Gyllensten, Lars

(1921-)
   A Swedish novelist and essayist, Gyllensten has pursued two apparently different careers, one as a medical doctor and specialist in histology, and one as a writer. However, both endeavors are centered on a search for truth, which Gyllensten early realized is problematic scientifically and philosophically, as the observer cannot remove himself or herself from the observation situation. Hence, all formulations of truth are marked by the subjectivity of the observer, which entails that finding truth is a process with no end in sight. Gyllensten examines the full consequences of this realization in his literary oeuvre, as each of his works represents a stage on the process toward truth, while his oeuvre as a whole embodies the entire process as constituted by his activity as a writer. In the manner of the Danish philosopher and writer Søren Kierkegaard, Gyllensten experiments with various standpoints that one may take with regard to truth, and from Hegel he has learned that the structure of the process is likely to be dialectical. Gyllensten is thus one of the most philosophical or theoretical writers in Scandinavian literature.
   The basic standpoint of the inquirer, for Gyllensten, is one of skepticism. A skeptical attitude toward already formulated truth is necessary if the process of truth-seeking is to continue. If this process is allowed to stop, the result may be such reified versions of "the truth" as that found in Marxist-Leninism or Nazism, or in various religions. Gyllensten is fundamentally skeptical about the ability of human beings to come to a knowledge of the world, but he is also committed to the proposition that we must never give up trying.
   Gyllensten's first book of any significance was Moderna myter (1949; Modern Myths), an unmasking of various systems of belief. His next book, the novel Det bla skeppet (1950; The Blue Ship), has a protagonist who does the exact opposite by choosing to stake his all on the idea of the miraculous. These two standpoints represent a Hegelian thesis and its antithesis. Barnabok (1952; Child's Book) offers a portrait of the infantile and constitutes no synthesis of the standpoints in the two previous books, for the process of looking for something to rely on cannot ever be allowed to stop. Gyllensten's next book, Carnivora (1953), anatomizes Nazism's attitude toward life and thus offers an illustration of what may happen when people think they have found absolute truth. Senilia (1956) is offered as an antithesis to Barnabok and describes negative attitudes associated with old age.
   Senatorn (1958; The Senator) is a graphic illustration of what working within a specific ideological system can do to a person, here illustrated by communism. In Sokrates' dod (1960; The Death of Socrates), Socrates is willing to drink the fatal hemlock in order that he and his ideas may be remembered; the parallel with Christ's death on the cross is obvious. The antithesis to that kind of reliance on an ideology is represented by Socrates's wife, Xanthippe, who offers the commitment women make to bearing children, and the risks associated with that, as superior to any ideology. In Desperados (1962) Gyllensten applies that term to those who suffer from an excessive firmness of convictions; however, he playfully realizes that his own statement may be read as an instance of what he opposes, and thus be deemed incoherent.
   Gyllensten elaborates on these ideas in a long series ofnovels. One of the most significant is Kains memoarer (1963; tr. The Testament ofCain, 1967), which contains the supposed record of a sect that worships the iconoclasts Cain and Satan. The antithesis to iconoclasm as an ideal is found in Diarium spirituale (1968), in which Gyllensten seeks to construct meaning rather than just tear it down. His main point is that human beings have the power to create their own reality. This general idea undergirds the narratives in Palatset i parken (1970; The Palace in the Park), Grottan i oknen (1973; The Cave in the Desert), I skuggan av Don Juan (1975; In Don Juan's Shadow), Baklangsminnen (1978; Backward Memories), and several other books.
   In Det himmelska gastabudet (1991; The Heavenly Symposium) the search for meaning takes place in heaven, as each person present tells a story in order to find meaning in their earthly lives. Anteckningar fr an en vindskupa (1993; Notes from a Garret) features a protagonist named Johannes whose personal structures of meaning are profoundly negative. Ljuset ur skuggornas varld (1995; The Light from the World of Shadows) features another narrator named Johannes—the negativity of Kierkegaard's Johannes the Seducer comes to mind—and is another story of decay and destruction. Kistbrev (1998; Letters from a Chest) is a frame story that further explains the fictional origins of the two previous novels.
   The idea that human beings are meaning-making animals certainly did not originate with Gyllensten. But there are surely few writers who have been as relentless in ferreting out the consequences of that idea, and of illustrating it in both works of fiction and in the volumes of essays that Gyllensten has also published.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gyllensten, Lars — ▪ Swedish author in full  Lars Johan Wictor Gyllensten  born Nov. 12, 1921, Stockholm, Swed. died May 25, 2006, Solna       Swedish intellectual, professor of histology, poet, and prolific philosophical novelist.       Gyllensten was reared and… …   Universalium

  • Gyllensten, Lars Johan Wictor — ▪ 2007       Swedish physician, novelist, and intellectual (b. Nov. 12, 1921, Stockholm, Swed. d. May 25, 2006, Solna, Swed.), in some 30 novels, explored the subjective and relative nature of man s perception of truth, reaching the conclusion… …   Universalium

  • Gyllensten — Lars Gyllensten (* 12. November 1921 in Stockholm; † 25. Mai 2006 ebenda) war ein schwedischer Autor und Arzt. Er war Sohn des Disponenten Carl Gyllensten und von Ingrid Rangström, Schwester von Ture Rangström. Er saß auf Stuhl Nr. 14 der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lars Johan Wictor Gyllensten — Lars Gyllensten Lars Johan Wictor Gyllensten, né le 12 novembre 1921 à Stockholm et décédé le 25 mai 2006, était un romancier suédois, membre de l Académie suédoise. Biographie Lars Gyllensten fut professeur d histologie au Karolinska Institut de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lars Gyllensten — (* 12. November 1921 in Stockholm; † 25. Mai 2006 ebenda) war ein schwedischer Schriftsteller und Arzt. Er war Sohn des Disponenten Carl Gyllensten und von Ingrid Rangström, Schwester von Ture Rangström. Er saß auf Stuhl Nr. 14 der Schwedischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lars Gyllensten — Lars Johan Wictor Gyllensten (12 November 1921 ndash; 25 May 2006) was a Swedish author and physician, and a member of the Swedish Academy, which has the aim of furthering the purity, vigour and majesty of the Swedish language and selects the… …   Wikipedia

  • Lars Gyllensten — Lars Johan Wictor Gyllensten, né le 12 novembre 1921 à Stockholm et décédé le 25 mai 2006, était un romancier suédois, membre de l Académie suédoise. Biographie Lars Gyllensten fut professeur d histologie au Karolinska Institut de 1955 à 1973.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gyllensten —   [ jylənsteːn], Lars Wictor, schwedischer Schriftsteller, * Stockholm 12. 11. 1921; Arzt und Dozent für Histologie, 1955 73 Professor am Karolinska Institut in Stockholm; seit 1966 Mitglied der Schwedischen Akademie, seit 1968 Mitglied des… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Jan Wictor — Lars Gyllensten (* 12. November 1921 in Stockholm; † 25. Mai 2006 ebenda) war ein schwedischer Autor und Arzt. Er war Sohn des Disponenten Carl Gyllensten und von Ingrid Rangström, Schwester von Ture Rangström. Er saß auf Stuhl Nr. 14 der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Pär Silje — Lars Gyllensten (* 12. November 1921 in Stockholm; † 25. Mai 2006 ebenda) war ein schwedischer Autor und Arzt. Er war Sohn des Disponenten Carl Gyllensten und von Ingrid Rangström, Schwester von Ture Rangström. Er saß auf Stuhl Nr. 14 der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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