Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Scandinavian Series #5 - Gunnar Ekelöf

Gunnar Ekelöf (1907 - 1968) was a Swedish poet and writer. He was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1958. He was also awarded a honorary doctorate in philosophy by Uppsala University in 1958. He won a number of prizes for his poetry.

Gunnar Ekelöf has been described as Sweden's first surrealist poet; he made his debut with the collection sent på jorden ("late on earth") in 1932, a work (written during an extended stay in Paris in 1929-30) that was too unconventional to become widely appreciated and which the author described as capturing a period of suicidal thoughts and apocalyptic moods. It was, in a sense, an act of literary revolt akin to Edith Södergran's Septemberlyran a dozen years earlier.

Ekelöf's father had been mentally ill and when his mother remarried, he strongly disapproved of his stepfather and, by extension, of his mother who had let him in: he became a loner and a rebel already in his teens - and would never feel at ease with the mores of the established upper and middle classes or with their inhibitions and, as he perceived it, hypocrisy and back-scratching.

Färjesång (1941), a finely expressed blend of romanticism, surrealism, and the dark clouds of the ongoing war spelled a mark of maturity and would influence later Swedish poets, as would his debut over time. From this point on, his transformations of style and imagery, his deep familiarity with a wide array of literary idioms, stretching far beyond modern writing, and an almost Bob Dylan-like propensity to make fresh departures in his writing and challenge critics' readings of his work in order to keep true to it, made him one of the most influential and, in time, widely read of Scandinavian modernist poets, a kind of father figure and challenging and inspiring model for many later writers not just in Sweden but also in Denmark and Norway.

No comments:

Post a Comment