In the wake of the lyric theatrical and narrative production of P. Lagerkvist (1891-1974), the Nordic Baptist of all the avant-garde movements, and, up to the last, tenaciously industrious (Ahasverus död, “The death of Ahasuerus”, 1960 ; Pilgrim påhavet, “Pilgrim over the sea”, 1962; Det heliga landet, “Holy Land”, 1964; Mariamne, 1967), the so-called “modernism” of the forties took off.
According to LOVERISTS, this is perhaps the only literary novelty of the second post-war period in Sweden. We speak of novelty, it is clear, only in reference to the local literary situation, because, in reality, we are faced here with the well-known political-literary ideas of surrealistic revolutionism, mixed, as elsewhere, with other suggestions: from the deserted vision of the world evoked by Eliot, to Kafka’s dreamlike nightmares, from Joyce’s linguistic inventiveness, to the neorealism of American prose writers.
Already around 1934-35 G. Ekelöf and A. Lundkvist had tried to acclimate French surrealism in Sweden by publishing the periodical Karavan (among the foreign collaborators there were the same A. Breton and P. Èluard). But if the only Ekelof (1907-68) was able to express, while the line of Eliot (which also uses blank verse), his mystical musical poetry ideal Dotta (En Mölna – elegi, “An elegy for Mölna “, 1960, which seems a lyrical reinterpretation of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake at the same time), while the oriental trilogy on the journey beyond the grave, on love and on death, namely Diwan över fursten av Emgión, “Sofa around the prince of Emgión”, Vägvisare till underjorden, “Guide to the afterlife “, Sagan om Fatumeh, “The legend of Fatumeh”, 1965-1967, takes place within the framework of known Greek and oriental Byzantine legends; others such as E. Lindegren (1910-68) and K. Vennberg (born in 1910), albeit with various nuances, are essentially only skilled followers of Eliotian theme and technique (solipsism and existential nihilism, analogue and allusive esotericism, alternating and penetration of temporal and psychological planes, of lyrical and prosaic, comic and tragic tones) not without, at least in the second, a vague need for religious faith.
Even today, for the deep inspiration, the greatest Swedish poet of the twentieth century, H. Gullberg (1898-1961) dominates everyone, gifted with great formal talent, as well as mystical-pantheistic visionarity, despite the apparent intellectual game and the clownish mask.
Even in fiction as in the theater, it was the poets of the 1940s who opened, by reflection, new avenues for young prose writers and playwrights, certainly in conjunction with foreign examples: to Sweden Dagerman (1923-54), to L. Ahlin (born in 1915) and to Sweden Arnér (born in 1909), who both in novels and plays have alternated and intertwined well-known themes of isolation, anguish, the absurdity of the human condition; to playwrights and theater critics, also writing for radio and TV, such as H. Grevenius (born in 1901), who mostly treats, in a popularizing key, the facts and conflicts of poor people of the capital, or to KR Gierow (born in 1904), who is a more cultured and refined writer, alternating, in his vast production, comedies and dramas in verse of the Eliotian type,
With this generation of poets and prose writers, which established itself around 1940, one gets the impression that a phase of Swedish and Nordic literature in general ended after reaching the extreme points of linguistic experimentation. Today’s writers, who move in the furrow opened by others, exasperate the most problematic and paradoxical motifs of the poetry of the 1940s in technical research devoid of any autonomous form.
Despite the charismatic awarding of the Nobel Prize (1974) to the two “proletarian” narrators, who cannot fail to ascribe to modern experimentation – H. Martinson, born in 1904, first of all for his science fiction epos in verse on the flight of man, on a spaceship, from contaminated earth (Aniara, 1956); and E. Johnson, (1900-1976), for his numerous strongly ideological novels – these two artistic personalities both allow us to measure the distance that separates them from the very new ones.
Judging from the reckless attempts of recent decades and leaving aside some essays of ever-growing countryism (Å. Wassing, born in 1919; Dödgrävarens pojke, “The son of the gravedigger”, 1958; Sweden Lidman, born in 1923, evocative of environments and customs far North, but soon moved on to the novel-essay, or rather to the novel-reportage: Jag och min son, “Me and my son”, 1961; Med fem diamanter, “With five diamonds”, 1964; Samtal i Hanoi, “Conversations in Hanoi”, 1966; Gruva, “Mine”, 1968; B. Trotzig, born in 1929, En berättelse fran kusten, “A tale from the coast”, 1961), it can be said that Swedish fiction has oscillated between the imitation of the French nouveau roman (eg T. Ekbom, born in 1938: Signalspelet, “The game of signals”, 1965 ; PO Sundman, born in 1922: Expeditionen, “The Expedition”, 1962) and the ideological controversy.
Among the novelists and essayists involved in the political-moral problems of today, two are first of all worth mentioning: L. Gyllensten (born in 1921), an attentive observer and relentless censor of the ideologies and intellectual dogmas of our time in view of an unfortunately all availability abstract and unrealistic (Nihilistiskt credo, 1964) which, on the other hand, appears more persuasive when one actually defends the values of the individual from the oppression of mass civilization (eg in Juvenilia, 1965, and in Diarium Spiritual, 1968); and L. Forssell (born in 1928), who, a translator of Eliot and Pound, is a versatile writer of lyric, fiction, theater in an absurdist key, and represents a widespread literary trend.
On the level of literary games and the hasty programs of journalists-writers with academic training and socialist tendency, there has even been an attempt to react to the nebulosity of surrealist symbolism by the so-called “neosimple” (nyenkla) headed by G. Palm (born in 1931) and L. Bäckström (born in 1925) and together with the “concretists” (the term is removed from Kandinsky’s afigural art and P. Schaeffer’s phonomontages) headed by BE Johnson (born in 1936); but with the theorized results by L. Gustafsson (born in 1936) of making culture and art shipwrecked in the chaos of relativism, given the great influence of L. Wittgenstein.
Nor have the consequences of this situation been slow to make themselves felt. One pole lies in the prose narrative PO Enquist (born 1934) with the collage novel Hess (1966), which is an extremely ambiguous story. Hess is the well-known German Nazi, but he is also any other real or fictional individual; all the possibilities and all the impossibilities at the same time, almost like in a dream vision. At the other pole the lyric of M. Johansson (born in 1930), whose hermetic compositions are often based on pure asemantic verbal games.