Pär Lagerkvist was born in Växjö, Småland, where he grew up in a two-room apartment above the railroad restaurant (his father worked on the railway) with his six siblings. He received a traditional religious education which strongly influenced all his works, although his passion for religion mellowed somewhat in his later years and gave way for the influence of more modern scientific ideas.
Lagerkvist’s parents recognized his aptitude for learning, and let him go on to study literature and art history at Uppsala University, although he didn't much like it there. Apart from his Lutheran beliefs, Lagerkvist was also influenced by socialism. It was when Lagerkvist left his studies that he began writing full time, and one of his earliest works was “Ångest”, a collection of poems published in 1916. An inspiring trip to Paris helped him define what he thought literature should be about. As an author, he tried to explore how a person can find meaning in life in a world like ours. The anxiety to live in a secularized society without a god is a frightening prospect that Lagerkvist examines in novels like “Barabbas” and “Sibyllan”.
Lagerkvist was a pessimist, and his major themes were evil and tragedy. He tried relentlessly to find answers to life’s most difficult questions. Lagerkvist seemed to have lost his childhood faith. His book “Bödeln”(1933), was a warning of the impending nazism in Germany. In 1950 his most famous book, “Barabbas”, was published and instantly became an international success (French author André Gide loved it), and Lagerkvist received the Nobel Prize in literature a year later.
“Barabbas” is based on the Biblical story about Jesus being sentenced to die, and the thief and murderer Barabbas was released – as was the custom then. In Lagerkvist’s novel the Barabbas character spends the rest of his life trying to come to terms with why he was chosen to live when Jesus died. The novel was filmed in 1962, with Anthony Quinn playing the title role.
Lagerkvist died in Stockholm in 1974.

Ångest, ångest är min arvedel
Min strupes sår, mitt hjärtas skri i världen