The Saga of Gösta Berling


Selma Lagerlöf (1858−1940) was one of Sweden’s most important writers. In 1909 she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 1914 the first woman elected to the Swedish Academy. Her writings were placed in a local setting, but she used them and her national and international prominence to champion much larger issues, including women's suffrage in Sweden and international peace initiatives. In 1890 Lagerlöf entered a novel competition, sponsored by the magazine Idun, by submitting five chapters of Gösta Berlings Saga (The saga of Gösta Berling). She was awarded the first prize. The following year she expanded the story into a full novel, which was published by Idun. Placed in a fictional setting that strongly resembled the province of Värmland in western Sweden, her tale recounts a year in the life of Gösta Berling, a drunken and defrocked clergyman. He is taken in by the imposing mistress of the manor house Ekeby, who also has a dozen hedonistic cavaliers under her patronage. As their leader, Gösta Berling makes a pact with the rich ironmaster Sintram, who is said to be an accomplice of the devil and who promises the rowdy group that they will be able to take over the manor if they manage to do nothing worthwhile for an entire year. The work has been translated into more than 50 languages. It consists of an introduction in two parts and 36 chapters. Many chapters recount alternative stories with a range of different characters. This manuscript came into the possession of the National Library of Sweden in 1935. The son of Frithiof Hellberg, the publisher of Idun, wanted to sell the original manuscript. As a way to drive up the price, he spread a rumor that he would sell it to a buyer in America. At the time, Lagerlöf did not have the means to purchase the manuscript herself. However, the son of one of her former classmates, the Swedish Academy, and the National Library of Sweden joined forces to acquire the manuscript. This was considered great news at the time and several articles in the press covered the story.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Gösta Berlings saga


Type of Item

Physical Description

365 pages : paper ; 35 x 24 centimeters


  • Shelfmark: Vf 132a

Last updated: December 9, 2014