Carl Jonas Love Almqvist

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Carl Jonas Love Almqvist
Painted by Almqvist, 1823

Carl Jonas Love (Ludvig) Almqvist (28 November 1793, Stockholm, Sweden – 26 September 1866, Bremen, Germany), was a romantic poet, early feminist, realist, composer, social critic and traveller.

He was the son of the army paymaster Karl Gustav Almqvist (1768–1846). He studied in Uppsala and was then worked as a clerk in Stockholm. In 1823 he gave up his post, and in the autumn of the year after moved to Köla in northern Värmland where he and some friends, inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, intended to live out a rural idyll. It was there that he married and had two children. In 1828 he became a teacher at the experimental New Elementary School, Stockholm, and he was rector at the same from 1829 to 1841. Almqvist was ordained as pastor in 1837, but could not find work, and after publishing Det går an in 1839 gave up that career altogether and supported himself by working for various newspapers (including Aftonbladet and Jönköpingsbladet). He was involved in controversy with August Blanche in the "Det-går-an battle"; Almqvist asserted that Blanche was of illegitimate birth, Blanche challenged Almqvist to a duel and when Almqvist paid no attention, August Blanche spat in his face at a meeting at the Strömparterren.

In June 1851 Almqvist fled Sweden on suspicion of fraud and poisoning attempts against the elderly usurer Johan Jacob von Scheven, to whom he owed 18000 riksdaler. The accusation was based on the testimony of Amanda Brandt among others. He arrived in the United States at the end of August and travelled widely under the name Lewis Gustawi. In Philadelphia, on the third anniversary of his departure from Stockholm, he bigamously married a 69-year-old guest-house proprietress, Emma Nugent. In 1865 Almqvist tried to return to Sweden, but only got as far as Bremen, where he died. Carl Jonas Love Almqvist's younger half-brother, the Director-General Gustavus Fridolf Almquist (1814–1886), was the grandfather of Dag Hammarskjöld.

He wrote many books and poems. Some dealt with his radical views on society and politics; in his novel Drottningens juvelsmycke, his main character, Tintomara, is neither male nor female, and arouses both men and women to fall in love, and in his novel Det går an (It is acceptable), a woman lives with a man without being married to him. These books caused the church and state to condemn him and call him a dangerous revolutionary. However, he still maintained influence with his writings, and he is counted as one of the foremost Swedish social reformers of the 19th century.

Selected works[edit]

Many of his writings are included in the long series Törnrosens bok ("Book of the Briar Rose", 1833–51). Some of his musical compositions have been recorded.

  • Parjumouf Saga ifrån Nya Holland (Stockholm, 1817), an early novel, published anonymously. It is the first Swedish novel set in Australia (which is termed Nya Holland, or New Holland, and also Ulimaroa)
  • Amorina (1822, rev. 1839), novel
  • Drottningens juvelsmycke (1834), novel. In English The Queen's Diadem, trans. by Yvonne Sandstroem. Camden House (1992)
  • Ormus och Ariman (1839)
  • Om poesi i sak (1839), essay on poetics
  • Det går an (1839), novel. In English Sara Videbeck and the Chapel, trans. by Adolph Burnett Benson. American-Scandinavian Foundation (1919)
  • Songes (1849), poems

Det går an[edit]

During a steamboat trip between Stockholm and Lidköping, a sergeant named Albert falls in love with the glazier's daughter Sara Videbeck.

But Sara insists that they live in an egalitarian marriage without a formal marriage ceremony and without shared property (today known as living apart together). Sara asks at the end of the book: Går allt detta an, Albert? (Is all this acceptable, Albert?) The answer is: Det går an (It is acceptable).

The novel is primarily an attack on lifelong marriage as an institution and the inability of women to become financially independent. The book's social tendency aroused lively debate and "det-går-an literature" became a concept. One consequence however was that Almqvist was forced out of his post as rector at the New Elementary School, Stockholm.


External links[edit]