Harry Martinson

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Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson 001.tiff
Born(1904-05-06)6 May 1904
Jämshög, Sweden
Died11 February 1978(1978-02-11) (aged 73)
Stockholm, Sweden
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature
1974 (shared with Eyvind Johnson)
Spouses Moa Martinson (1929–1940)
Ingrid Lindcrantz (1942–1978)

Harry Martinson (6 May 1904 11 February 1978) was a Swedish author, poet and former sailor. In 1949 he was elected into the Swedish Academy. He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos". [1] The choice was controversial, as both Martinson and Johnson were members of the academy and had partaken in endorsing themselves as laureates.

Poet person who writes and publishes poetry

A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

Sailor person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in doing so

A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one in a number of different fields that are related to the operation and maintenance of a ship.

Swedish Academy Swedish Royal Academy

The Swedish Academy, founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. It has 18 members, who are elected for life. The academy makes the annual decision on who will be the laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in memory of the donor Alfred Nobel.


He has been called "the great reformer of 20th century Swedish poetry, the most original of the writers called 'proletarian'." [2]


Martinson was born in Jämshög, Blekinge County in south-eastern Sweden. [3] At a young age he lost both his parents whereafter he was placed as a foster child (Kommunalbarn) in the Swedish countryside. [3] At the age of sixteen Martinson ran away and signed onto a ship to spend the next years sailing around the world visiting countries such as Brazil and India. [3]

Jämshög Place in Blekinge, Sweden

Jämshög is a locality situated in Olofström Municipality, Blekinge County, Sweden with 1,494 inhabitants in 2010.

Blekinge County County (län) of Sweden

Blekinge County is a county or län in the south of Sweden. It borders the Counties of Skåne, Kronoberg, Kalmar and the Baltic Sea. The capital is Karlskrona. It is the smallest of the present administrative counties of Sweden, covering only 0,7% of the total area of the country.

The headstone on Martinson's grave in Silverdal, Sollentuna - north of Stockholm HarryMartinsonTombstone.jpg
The headstone on Martinson's grave in Silverdal, Sollentuna – north of Stockholm

A few years later lung problems forced him to set ashore in Sweden [4] where he travelled around without a steady employment, at times living as a vagabond on country roads. [3] At the age of 21, he was arrested for vagrancy in Lundagård park, Lund. [5]

Lundagård (park)

Lundagård is a park located in Lund, Sweden. It is situated between the Lund University Main Building in the North, and Lund Cathedral in the South with Kungshuset in between. The park was for a long time a walled garden separating "town" from "gown". Today, the one remaining gate is the entrance to the Kulturen museum. Other buildings in Lundagård are the AF Fortress (AF-borgen), the Lund University Historical Museum and Palaestra et Odeum.

In 1929, he debuted as a poet. Together with Artur Lundkvist, Gustav Sandgren, Erik Asklund and Josef Kjellgren he authored the anthology Fem unga (Five Youths), [6] which introduced Swedish Modernism. His poetry combined an acute eye for, and love of nature, with a deeply felt humanism. [7] [8] His popular success as a novelist came with the semi-autobiographical Nässlorna blomma (Flowering Nettles) in 1935, about hardships encountered by a young boy in the countryside. It has since been translated into more than thirty languages. From 1929 to 1940, he was married to Moa Martinson, whom he met through a Stockholm anarchist newspaper Brand. [2] He travelled to the Soviet Union in 1934. [2] [3] He and Moa were divorced due to her criticism of his lack of political commitment. [2] Moa became a writer; Harry married Ingrid Lindcrantz (1916–1994) in 1942. [2] [3]

Artur Lundkvist Swedish writer

Nils Artur Lundkvist was a Swedish writer, poet and literary critic. He was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1968.

Gustav Sandgren Swedish writer

Gustav Sandgren was a Swedish author.

Erik Asklund Swedish writer

Erik Asklund, born 20 June 1908 in Södermalm, Stockholm, died 6 November 1980 in Stockholm, was a Swedish writer.

