Eva Waldemarsson was an author who primarily wrote historical novels but who also published poetry collections. She sometimes made use of the Scanian dialect in her written work.
Eva Waldemarsson was born 1903 in Rinkaby, near Kristianstad in northeast Scania. Her family descended from an old farming family which over the years had formed many branches. Her father was a businessman. Eva Waldemarsson studied languages and attended commercial college and worked in Stockholm before returning to her childhood home in the 1970s. She made her written debut in 1946 through the publication of the poetry collection Aldrig dör ljuset.
Eva Waldemarsson’s next work, the novel Himlavargen, was published in 1955. It won a prize in a competition for the best novel to come out of Scania. Set in the1800s, it is a wide-ranging story about the inhabitants of a village in northern Scania. The central character is Eljena, the farmer’s daughter, but other people in her surroundings play a role in revealing how life can take an unexpected direction. The characters are portrayed with an almost brutal realism. For example, her mother, who is a maid, suffers a miscarriage as she is standing in the kitchen baking. The demeaning nickname given to this character, Bys mor (mother of the village), derives from the fact that she has borne so many children that people joke she will produce a village of her own. The child’s father, Mats, drives her and their children off the farm to the poorhouse and is portrayed simply standing on his doorstep watching as they leave.
In Eva Waldemarsson’s debut novel she introduces the reader to the kinds of characters and themes that would reappear in her later work: children and women who are beaten and starving, rich people who betray the poor, hopes that are crushed. Although she is very succinct in describing her characters, they are so sharply portrayed that they leave a lasting impression in the reader’s mind. For example, her novel entitled Emelie, Carl XVs frilla, published in 1973, has a passage describing beggar children in the following way (translated from the original): ”The children of Mörkavad rarely have time to play. Like small, pale ragged heaps these children, with eyes aged beyond their years, are sent out by their mothers to beg. These children are old before their time and they know their place”. In this novel Eva Waldemarsson invokes the tall tales and stories which had circulated around Scania since the time that King Karl XV, also known as “Kron-Kalle”, lost his life at Bäckaskog. The book is based on both written and recorded oral source material that recounts the relationship between the king and the beggar’s daughter.
Eva Waldemarsson’s use of language is unusual and striking, combining Scanian dialect with standard Swedish. She was compared to Sara Lidman, among others, who was also an author who produced serious work using regional dialect. Eva Waldemarsson continued a tradition that dates back to Henrik Wraner. He had taken folklore tales and turned them into a genre of their own, where the narrative was written in standard Swedish while the dialogue was presented in dialect. However, Eva Waldemarsson does not just rely on the spoken word to represent the Scanian culture in her writing. She uses words such as “risp”, “tirsen”, “sylten”, “sprägli”, “solvännare” and “räli” – all without explanation. Later on in her written output the Scanian glossaries were notably absent and when explanations were offered this took the form of alternative words in parentheses. For example when she uses “krusbärsgröd” (gooseberry porridge) she explains parenthetically that “porridge is similar to cream”. In Emelie, Carl XVs frilla she uses the word kru which is explained by inserting an asterisk and a note at the bottom of the page thus: “kru=krog” (inn, pub or restaurant).
Eva Waldemarsson sometimes references tobacco farming in her books set in the countryside. The locals could earn a substantial second income through this industry and sometimes it nearly provided all of their income. At the time Himlavargen was published, 1959, along with its sequel Himlaland, published in 1961, tobacco was still being grown in northeast Scania. The work involved in harvesting and drying tobacco had led to the development of a distinct vocabulary, words which subsequently disappeared when tobacco ceased to be cultivated – however, these words live on in Eva Waldemarsson’s books.
Several of Eva Waldemarsson’s books contain the theme of the people’s fight against the church’s narrow interpretations of the word of God. In Himlaland, when the mature Eljena tries to share her father’s inheritance with her illegitimate half-brothers, she suffers admonishment from the priest, who says that those who were born out of wedlock have no rights to inheritance, neither according to God’s law nor that of the Swedish kingdom. Eljena nevertheless stubbornly persists, seeking to fix the wrong committed by her father. Eva Waldemarsson’s fifth novel Madonneleken, published in 1967, is set during the early Reformation and introduces Örjan, the priest, who had been forced into becoming a priest within the Lutheran church despite the fact that he hates Martin Luther. Although he compares his wife to Mary, mother of Christ, he abuses her terribly.
In Kungens stad, from 1969, Eva Waldemarsson presents a fictitious portrayal of the dramatic burning of the ancient town of Vä, and the subsequent building of the town of Kristianstad, in the early 1600s. The inhabitants of Vä, on hearing that the enemy is approaching, take a variety of actions: some flee, others are too weak to do so, and others remain behind for different reasons.
Descriptions of nature form a constant thread throughout Eva Waldemarsson’s written work. The environment was clearly of fundamental importance to her, as judged by, for instance, her poetic description of summer in Som rosen mitt hjärta, published in 1963.
Eva Waldemarsson’s last two books can be seen as conscious efforts to bring her writing career to a close. In Statsrådsmannen, published in 1981, she runs the contemporary together with the past by recounting women’s life memories. Min far sköt en stork, from 1984, is an autobiographical novel which contains yet another unforgettable portrait of childhood. In 1985 Eva Waldemarsson was awarded a cultural prize by Kristianstad municipality. Further to her novels Eva Waldemarsson also submitted contributions to two magazines, Ord & Bild and Perspektiv.
Eva Waldemarsson has had a road name after her in Rinkaby. She died in 1986 and is buried in Rinkaby cemetery in Scania.