Become like people

Sara Lidman, short story Före ordet (Before Words)

In this building Sara Lidman spent her first six years in public primary school. Sara proved herself early as both talented and helpful towards her classmates. A growing hunger for reading led her to become the teacher’s helper – for that’s how she could be with books.

I had the choice between the con-science of the Spruce tree
           to let myself be tree-ified
                     or to learn the alphabet
               and become like people

That’s how Sara Lidman describes starting school in her short story Före ordet (Before Words), a child who is stepping into a new world – consciously.
Sara Lidman grew up in a smallholder household where multiple generations lived together. The two big loves in the young Sara’s life were her dad Andreas and her grandmother Sara Helena. Her relationship to her mother Jenny was more strained. 

Jenny was tough and hard-working; took upon herself to “save the house from starvation and drivel.” The family was burdened by a debt inherited after grandfather Erik Lidman’s bankruptcy. 

With her grandmother Sara read the Bible, and upstairs in her chamber found refuge from the noise and battles of the home. It was also there that people of the village came for spiritual counseling – her grandmother was an intercessor. Her endless compassion for her fellow beings made a strong impression on Sara, who often hid under the table eavesdropping. 

When Sara was 14-years old she was found to have tuberculosis and was placed in a sanatorium in Hällnäs. In this “waiting-room of death” she came in contact with modern literature, music and intimate friendship. Treatment continued in intervals and with each new stay, a new short story by Sara. 

Sara Lidman completed secondary school by correspondence. She paid for her education mostly by herself, selling causeries and short stories to newspapers. After two years of high school in Mariannelund, Småland, and a number of sanatoriums she continued on to the university of Uppsala. 

I want to study people. Write about them;
hate, love, understand, elevate the simplicity, the kindness
disparage the authority and selfishness
– yes, I want to write. 

Andreas and Jenny Lidman (formerly Lundman)
Children: Lisbeth Agatha born in 1917
Folke Samuel born in 1921, Sara Adela born in 1923,
Anna Viktoria (Tora) born in 1925 
Cousin: Ingrid Maria Lundman born in1918
Uncles Arvid and Anund along with grandmother Sara Helena also lived on the farm in Missenträsk.

Pictures (from above)
*Missenträsk school, Sara on the third row number five from the left
*The house in Missenträsk with Grandmother, Lisbeth and Folke  
*The siblings: Sara, Lisbeth, Folke, Tora
*Sara and her father Andreas at secondary school graduation in Piteå 1942


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