Lindgren, Torgny

(1938-)
   A Swedish novelist, short story writer, and poet, Lindgren is an intensely private person who has provided little information about himself. Born in northern Sweden, he has worked as a teacher; he has a degree in religious studies and converted to Roman Catholicism. Lindgren began his literary career with three volumes of poetry: Platsax, hjartats instrument (1965; Tin Snips, the Instrument of the Heart), Dikter franVimmerby (1970; Poems from Vimmerby), and Hur skulle det vore om man vore Olof Palme? Fragment ur en anarkists dagbok (1971; What Would It Be Like to Be Olof Palme? Fragments from the Diary of an Anarchist). He has since considered these works mere preparatory exercises, but his focus on power, a persistent theme throughout his work, is present in this early poetry.
   Power is also at the core of his first novel, Skolbagateller medan jag foärsoäkte skriva til mina oäverordnade (1972; School Trivia, While Trying to Write to My Superiors). Here he attacks the Swedish educational system, as his Norwegian colleague Jens Bjørneboe had done in the novel Jonas (1955; tr. The Last of These, 1959) a number of years earlier. Ovriga fragor (1973; Additional Questions) extends Lindgren s critique to political life in general. Braännvinsfursten (1979; The Liquor Prince) gives a historical slant to his criticism, while Skrammer dig minuten (1981; Are You Frightened by This Moment) is a satirical novel about marriage.
   The novel Ormens vagpa halleberget (1982; tr. The Way of the Serpent, 1990) gave Lindgren a reputation as a major writer, and its almost minimalist style was highly acclaimed by the critics. A tale of both economic and sexual exploitation, it takes place in northern Sweden in the 1800s. The volume of short stories Merabs skonhet: Berattelser (1983; tr. Merab's Beauty and Other Stories) is stylistically similar.
   Lindgren's next novel, Bat Seba (1984; tr. Bathsheba, 1989), makes use of the biblical story of King David as it probes the connections between power and religion. David arranges for Bathsheba s husband, Uriah, to be killed in battle so that he can marry her, but Bathsheba is adept at political maneuvering and becomes increasingly powerful, ultimately succeeding in making her son David s successor. Lindgren s use of biblical themes continues in the short story collection Legender (1986; Legends).
   In Ljuset (1987; tr. The Light, 1992), which was very well received, Lindgren returns to northern Sweden at the time of the plague. It was followed by Till sanningens lov: Rammakaren Theodor Marklunds egen redogorelse (1991; tr. In Praise of Truth: The Personal Account ofTheodor Marklund, Picture-framer, 1994), a meditation on the relationship between truth and lies. In the short story collection I Brokiga Blads vatten (1999; In Brokiga Blad's Water), Lindgren s satire is mixed with humor and directed against such varied subjects as politics, mass-produced art, and uxoriousness.
   Another achievement is the literary triptych consisting ofthe novels Hummelhonung (1995; tr. Sweetness, 2000), Poälsan (2002; tr. Hash, 2004), and Dores bibel (2005; Doré's Bible), which all have the district of Västerbotten as their setting. Hummelhonung tells about two brothers who are locked in mutual hatred, from which they may finally be released only at the end of their lives. Pälsan, nominally a story about pulmonary tuberculosis and a quest for the perfect sausage, is in reality a novel about art and its conditions. Dores bibel is narrated by a dyslexic man whose imagination has been nourished by Gustave Doré's bible illustrations, and whose story attests to the power of both pictorial and literary art.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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