Sundman, Per Olof

   A Swedish novelist and short story writer, Sundman was influenced by the French New Novel, and his oeuvre is a paradigmatic example of the literary documentarism of the 1960s. He is an adherent of a strong philosophical skepticism, so he believes that it is impossible for a writer to know the minds of his characters. Therefore, a writer should not engage in imaginative investigations of their mental life but should be content with describing their observable behavior. Since it is equally impossible to truly know objects in the world, a writer should not offer constructions of meaning but should instead describe the surface of reality as it is available to the senses. Sundman's work is strongly marked by these epistemological and narratological concerns.
   Sundman lived for many years in the district of Jamtland, near the Norwegian border in northern Sweden, and many of his narratives are set there. The short story collection Jägarna (1957; The Hunters) contain stories about the search for understanding. This theme is continued in the novel Undersokningen (1958; The Investigation), in which a government official investigates possible criminal activity by a person who temporarily lives within his jurisdiction. The information he gathers is conflicting, and that is precisely Sundman's point: objective truth is an illusion, and we cannot comprehend other minds. The novel Skytten (1960; The Hunter) makes the same point, as a hunting accident is investigated without any conclusive result.
   One of Sundman's best-known novels, Expeditionen (1962; tr. The Expedition, 1967), is set in Africa and tells the story of the travels in the Congo by Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904). The story is told from two perspectives, that of a military officer and that of an Asian man who understands both European and native African ways of looking at the world. The use of two narrators is a very effective tool for showing that truth is neither something given nor something easily constructed from sense observation. In the novel Tva dagar, tva natter (1965; tr. Two Days, Two Nights, 1969) Sundman returns to the hunting theme in the form of the story of a manhunt. Two men succeed in capturing a young criminal out in the wilderness. Although such a story could be told with all kinds of embellishments of plot and character, Sundman offers a strictly minimalist account devoid of rhetorical flourish, but his attention to detail makes it possible for readers to create their own structures of meaning.
   The novel Ingenior Andrées luftfard (1967; tr. The Flight of the Eagle, 1970) offers an eponymous protagonist similar to the Stanley character in Expeditionen, in that he is arrogant, vainglorious, and nationalistic. It tells the story of a Swedish balloon journey to the North Pole in 1897 that ends in disaster and the death of the three participants. The novel was filmed by the director Jan Troell in 1982.
   Sundman's style shows influences from the Icelandic sagas, and Berattelsen om Sam (1977; The Story about Sam) is a retelling of one of the shorter saga texts, Hrafnkels saga. Sundman's reinterpretation of his intertext focuses on the political dimension of the story, particularly the role of power.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Sundman, Per Olof — ▪ Swedish novelist born Sept. 4, 1922, Vaxholm, Swed. died Oct. 9, 1992, Stockholm       Swedish novelist who wrote in the tradition of Social Realism during the 1960s. He also served as a member of the Swedish Parliament (1969–79).       Sundman …   Universalium

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  • Per Olof Sundman — (1922 – 1992) was a Swedish writer and politician.Sundman was born in Vaxholm. In his youth, Sundman was a member of Nordisk Ungdom ( sv. Nordic Youth), a Nazi organization that existed between 1933 – 1950. After World War II, Sundman joined the… …   Wikipedia

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