Swedish novelist, poet and playwright Par Lagerkvist was born on May 23, 1891 in Vaxjo, Sweden. He attended the University of Uppsala briefly, but did not complete a degree. His first book was published in 1912, the same year he left the University. In 1913 Lagerkvist moved to Paris. He lived abroad, mainly in France and Italy, for many years, and even after returning to Sweden, he traveled frequently in Europe. In his earlier writing, Lagerkvist was often bleakly pessimistic. His strong opposition to totalitarianism was voiced in the plays Victor in the Darkness and The Man without a Soul. In the 1940s, however, his focus shifted, and his writing began to explore religious and moral themes, such as the struggle between good and evil or reconciliation with God. Works from this period include The Sibyl, The Death of Ahasuerus, Herod and Mariamne, and The Dwarf. Although he is now probably best known for The Dwarf, which was first published in the 1940s, Lagerkvist's first international success came in 1951, with the publication of Barrabas, a story about the life of the biblical character after he, rather than Jesus Christ, was pardoned. Barrabas was translated into several languages, and adapted as both a play and a movie. Par Lagerkvist was named as one of the 18 "immortals" of the Swedish Academy in 1940. Several years later, in 1951, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in Stockholm on July 11, 1974.
Gide, the reflective rebel against bourgeois morality and one of the most important and controversial figures in modern European literature, published his first book anonymously at the age of 18. Gide was born in Paris, the only child of a law professor and a strict Calvinist mother. As a young man, he was an ardent member of the symbolist group, but the style of his later work is more in the tradition of classicism. Much of his work is autobiographical, and the story of his youth and early adult years and the discovery of his own sexual tendencies is related in Si le grain ne meurt (If it die . . .) (1926). Corydon (1923) deals with the question of homosexuality openly. Gide's reflections on life and literature are contained in his Journals (1954), which span the years 1889--1949. He was a founder of the influential Nouvelle Revue Francaise, in which the works of many prominent modern European authors appeared, and he remained a director until 1941. He resigned when the journal passed into the hands of the collaborationists. Gide's sympathies with communism prompted him to travel to Russia, where he found the realities of Soviet life less attractive than he had imagined. His accounts of his disillusionment were published as Return from the U.S.S.R. (1937) and Afterthoughts from the U.S.S.R. (1938). Always preoccupied with freedom, a champion of the oppressed and a skeptic, he remained an incredibly youthful spirit. Gide himself classified his fiction into three categories: satirical tales with elements of farce like Les Caves du Vatican (Lafcadio's Adventures) (1914), which he termed soties; ironic stories narrated in the first person like The Immoralist (1902) and Strait Is the Gate (1909), which he called recits; and a more complex narrative related from a multifaceted point of view, which he called a roman (novel). The only example of the last category that he published was The Counterfeiters (1926). Throughout his career, Gide maintained an extensive correspondence with such noted figures as Valery, Claudel, Rilke, and others. In 1947, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.