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Franzen, Jonathan

Born:
August 17, 1959
Photo: Ola Erikson / Forflex

The American author and essayist Jonathan Franzen was born in Western Springs, Illinois, but grew up in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis in Missouri. One could get the impression that he has a Swedish surname, and that would be a correct observation. His grandfather immigrated from Östergötland sometime around the last turn of the century and married a Swedish woman, who was of Norwegian stock, according to the family. Franzen's father was born in the USA, while his mother had a mixed Eastern European background. Nuances of both his mother and his grandfather reappear in Franzen’s novels; the problematic mother figure Enid in The Corrections (2001) is supposedly based on his mother to some extent, and his grandfather is present in Freedom (2010), according to the author himself. Despite his Swedish roots, Franzen himself never got to experience Swedish culture during his childhood and adolescence; he only recalls that sometimes lutefisk had been eaten at home before his birth until his mother one day promptly put an end to this Scandinavian custom.

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