Trotzig, Birgitta (1929—)

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Trotzig, Birgitta (1929—)

Swedish novelist and literary critic. Born Birgitta Kjellén in 1929 in Göteborg, Sweden; married Ulf Trotzig (an artist); children.

Selected writings:

Ur de älskandes liv (From the Lives of the Lovers, 1951); Bilder (Images, 1954); De utsatta (The Exposed, 1957); En berättelse från kusten (A Tale from the Coast, 1961); Levande och döda (The Living and the Dead, 1964); Sveket (The Betrayal, 1966); Ordgränser (Word Limits, 1968); Sjukdomen (The Sickness, 1972); I kejsarens tid (In the Time of the Emperor, 1975); Berättelser (Tales, 1977); Jaget och världen (The Ego and the World, 1977) Dykungens dotter (The Marsh King's Daughter, 1984).

Born Birgitta Kjellén in Göteborg, Sweden, in 1929, Birgitta Trotzig studied literature and art history, and has worked as an art critic. She made her debut as a novelist at an early age, publishing Ur de älskandes liv (From the Lives of the Lovers) in 1951, when she was only 22. This first work of fiction was a collection of impressionistic sketches relating the loneliness of young girls. Although the book made clear Trotzig's unique sense of style, it in no way presaged the harsh depth of her later work.

Her next novel was Bilder (Images), published in 1954. Three years later, Trotzig's De utsatta (The Exposed) firmly established her as a novelist of exceptional ability. Bilder and De utsatta, along with En berättelse från kusten (A Tale from the Coast, 1961), are set during Scandinavia's Middle Ages. The first two of these novels take place in the southern Swedish province of Skåne, against a desolate backdrop of leaden skies and ceaseless salty winds from the sea. In De utsatta, a country pastor manages to hold onto his faith in God despite great adversity, including a period of confinement in an insane asylum where he is treated like an animal. This emerges as one of the central themes of Trotzig's fiction: the abiding presence of God, even in the face of utter despair.

For about 15 years, between 1954 and 1969, Trotzig lived with her husband, artist Ulf Trotzig, and their children in Paris. It was during this period that she converted from her childhood Protestantism to Catholicism, a turning point in view of her growing preoccupation with the spiritual well-being of characters in her later writing. Many literary critics classify Trotzig as a "Roman Catholic author" despite the fact that the world she creates within her fiction is one largely devoid of grace. Among the most obvious influences upon her work are Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and French novelist François Mauriac.

In 1964, Trotzig published Levande och döda (The Living and the Dead), a collection of three lengthy stories that explore the themes of love and life without love. She returned to the desolation of the southern Swedish landscape for her novels Sveket (The Betrayal, 1966) and Sjukdomen (The Sickness, 1972), although these are set in contemporary or near-contemporary times. The sickness to which the title of the latter novel refers is not just the mental retardation of its protagonist but also the sickness of life in a violent and selfish world.

In 1968's Ordgränser (Word Limits), a collection of essays, Trotzig questions the adequacy of language to adequately convey the pain and suffering so many experience in life. Another collection of essays, Jaget och världen (The Ego and the World, 1977), in which she relates the experiences in her earlier life that inspired much of her fiction, is essential reading for anyone seeking to fully understand Trotzig's writing.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature. 2nd ed. NY: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania