Chair No. 9 - Ellen Mattson
Ellen Mattson was born in Uddevalla in western Sweden in 1962 and still lives in the area. She studied literary theory and languages, and piano at the Vadstena adult education college music department. She is also a certified librarian but is currently a full-time author and critic. Mattson has contributed literary criticism to several Swedish newspapers: Göteborgs-Tidningen, Bohusläningen, Svenska Dagbladet and Göteborgs-Posten. She has also been a columnist for Göteborgs-Posten and has written reviews for the Swedish Arts Council and the Swedish Authors’ Fund.
Mattson has written plays, including the radio play Tidigt på morgonen (“Early in the morning”) in 1999. She adapted Emelie Flygare-Carlén’s “The Rose of Tistelön” (1842) for the regional Bohusläns Teater. Mattson’s own novels, Glädjestranden (“Joy beach”, 2008) and Sommarleken (“The summer game”, 2016) were both adapted for radio serialisation by Sveriges Radio, the public service outlet.
Mattson’s readers know her principally as a novelist. Her debut was with Nattvandring (“Night excursion”) published in 1992 by Albert Bonniers Förlag. For a wider readership and among critics, her breakthrough was in 1998 with Resenärerna (“The travellers”), awarded the Svenska Dagbladet literature prize. A year later, her novel Poetens liv (“Life of the poet”) acquainted readers with author Jan Rorsack, biographer of Carl Jonas Love Almqvist and Rainer Maria Rilke, and now working on a biography of the poet Dorotea Vik, an old friend who died early after a self-destructive life. A parallel narrative follows a German author and Nobel laureate now an exile in 1930’s Paris. Similarities with the real-life Thomas Mann are conspicuous, and the depiction of his life mirrors Rorsack’s work on his biography of Dorotea Vik.
Several of Mattson’s books source themes from the past and are frequently populated by historical figures. Her novel Vinterträdet (“The winter tree”, 2012), for example, portrays Greta Garbo’s life in her film-star heyday seen through the eyes of her secretary. Mattson thus accomplishes a double portrait of two prodigiously active people in the early days of movies. Her novel Snow (2001) describes the period following the Swedish army’s retreat from Norway consequent on the death of King Charles XII. Her latest novel, Tornet och fåglarna (“The tower and the birds”, 2017), is about Commander Henrich Danckwardt and the loss of the fort at Marstrand to the Danes in the harsh war year of 1719.