondliv i Frankrike (title means "Vagabondage in France"), Wahlstroem & Widstrand (Stockholm, Sweden), 1927.

Kolet i Våld (title means "The Power of Coal"), Wahlstroem & Widstrand (Stockholm, Sweden), 1928.

Statarliv (title means "The Life of the Farm Worker"), Folket i Bild Förlag (Stockholm, Sweden), 1941.

Stridsskrifter (title means "Polemical Pamphlets"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1946.

Statarna i Bild (title means "Farm Workers in Pictures"), illustrated by Gunnar Lundh, KF's Bokförlag (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948.

Monism, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948.

Ålderdom (title means "Old Age"), illustrated by Sven Jaerlass, KF's Bokförlag (Stockholm, Sweden), 1949.

Vagabondliv (title means "Vagabondage"; contains Vagabondliv i Frankrike, Kolet i Våld, "Nederstigen i Dödsriket," Zigenare, and "Mina Staeders Ansikten"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1949.

Ålderdoms-Sverige (title means "Old Age in Sweden"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1952.

Okänt Paris (title means "Unknown Paris"), illustrated by Tore Johnson, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1954.

Zigenarväg (title means "Gypsy Ways"), illustrated by Anna Riwkin-Brick, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1955.

Att Skriva en Roman: Ett Självbiografisk Berättelse (autobiography; title means "Writing a Novel"), illustrated by Nisse Zetterberg, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1957.

Ur Klyvnadens Tid (poems; title means "The Splitting Time"), FIB's Lyrikklubb, 1958.

Zigenare (title means "Gypsies"), Bokförlaget Prisma, 1963.

Statarnas Liv och Död (title means "Farm Workers Alive and Dead"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1963.

(With Mats Janson and Ingemar Liman) Statarlängan från Berga, Stiftelsen Skensen (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968.

Stridsskrifter (title means "Polemical Pamphlets"), two volumes, Svensk Vidifon, 1971, reprinted, Fax, 1974.

Statarskolen i Litteraturen (title means "The Literary School of the Farm Workers"), Författarförlaget (Göeborg, Sweden), 1972.

Dagbok från Tjugo-Talet (title means "Diary from the Twenties"), two volumes, Corona, 1974.

Dagar och Dagsverken: Debatter och Memoarer (title means "Days and Day's Work"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1975.

Under de Gröna Ekarna i Sörmland (title means "Under the Green Oaks in Sörmland"), Forum (Stockholm, Sweden), 1976.

Passioner i Urval, Bra Böcker, 1976.

Den Sociala Fotobildboken (title means "The Social Photograph Book"), Raben & Sjögren, 1977.

Pubertet (memoirs; title means "Puberty"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1978.

Leidenschaften, Wilhelm Heyne, 1978.

Das Liebesgiück, Wilhelm Heyne, 1978.

Asfalt (memoirs; title means "Asphalt"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1979.

Tröskeln (memoirs; title means "The Threshold"), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1982.

Trihet (memoirs; title means "Freedom"), [Sweden], 1985.

Author of Till en Författare (title means "To an Author"), 1988. Works by Lo-Johansson have been translated into twenty-five languages. Lo-Johansson's papers are archived at the University of Uppsala Library, Carolina Rediviva. Papers and memorabilia may also be found at Ivar Lo-muséet (The Ivar Lo Museum) in Stockholm. Additional correspondence is held by the Royal Library and in the private archives of Albert Bonniers Förlag, both in Stockholm.

ADAPTATIONS: The novel Godnatt, Jord was filmed in 1978.

SIDELIGHTS: "In the period between the world wars," Rochelle Wright explained in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "many writers from impoverished rural backgrounds attained prominence in Sweden, their rise corresponding roughly to the establishment of a welfare state. Lacking formal academic training, they educated themselves however they could: through lending libraries, at folk high schools, and by writing for the radical press. Several of these writers drew attention to their class origins by creating fictional worlds that portrayed Swedish society, past and present, from the perspective of the disadvantaged. Ivar Lo-Johansson, whose career spanned seven decades, was the most prolific of these epic realists and an active participant in literary and cultural debates. Known familiarly as Ivar Lo, he was both critically acclaimed and popular with readers. His early works depicted oppressive social and economic conditions among agricultural laborers but resonate in equal measure from penetrating psychological insight. In his middle years Lo-Johansson turned to the autobiographical novel; employing humor and irony, he projected his fictional alter ego against a backdrop of nearly a half century of Swedish social history. His many short stories, particularly those written toward the end of his career, rejuvenated the genre in Sweden. Though a consummate stylist, Lo-Johansson was not an innovator of form. Rather, his contribution to Swedish literature results from his illumination of culturally specific subject matter in the context of universal themes."

Lo-Johansson wrote numerous books on a wide variety of subjects, including travel, sports, politics, and Swedish social life, as well as books for young people. His most important work is considered by some critics to be the body of material that contributed to the abolition of Sweden's statare system in 1935. Lo-Johansson was himself born to a family of statare, which Torborg Lundell described in the Reference Guide to World Literature as "the lowest class of agricultural workers, the estate workers . . . who were tied to the big estates, being paid in kind and enduring substandard living conditions, and for all practical purposes not 'free.'"

The best known example of this writing may be Bara en Mor (title means "Only a Mother"), whose character was modeled, some critics claim, after that of Lo-Johansson's mother and other statare women he had met. According to Lundell, the novel is "about a beautiful young woman, Rya-Rya, who swims nude in an isolated lake on a hot summer day and is branded by the conservative estate workers as a fallen woman. Defiantly, she marries [a man unworthy of her attention] . . . and produces one child after another, like the rest of the women. . . . She is . . . trapped in a life of repression while lacking the ability to change it. Only as a mother can she realize some of her strength." Lundell praised the author for "a keen eye for documentary details" and for his conviction "that literature should have a definite social function which is best met through realistic journalistic methods."

Another frequent theme of Lo-Johansson's writing is the argument that, as Lundell described it, "young men should have access to young women as a natural outlet for their sexuality." The eroticism and sexuality in his novels shocked the conservative Swedes of his day, beginning with Lo-Johansson's first novel, Måna är Död (title means "Maana Is Dead"). This was one of the earliest Swedish novels to deal openly and frankly with such issues as a young man's yearning for sex and related topics of prostitution and sexually transmitted disease.

Lo-Johansson also wrote a substantial number of autobiographical works. The first volume, Analfabeten (title means "The Illiterate") is "a touching and loving portrayal of his father," Lundell observed, "and a masterpiece in Swedish literature." Later volumes follow the author through stages of his own life, defined by simple, descriptive titles like "the country peddler," "the journalist," "the socialist," or later, "puberty," "the threshold," and finally "freedom."

Lundell attributed Lo-Johansson's success to a number of factors: "His characters are multidimensional and show a deep insight into what makes a human being human. He translated social consciousness and compassion into great literature and created many unforgettable characters. His language is rich and powerful, poetic and realistic, entertaining and captivating."

According to the obituary writer in the Independent, Lo-Johansson once explained: "'Roughly speaking, I consider a writer's tasks to be principally two. . . . One is taking care of the language. The other is to rebel against oppression.' Lo-Johansson remained, to the end, a writer and a very political person. As a member and representative of the lower, 'un-academic' classes he felt it to be his duty to keep the language from remaining an upper-class privilege and preserve." Wright concluded: "Ivar Lo-Johansson's literary career encompasses the better part of the twentieth century. Within his lifetime he saw Sweden change from a provincial rural society to a modern industrialized nation, and he wrote extensively about the transformation. By examining, in many earlier works, his class of origin, he helped bring new subject matters and a fresh perspective to Swedish literature. Yet, Lo-Johansson was, by no means, only a social realist. His predominant theme, the search for freedom, alludes not only to emancipation—from oppressive social systems—but also to psychological independence and existential autonomy, quests that have universal relevance."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 259: Twentieth-Century Swedish Writers before World War II, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.

Edstroem, Maurice, Lo-Johansson, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1954, revised edition published as Ävan, Käleken, Klassen: En Bok om Lo-Johanssonsförfattarskap, Forum (Stockholm, Sweden), 1976.

Furuland, Lars, and Ragner Oldberg, Lo-Johansson iTrycksvärtans Ijus, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1961.

Holmgren, Olga, Kärlek och Ära, Liber (Stockholm, Sweden), 1978.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Analfabetan: En Berätteise frånMin Ungdom, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1951, reprinted, Aldus/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1966.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Stockholmaren, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1956, reprinted, Aldus/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1964.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Journalisten, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1956.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Att Skriva en Roman: Ett Sjaelv-biografiskberättelse, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1957.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Socialisten, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1958.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Soldaten, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1959.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Proletärförfattaren, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1960.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Gårdfarihandlaren, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), reprinted, 1963.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Pubertet, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1978.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Asfalt, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1979.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Troeskeln, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1982.

Lo-Johansson, Ivar, Trihet, [Sweden], 1985.

Öhman, Nina, editor, Ivar Lo-Johansson och konsten, Moderna Museet (Stockholm, Sweden), 1990.

Oldberg, Ragner, Lo-Johansson, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1957.

Palmqvist, Bertil, Lo-Johansson, Fax, 1974.

Reference Guide to World Literature, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.


American Scandinavian Review, number 59, 1971, Jan-Ander Paulsson, "Ivar Lo-Johansson: Crusader for Social Justice," pp. 21-31.

Swedish Book Review, 1991, Rochelle Wright, "Meeting Ivar Lo," pp. 5-9.

World Literature Today, winter, 1990, Yvonne L. Sandstroem, review of Till en forfattare, p. 136.


Kuusankoski Public Library in Finland Books andWriters Web site, (December 16, 2002).



Boston Globe, April 12, 1990, p. 59.

Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1990.

Independent (London, England), April 13, 1990, p. 28.

Newsday, April 13, 1990, p. 36.

Times (London, England), April 13, 1990.*

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