Sweden Literature

The intense and multifaceted literary activity of recent years, after the disappearance of many ideologies and many illusions about the validity of the ” Swedish model ”, has been supported by a new confidence in the value and meaning of literature, and fostered by a supportive political activity by the state.

Among the writers who disappeared, not without leaving a lasting trace, we remember the ” proletarians ” H. Martinson (d. 1978), F. Fridell (d. 1985) and Ivar-Lo Johansson (d. 1990), the poets A. Österling (d. 1981) and KR Gierow (d. 1982), the Finnish-Swedish W. Kyrklund (d. 1989), who until the end, in the essay Om godheten (1988, “On goodness”) and in the poetic cycle in Elpenör hexameters (1986), he has shown himself to be a master of the apocryphal form. In 1991 also A. Lundkvist died, committed to the end in opening new literary horizons to his compatriots.

In the field of opera, the highest and most rigorous voice is still that of Th. Tranströmer (b. 1931), a professional psychologist and therefore a stranger to literary circles, who in the latest collection For levande och döda (1989, “For the living and the dead “) breaks once again, with daring associations, the barriers of time and space. Among the first, with Tranströmer, to reintroduce, alongside open forms, closed metric forms, L. Gustafsson (b. 1936), attentive to minimal variations in temperatures as well as to the most varied cultural suggestions.

In the new climate, the ” neo-simple ” L. Bäckström (b. 1925), G. Palm (b. 1931) and the “concretist” BE Johnson (b. 1936) demonstrate the capacity for renewal; in particular, G. Sonnevi (b.1939), after giving voice to the protest of a generation with the lyric on the Vietnam War (1965), deepened his own poetic and existential research in a continuous process of writing, which seems culminating in the Trädet collection (1992, “The tree”), dedicated to the rapid changes of the years 1989-90. Among the poets of the Eighties we must remember E. Runefelt (b. 1953); E. Brunner (b. 1950); Sweden Larsson (b. 1955), provocative in opera as well as in prose and theater; and, in particular, for his shadowy sensitivity and undoubted poetic vocation, K. Zoner (1991, “Zone”) blends the classical myth of Actaeon with the Nordic ballad of the girl transformed into a doe.

As for the prose, after many books of denunciation and many reports from the Third World, we are witnessing a strong revival of fiction (in particular of the novel, declared dead in the 1960s), which is increasingly open to international influences for what concerns the technique of the story and the claim of the autonomy of the literary text, but thematically linked at least for a decade to the South.: to that of yesterday, evoked with a new political and social awareness in its passage from a rural culture to the industrialization, no less than that of today, described with ironic critical detachment, or in grotesque and disturbing paintings.

The first to involve the public in revisiting his own past is Sweden Delblanc (b.1931), already the author of problematic and symbolic novels, who in the tetralogy of Hedeby (Hedebybörna, 1970-76) draws a powerful picture of the events of a rural community of his Södermanland from the early Thirties to the Second World War. In the wake of the success (also on television) reported by the work, the tetralogy of Samuele (Samuels böckerna, 1981-84), a tragic family saga of emigration and return home, in which there is no lack of autobiographical references. Public and critical interest are also aroused by the four “novels of Katrinenholm” (from Häxringarna, 1974, “Dances of witches”, at Stad av ljus, 1983, “City of light”) through which K. Ekman (b. 1933) follows the development of the town of Södermanland, from the beginnings of socialism to the present day, polemically putting the destinies of socially losers in the foreground. More choral and epic the last narrative cycle of Sweden Lidman (b.1923), already the greatest exponent of regionalism of the 1950s, who, after a decade of strong social and political commitment, draws inspiration no longer from Africa or from China but, once again, from the homeland, to recall the sufferings of its people in overcoming their isolation by building a railway. Western Bothnia is also at the center of the long novel Musikanternas uttåg (1978; it., The departure of the musicians, 1992) by PO Enquist (b. 1935), which records, with deliberate detachment, the first impact of the region with the dawn of socialism, attempting a new narrative language, but remaining substantially linked to the documentarism of the first works. Mirror of the ideological and formal changes of the last decades are the recent works of already established writers, such as L. Gyllensten (b. 1921), P.Ch. Jersild (b.1935) and, in particular, L. Gustafsson, already remembered as a poet, who achieved international fame thanks to works such as En biodlares död (1978; trans. It., Morte di un apicultore, 1989), Den egentliga berättelsen om herr Armander (1966; it., The true story of Mr. Armander, 1994), Förberedelser till flykt (1967; it., Preparations for escape). Gyllensten, proceeding in continuous experimentation and in the dialectical game, seems to find an opening to his own nihilism in an in-depth search for freedom and in an exaltation of eros, when he does not playfully abandon himself to fantasy, as in the stories of Sju vise mästare om kärlek (1987, “Seven Sages Talk About Love”). Jersild, continuing his parodic presentation of the growing bureaucratization of the country, achieves maximum success with the paradoxical and grotesque novel Babelshus (1978, “La casa di Babele”), set in a hospital where it is absurdly possible to die from the fragmentation of skills; later he relies on science fiction to prefigure a world dominated by genetic manipulation (En levende sjael, 1980, “A living soul”), or desertified by an atomic conflagration (Efter floden, 1982, “After the flood”). In the last works he questions the why and the validity of existence, through the voice of the souls of the deceased, gathered around him. Peter in Den himmelska gästbudet (1991, “The celestial banquet”).

Sweden Literature

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