Martinson, Harry

(1904-1978)
   Generally recognized as one of the leading figures in 20th-century Swedish literature, Martinson wrote poetry, novels, dramas, and essays, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1974. He was one of several self-educated writers of working-class origins who started writing in the late 1920s. Together with Artur Lundkvist and others he formed the group "Fem unga (Five Young Men) and worked to promote modernism in Sweden.
   Martinson had a very difficult childhood and youth. After the death of his father and his mother's departure for California, he was a ward of the community and was passed along from one foster family to another. He ran away and went to sea as a coal stoker in 1920, had many varied experiences, and returned home to Sweden for good in 1927. His literary debut came with the poetry collection Spoik-skepp (1929; Ghost Ship), which was informed by his experiences as a seaman, as was the volume Nomad (1931), which celebrates the outsider's ability to give truthful representations of phenomena only dimly visible to insiders. Some critical and financial success came to Martinson through two prose narratives that drew on his experiences as a sailor and wanderer. Resor utan mal (1932; Journeys without Destination) and Fap Farväl! (1933; tr. Cape Farewell,1934) are narrated with a strong admixture oflyricism.
   By the mid-1930s Martinson s poetry changed in the direction of expressionism and surrealism. The collection Natur (1934; Nature), which testifies to the poet's appreciation for the realm of nature, also attests to the influence of his fellow poet Artur Lundkvist. It was received less enthusiastically than his earlier volumes of poetry, and Martinson returned to prose, this time to the experiences of his childhood and youth for inspiration. Nässloran blomma (1935; tr. Flowering Nettle, 1936) and Vägen ut (1936; The Way Out), while not conventional autobiography, cover Martinson s life up to the time presented in Resor utan mal. These books were written during his marriage to Moa Martinson, a writer 14 years his senior, whom he later divorced. Martinson also tried his hand at radio plays. Three of them were produced, the most successful being Lotsen franMoluckas (1937; The Pilot from the Moluccas Islands), which tells about Magellan s circumnavigation of the earth.
   Events leading up to World War II, as well as the experiences of the war itself, caused Martinson to express his disenchantment with Western-style technological civilization and the popular culture associated with it in such books as Det enkla och det svara (1939; The Simple and the Difficult), a collection of essays about humans' relationship to nature, and Den foärlorade jaguaren (1941; The Lost Jaguar), his third book about life at sea. The poetry collection Passad (1945; Trade Wind) similarly questions the human value of technological advances.
   The vagabond novel Vaägen til Klockrike (1948; tr. The Road, 1955) is a story about several tramps whose philosophy oflife is far more humane than that of many so-called successful people. It was followed by Martinson's most significant literary work, the space epic Aniara (1956; tr. 1958, 1963, and 1991), which is set in a future when earth has been contaminated by nuclear radiation and groups of people have to flee to other planets. The space ship Aniara, however, is thrown off course by a near collision with an asteroid, after which it heads into deep space, leaving its passengers with the prospect of living out their lives on board without ever finding a new home. This is depressing not only to the passengers, but also to the ship s supercomputer. Called the Mima, the computer is not just a machine but possesses a soul and self-destructs when it is confronted with incoming images of earth's final and utter destruction. Martinson s cosmic representation of the human condition is one of the truly great contributions to 20th-century literature.
   Literary culture was extremely politicized in Sweden during the late 1960s and the 1970s, and Martinson s concern with nature, expressed in such volumes as his final poetry collection, Tuvor (1973; Tussocks), was not always appreciated. Some critics also questioned the choice of Martinson as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1974. Martinson responded by publishing little of what he wrote. Some of this material has been published posthumously.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Martinson, Harry — ▪ Swedish author in full  Harry Edmund Martinson   born May 6, 1904, Jämshög, Swed. died Feb. 11, 1978, Stockholm       Swedish novelist and poet who was the first self taught, working class writer to be elected to the Swedish Academy (1949).… …   Universalium

  • Martinson, Harry E. — ► (1904 78) Escritor sueco. Fue premio Nobel de Literatura en 1974, compartido con Eyvind Johnson. Autor de Viajes sin rumbo (1932) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Martinson,Harry Edmund — Mar·tin·son (märʹtn sôn , tēn ), Harry Edmund. 1904 1978. Swedish writer whose works include the proletarian novel The Road (1948) and Aniara (1956), an epic poem about space travel. He shared the 1974 Nobel Prize for literature. * * * …   Universalium

  • Martinson, Harry (Edmund) — born May 6, 1904, Jämshög, Swed. died Feb. 11, 1978, Stockholm Swedish novelist and poet. He spent his childhood in foster homes and his young adulthood as a merchant seaman, labourer, and vagrant. He described his early experiences in two… …   Universalium

  • Martinson, Harry (Edmund) — (6 may. 1904, Jämshög, Suecia–11 feb. 1978, Estocolmo). Novelista y poeta sueco. Pasó gran parte de su infancia en casas de adopción y su juventud como marino mercante, obrero y vagabundo. Describió sus experiencias de joven en dos novelas… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Martinson — Martinson, Harry E …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Harry Edmund Martinson — Harry Martinson (links) und Ivar Lo Johansson Harry Edmund Martinson (* 6. Mai 1904 in Jämshög, Blekinge; † 11. Februar 1978 in Stockholm) war ein schwedischer Schriftsteller. Für „ein Werk, das den Tautropfen einfängt und das Weltall spiegelt“… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Harry Martinson — Harry Edmund Martinson (Jämshög, 1904 Estocolmo, 1978). Escritor y poeta sueco. Recibió, compartido con su compatriota Eyvind Johnson, el Premio Nobel de literatura en 1974 por una obra poética capaz de abarcar desde una gota de rocío a todo el… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Harry Martinson — (à gauche) et Ivar Lo Johansson. Nom de naissance Harry Edmund Martinson Naissance …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Harry — Harry, Myriam * * * (as used in expressions) Belafonte, Harry Bertoia, Harry Blackmun, Harry Bridges, Harry Callahan, Harry (Morey) Coase, Ronald (Harry) Cohn, Harry Crick, Francis (Harry Compton) Harry Lillis Crosby Haldeman, H(arry) R(obbins)… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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