One of his most noted works is the poetic cycle Aniara , which is a story of the spacecraft Aniara that during a journey through space loses its course and subsequently floats on without destination. The book was published in 1956 and became an opera in 1959 composed by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. [9] [10] The cycle has been described as "an epic story of man's fragility and folly". [11]

<i>Aniara</i> 1956 poem by Harry Martinson

Aniara is a science fiction poem written by Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson in 1956. It was published on 13 October 1956. The title comes from ancient Greek ἀνιαρός, "sad, despairing", plus special resonances that the sound "a" had for Martinson.

Spaceflight essentially an extreme form of ballistic flight,use of space technology to achieve the flight of spacecraft into and through outer space, used in space exploration, and also in commercial activities like space tourism and satellite telecommunications

Spaceflight is ballistic flight into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft with or without humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the U.S. Apollo Moon landing and Space Shuttle programs and the Russian Soyuz program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station. Examples of unmanned spaceflight include space probes that leave Earth orbit, as well as satellites in orbit around Earth, such as communications satellites. These operate either by telerobotic control or are fully autonomous.

<i>Aniara</i> (opera) opera by Karl-Birger Blomdahl

Aniara is an opera in two acts by Karl-Birger Blomdahl, with a libretto by Erik Lindegren based on the poem Aniara by Harry Martinson, that was premiered on 31 May 1959. The opera was described by the composer with the ambiguous phrase en revy om människan i tid och rum: "a revue about Man in Time and Space".


The joint selection of Eyvind Johnson and Martinson for the Nobel Prize in 1974, [2] was very controversial[ citation needed ] as both were members of the Swedish Academy and thus on the Nobel panel.[ citation needed ] Graham Greene, Saul Bellow and Vladimir Nabokov were the favoured candidates that year. [12]


The sensitive Martinson found it hard to cope with the criticism following his award, and committed suicide on 11 February 1978 at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm by cutting his stomach open with a pair of scissors in what has been described as a "hara-kiri-like manner". [13] [14]


The 100th anniversary of Martinson's birth was celebrated around Sweden in 2004. [15]


Titles in English where known.

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Moa Martinson, born Helga Maria Swarts sometimes spelt Swartz, was one of Sweden's most noted authors of proletarian literature. Her ambition was to change society with her authorship and to portray the conditions of the working class, and also the personal development of women. Her works were about motherhood, love, poverty, politics, religion, urbanization and the hard living conditions of the working-class woman.

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Events from the year 1974 in Sweden

Fem unga is a Swedish anthology published in 1929 and the name of the literary group formed by the five young proletarian writers who contributed to it: Erik Asklund, Josef Kjellgren, Artur Lundkvist, Harry Martinson and Gustav Sandgren. Fem unga played a key role in introducing literary modernism in Swedish literature.


  1. "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1974". Nobel Foundation.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Harry Martinson" (in French). Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Holm, Ingvar. "Harry Martinson". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon . National Archives of Sweden.
  4. Sjöberg, Leif. "Harry Martinson: From Vagabond to Space Explorer". Books Abroad. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. 48 (3 (Summer, 1974)): 476–485.
  5. Westerström, Jenny (6 January 2010). "Den hemlöse i svensk skönlitteratur efter 1900". Lund University . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. Kumm, Björn (12 December 1991). "Obituary: Artur Lundkvist". The Independent . London. p. 13.
  7. "Harry Martinson – Biographical". Nobel Media AB. 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  8. "Harry Martinson". Albert Bonniers Förlag.
  9. Johansson, Stefan (31 May 2009). "50-åring ur kurs når ännu fram" [50 year old man of course still gets through]. www.svd.se. Svenska Dagbladet . Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  10. Liukkonen, Petri. "Harry Martinson". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 9 April 2003.
  11. Critical survey of poetry. American poets. Reisman, Rosemary M. Canfield. (4th ed. ed.). Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press. 2011. ISBN   9781587655937. OCLC   712652825.
  12. Shankar, Ravi (12 October 2014). "A Prize With a View". www.newindianexpress.com. The New Indian Express . Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  13. Hansson, Anita (31 August 2000). "Martinson begick harakiri" [Martinson committed hara-kiri]. wwwc.aftonbladet.se. Aftonbladet . Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  14. Gyllensten, Lars (2000). Minnen, bara minnen[Memories, just memories] (in Swedish). Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. ISBN   91-0-057140-7. LIBRIS   7150260.
  15. "Harry Martinson-sällskapets material" [Material from the Harry Martinson Society]. www.ediffah.org. Ediffah.
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