Lagerkvist was born in 1891 in South-Sweden. In 1910 he went to Uppsala as a student and in 1913 he left for Paris, were he was much fascinated by the work of Pablo Picasso. He studied Middle Age Art, Indian and Chinese literature, to prepare himself for becoming a poet. His first collection of poetry was published in 1916. In 1940 Lagerkvist was chosen as one of the "aderton" (the eighteen) of the Swedish Academy.
Lagerkvist wrote poetry, novels, plays, short stories and essays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951 "for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind."