Eva F Dahlgren

About me:

Photo: Ola Kjelbye
Photo: Ola Kjelbye

I am a writer and free lance journalist, living in Göteborg, Sweden. My writing has gradually changed. Prior to becoming free lance, I was a reporter for the Swedish newsagency TT for ten years. Now I mainly write books.
It all began in 1996, when I discovered that my deceased grandfather had been a racial biologist, and not only a Professor of Botany. I had to know more and after five years my searching resulted in the book Grandfather was a Racial Biologist (Farfar var rasbiolog). It was published in 2002 and since then I work almost full time as a writer. I also held lectures about my books. In schools I talked especially about my grandfather and human valuations – from skull measurements in the 1930’s, to the genetic science today. Who is valuable? Who has the right to be born?
In the summer of 2013 my first drama Just a Mountain Lark (Bara en Berglärka) was performed in the city of Landskrona.

Honorary Doctor

The Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University appointed me as a Honorary Doctor 2019.

The day before the conferment ceremony, when I received my doctoral cap, I lectured in the Humanities Theatre.

My books:

My first book Grandfather was a Racial Biologist (Farfar var rasbiolog) was published in 2002. It is a factual and analytical analysis of the pre-and post-war period in Swedish history, when my paternal grandfather was Professor of Botany with a special interest in eugenics, and the implications of this fact for me when, as an adult, they became clear.
My grandfather, K V Ossian Dahlgren was the head of my family. He pleaded for the conservation of the Nordic race, advising people to have tall and blond children. So why did he marry my grandmother? Only 147 centimetres tall with south-European roots. They had four children, none of them tall or blond. My aunt felt like such a ”minus-variant”, physically, that she felt no right to reproduce herself.
Grandfather was a Racial Biologist moves from the skull measurings of the 1930s to foetal diagnostics today.
Read sample chapter here!

The book is now available in german by Wallstein Verlag, translated by Benedikt Grabinski. https://www.wallstein-verlag.de/9783835332966-eva-f-dahlgren-grossvater-war-rassenbiologe.html

Klaus Taschwer, Der Standard: Eine berührende und lehrreiche Aufarbeitung einer schwierigen Familiengeschichte. http://sbvelden.at/2019/01/16/dies-das-die-wissenschaftlichen-buchtipps-des-jahres/

This Isn’t Me (Det här är inte jag) was published in 2005. It is a documentary novel about a woman suffering from fatigue depression. It’s a story told from within the main character’s mind and life. Felicia, a well-known journalist, cannot understand what’s happening to her. Suddenly the most simple tasks are overwhelming. She can’t even go to her local super market – it’s like the walls are falling over her head. She’s always been efficient, energetic and prided herself to have managed her life as a single parent in a good way. Now she doesn’t seem to be able to cope with life outside the apartment and her 13 year old son is getting more and more worried about his mom. What’s wrong with her? How will she deal with it? Is she ill? Will this pass or does she need to make changes?
In This Isn’t Me, the burned out protagonist Felicia finds comfort in Strindberg’s Inferno. Strindberg himself was diagnosed with neurasthenia – the name used in the nineteenth century for fatigue depression.
This Isn’t Me has also been serially broadcast on Swedish Radio.

The Sigrid Gillner case (Fallet Sigrid Gillner) was published in 2008 and is the true story of a politician led astray by her dreams. Due to the current crisis in the world I feel that the book is even more of present interest now than when I wrote it.
When I grew up I wanted to be exactly like Sigrid. She was a friend of my grandparents and the only writer I knew personally. She was not only a writer, she hade also been one of the female pioneers of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. In the early thirtie´s she was a member of the Socialist International’s Women Executive and she was elected to the Swedish Parliament in 1932.
Sigrid was passionate about democracy.  But she was very idealistic and became very disappointed and left the parliament and all political commissions in 1935. Until then she had given lots of speeches warning everybody, especially women, about the Nazis. Now she began believing that Hitler was right when he preached idealism and sacrifice. He lectured that the elite should be in charge. This was true democracy, according to Hitler. Sigrid condemned the anti-Semitism, but was branded as a
 Nazi and the press wrote about ”The Downfall of Sigrid Gillner”.
The book is also a love story. Sigrid’s great love was her husband Sven, who was a Social Democrat and a politician. After her defection he was forced to publicly establish a distance between Sigrid and himself. Their love was strong but at times, they hated each other. Sigrid eventually realised her mistake, but she was never able to shake off the Nazi brand. She was shunned by the Social Democratic press for the rest of her life. She managed to support herself by writing rewievs on TV- and radio-programs in right wing newspapers, but mentally she never recovered. She suffered from panic attacks and did not leave her home for thirty years. Fortunately she continued to write letters and thanks to her enormous correspondance I was able to write her biography.

