World-famous Swedish author Astrid Lindgren is best known for creating Pippi Longstocking, the star of a series of children’s books first published in 1945 that has since been translated into dozens of languages and enjoyed by millions. But before Pippi captured the imaginations of children around the globe, Lindgren kept a series of war diaries: 17 leather-bound volumes brought vividly to life by an array of photographs and press cuttings that Lindgren carefully stuck down on their pages. Her first entry, dated 1st September 1939, marks the unsettling initiation of World War II and captures the jarring shift from a peaceful outing in Stockholm’s Vasaparken to a world suddenly consumed by conflict.
The Diary Entry
1 September 1939
Oh! War broke out today. Nobody could believe it.
Yesterday afternoon, Elsa Gullander and I were in Vasa Park with the children running and playing around us and we sat there giving Hitler a nice, cosy telling-off and agreed that there definitely was not going to be a war – and now today! The Germans bombarded several Polish cities early this morning and are forging their way into Poland from all directions. I’ve managed to restrain myself from any hoarding until now, but today I laid in a little cocoa, a little tea, a small amount of soap and a few other things.
A terrible despondency weighs on everything and everyone. The radio churns out news reports all day long. Lots of our men are being called up. There’s a ban on private motoring, too. God help our poor planet in the grip of this madness!
In 2015, Astrid Lindgren’s war diaries were published in Swedish as Krigsdagböcker 1939-1946. Two years later they were translated into English by Sarah Death and published by Pushkin Press with the title A World Gone Mad: The Wartime Diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939-1946.
- Listen to an interview with Astrid Lindgren’s great grandson, Johan Palmberg (Radio Sweden)
- The official Astrid Lindgren website
- Astrid Lindgren at Wikipedia
Original text © Astrid Lindgren / Saltkråkan AB 2015. English translation © Sarah Death 2016. First published by Pushkin Press in 2016. Used with permission.