Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam was born in Olshammar to a noble family. He studied painting at the Academy in Stockholm but soon left in order to travel around Europe, Africa and several eastern countries. He debuted as a poet in 1888 with a collection of poems that broke from the realistic and naturalistic tradition of the time. “Vallfart och vandringsår” was inspired by Heidenstam’s eastern travels and shows a love for beauty, romance and sensuality. The book, which was praised by the critics, became a trendsetter for other authors of the 1890’s and thereafter. Heidenstam was prolific during the next decade and felt strongly that literary naturalism (the literary movement that sought to replicate a believable everyday reality, as opposed to romanticism or surrealism), had played out its part; whomever wanted to create something new had to speak up against ingrained opinions.
Heidenstam continued his travels and lived for a while with his wife in Rome and Switzerland. In 1896 he traveled in the footsteps of Karl XII (Constantinople, Bender, Poltava, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg). He managed to get a 16,000 SEK fee from his publisher Karl Otto Bonnier for his upcoming book about the king. It was an unheard of amount of money, equaling almost 1 million SEK today. But his book (“Karolinerna”) became a great hit, and Heidenstam seemed to have found a niche as author of historical novels.
Heidenstam’s relationships with August Strindberg and Gustaf Fröding, two other great Swedish authors, were difficult. At times he was friends with both, but they each had different temperaments with different backgrounds and philosophies. And apart from being creative colleagues, they were also competitors.
Verner von Heidenstam was also known to be a womanizer; he was married three times, and had long relationships with two women he did not marry.
Heidenstam died at his home Övralid in 1940.

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