Stig Dagerman is one of our most prominent Swedish authors. He spent his childhood on his paternal grandparents’ farm in Älvkarleby, some 100 miles north of Stockholm. His mother left while he was quite young, and Dagerman didn’t see her again until he was a grown man. Contrary to popular belief, however, Dagerman always said he had had a happy childhood.
As a young man, Dagerman became attracted to anarchism and its ideological offspring, syndicalism. He joined the Syndicalist Youth Federation, and showed talent as a writer and editor for their newspaper. At age 22, Dagerman made his debut with the novel “Ormen” (The Snake), a tale with horror as its main theme. The book excited the critics at the time, and it was compared to the works of Kafka, even though many were shocked by Dagerman’s deep anguish, alienation and fear. Like Kafka, there were clear connections to existentialism. His next novel, “De dömdas ö”, written at August Strindberg’s house on Kymmendö, is a difficult book about seven shipwrecked men on a nightmarish island, awaiting death. A year later his first play, “Den dödsdömde”, premiered at the Dramatic Theater, and the same year saw the publication of his collection of short stories, “Nattens lekar”. Dagerman also gained fame with his so called “dagsverser”, rhymed verses usually accompanied by little drawings, which he wrote for the newspaper Arbetaren.
Dagerman became extremely popular and was very productive during a relatively few years in the 1940’s, when he wrote frantically. One can say he was the picture of a young genius. But then the flow ran short and fame became his enemy. The 1950’s were characterized by grand plans but nothing really happened. His last “dagsvers”, “Varning för hunden” (which was later set to music by Fred Åkerström), was published the same day he died. With a few lines, Dagerman sums up man’s powerlessness when meeting the intolerance of the powers that be.
Dagerman committed suicide in 1954 after a long time of depression and mental illness, possibly including schizophrenia. He also suffered from some form of writer’s block, possibly due to feeling that he could not live up to the enormous expectations people had for his writing.
Dagerman’s work is translated into many languages, and his work continues to inspire readers, writers, musicians and filmmakers in Sweden and abroad. The Stig Dagerman Society in Sweden annually awards the Stig Dagerman Prize to individuals who, like Dagerman, promote empathy and understanding through their work. In 2008 the prize went to the French writer Jean Marie Gustave Le Clézio, who later received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Varning för hunden
Lagen har sina blottor.
Hund får de fattiga ha.
De kunde väl skaffa sig råttor,
som är skattefria och bra.
Nu sitter folk i små stugor
med dyrbara hundkreatur.
De kunde väl leka med flugor,
Som också är sällskapsdjur.
Kommunen bara betalar.
Det måste bli slut, ity
att annars så köper de valar,
fruktar herr Åleby.
Något måste beslutas:
Hundarna skjuts! Inte sant?
Nästa åtgärd: De fattiga skjutas,
så spar kommunen en slant.