”The Sigrid Gillner case” develops into a vibrant chronicle, which is difficult to put aside. A pattern of love and forgiveness flows through it and also a warning: This could happen again. The allure of dictatorship is eternal.”
Svenska Dagbladet

White Coal (Det vita kolet) is a documentary novel dealing with the electrification of Sweden, with science versus intuition and with the way love messes things up for us.
Its characters struggle with the same issues as people do today: Can we trust technology? What if nature strikes back? Is God really dead?
My inspiration for the story’s main characters are my maternal great grandparents, Axel and Karin Estelle. The plot is based on a decade of their lives. In 1892, Axel Estelle established Sweden’s first electrical testing laboratory, Elektriska Pröfningsanstalten, and between 1901 and 1906 he was the director of the first municipal power plant in the city of Malmö (today the building houses the Malmö branch of Moderna Museet).
Karin Estelle was interested in the soul, the unconscious and intuition. While Axel was busy electrifying Malmö, Karin commuted by train to Lund University, where she attended the lectures of the philosopher Hans Larsson on intuition, regarded at that time as a form of inferior thinking – ”female and illogical”.

While doing research at the archives of the Swedish Institute of Racial Biology in Uppsala for a book about my grandfather, I found a photo album full of pictures of naked women.
These were pictures of the ”substandard” inmates at the National Forced Labour Institution in Landskrona, where female prostitutes were interned during the 1920s and 30s. These women were hidden away from society, but another purpose of the institution was to foster and educate them. At the same time they were the objects of study for racial scientists and state administrators, who attempted to classify them and often to sterilize them as well, so that the ”dregs of society” did not multiply out of control.
Although these women had lived in poverty and misery, the National Board of Health and Welfare claimed that their loose living was attributable to their being ”mentally disordered.” They were ranked into eleven ”psychological types”, of which the Demimond was the highest in and the Berglärka (Mountain lark) the lowest. Mountain larks were the women who would ”nest” outdoors in parks or around harbours and barracks.
Who were these women? What brought them to the Landskrona institution?
When I found the photo album with the naked women, I never imagined I would have the energy to delve into their fates. But I found myself unable to forget the photos, and finally I just had to write about them. Fallen Women (Fallna kvinnor) is about my pursuit of their stories. Thanks to letters written by their own hands, which I found in various archives, I have been able to give these women the opportunity to speak in their own voices.
Fallen Women is a tranche of female history as well as an account of a shameful and cruel attempt on the part of our society to transform these women into ”qualified” citizens, and an attempt to provide them some vindication.

I keep getting this question from readers. So I have made it the working title for my next book, the sequel to Fallen Women (Fallna kvinnor).
In my research I found that during their childhood many of these women were bandied about among orphanages and foster homes.
Later, many of them gave birth themselves. What happened to their children? I returned to the archives to try to answer this question.
My overall theme is the low standing of the ’illegitimate’ child, especially the price-tagging of children as merchandise in the ’foster child industry’.
As in Fallen Women, the book will also be based on personal letters, many of which express the childrens’ longing for, and sometimes the aversion to, their biological parents.
What Happened to the Children? (Vad hände med barnen?) will be published in spring 2017.


I have always been interested in drama, but not until I was working on my book Fallen Women (Fallna kvinnor) did I concurrently write my first play: Just a Mountain Lark (Bara en Berglärka).
Based on the same historical facts, it portrays the women who were locked up, scrutinised and put to forced labour during the 1920s and 30s. But it also tells the fictional story of Linnea, a young woman driven into prostitution, who was sent to the Forced Labour Institution in Landskrona. Her aspiration in life was to find her unknown father.
The other main character is the director of the Institution, who is confronted, as the plot unravels, with the classification system for the inmates that he himself has invented.
Who is substandard and who is valuable? What is explained by genetics (nature) and what by the environment (nurture)?
During the summer of 2013 my play was performed in a big tent on the actual site of the institution, at Landskrona Castle, as part of the city’s 600th anniversary celebrations.