December 12, 2022

Artur Lundkvist (Sweden) 1906-1991

Artur Lundkvist (Sweden)



Born into modest circumstances in Hagstad Sweden, Artur Lundkvist was primarily self-educated; over the years he has learned to read over a dozen languages and has traveled extensively.

    His first book of poetry, Glöd (1928, Embers) was a celebration of life, as were most of his works throughout the 1930s. But the 1936 book, Nattens broar (The Bridges of Night) and Sirensång (Siren Song) of the following year both represent the influence of Surrealism upon his work.


    The years of World War II and after saw an increasing attention to narrative, expressed by Lundkvist brilliantly in the prose poem, particularly Agadir (1961), which describes the 1960 earthquake that struck the Moroccoan city.

    Lundkvist also wrote extensively about his travel and brought back to Sweden his excitement about world writers such as William Faulkner, Pablo Neruda and Czesław Miłosz.

     In 1968 he was voted a member of the Swedish Academy. In 1981 Lundkvist suffered a heart attack during a lecture and lay in a coma for sixty days. Upon his recovery, he wrote the hallucinatory experiences of the subconscious, Färdas i drömmen och föreställningen (1984, Journeys in Dream and Imagination).




Glöd (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1928); Naket liv (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1929); Svart stad (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1930); Vit Man (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1932); Nattens broar (Stockhom: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1936); Sirensång (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1937); Eldtema (Stockhom: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1939); Korsväg (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1942); Skinn över sten (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1947); Fotspår i vattnet (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1949); Liv som gräs (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1954); Vindrosor Moteld (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1955); Det talande traedet (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1960); Agadir (Stockholm: Tiden, 1961); Ögonblick och vågor (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1962); Texter i snön (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1964); Mörkskogen (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1967); Brottställen (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1968); Snapphanens liv och död (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1968); Besvärjelser till tröst (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1969); Långt borta, mycket nära (Goteborg: Författarförlaget, 1970); Lustgårdens demoni (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1973); Fantasins slott och vardagens stenar (Goteborg: Författarförlaget, 1974); Livet i ögat (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1974); Världens härlighet (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1975); Krigarens dikt (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1976); Flykten och överlevandet (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1977); Skrivet mot kvällen (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1982); Sinnebilder (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1982); Färdas i drömmen och föreställningen (Stocklholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1984).




Agadir, trans. by William Jay Smith and Leif Sjöberg (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1979); The Talking Tree: Poems in Prose, trans. by Diana W. Wormuth with Steven P. Sondrup (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1982); Journeys in Dream and Imagination, trans. by Ann B. Weissman and Annika Planck (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991).



To Maria


I wish you a room papered with block prints from Ethiopia and a necklace made of snail shells still inhabited by purple snails, a wheelbarrow full of sunflowers and a pine brewing aromatic coffee outside your window.

    It is in the painful summertime when the dogrose closes its eye, the hard summertime with the nests without eggs, when you shy away in the twilight under the whitebeams, when the brook whispers good night in the middle of the day, where you glimpse the too-white calf and the dog with his inside-out skin.

    I wish you teeth of diamond, pain-free forever and eyes that bathe in the Titicaca of clear panoramas, I wish you a summerhouse made of playing cards and lilies of the valley and a black chest furnished as a little bar with neon lighting and a needle with eyes in both ends like two sisters with their feet towards each other in the same bed.

    A woman formed in the sand was found in the morning covered with prints of birds' feet, the world's largest dog comes and licks the bird-shaped birthmark on your knee, a white raven writes the opening lines to your next poem, and a summer wave says it wants to carry you into November.

    I wish you a bed with adjustable dream-wishes and a ladybug that embroiders in silver on black sheets, a butter fly that flies out of Hans Christian Andersen's long nose and shows the way to a house made of grass in the forest, where all the hidden secrets turn inside out, where that which does not yet exist waits to be born, where disappointments are changed into fulfillment, and a rose keeps watch under your sleeping cheek.

    Do you still stay with the bird that extends its wings without flying, the bird that sings about the egg inside the bird and the bird inside the egg, free in itself and prisoner in others, just as your enemy rests in you as your best friend as you wander restlessly about in the painful summer?

    Finally I wish you a wing to carry you over stones and thickets, beyond stone throws and dog barks, beyond traps and shots, and lift you like a wing without dizziness high over the tree tops on your birthday.


—Translated from the Swedish by Diana W. Wormuth in collaboration with Steven P. Sondrup





There is nothing large or small except in our imagination. The tiger lets himself be frightened by a frog. The ant climbs directly into the crocodile's open jaws.

    There is no up or down. That depends only on the situation we find ourselves in. He who stands on his head an hour a day knows that.

     I, the master, say that. There is no wet or dry. The sea is its own desert, the desert its own sea. There are springs hidden in a grain of sand. There are deserts of dryness between the drops of the sea.

    There is no good or evil. There is a chain which rattles past without end, its links are made up of good and evil and are interlocked with one another. If one destroys this chain, one destroys the world. I, the master, say that.

    There is no round or flat, no globe or surface. Everything curves in on itself, we only notice that we do not notice.

    Knowledge is a burden. Where there is knowledge, there is no liberation. Thought and feeling rest heavily over each other, alternately. He who knows cannot understand. He who feels cannot realize. He who sits cannot walk. Everything which is itself suffers for not being something else. The done is not undone, the undone is not done and can never become that.

    I, the master, say that.

    He who creates cannot rest. Creation continues and pulls its creator with it. The crime grows wider, but does not cease by widening.

    A handful of emptiness would be able to dislodge the universe. But hwere could one get hold of a handful of emptiness?

    The balance is delicate, but the balance's possibilities are far drawn out. A lapel pin can counterbalance a six-story building, a straw hat a full-grown elephant. It depends on their placement in relation to each other.

    The boat sinks when the reeds hide it, no glances hold it up longer.

    Naked man frightens the fur-covered animals, they do not recognize themselves in him.

    The warrior carries his sword until it bores through him. The pious man carries his cross until it takes root in him.

    The sick man carries health with him like a flask of water. The prisoner draws the cage around himself. The free man also dupes freedom and leaves it behind him.

     I, the master, say that. There is no past or future. the past tastes of future, the future tastes of the past, like the same water at two different times of the day. Only the river exists, without beginning or end.


                   —Translated from the Swedish by Diana W. Wormuth in collaboration with

                      Steven P. Sondrup



The Wheel Book


It looks like an irregular globe or a kind of clumsy wheel left at the side of the road as if after an accident.

    But when you come closer, you see that it is neither a globe nor a wheel but an unknown object you have never seen before. It has a certain resemblance to a book, seems to consist of tightly pressed pages which extend out in all directions almost in the form of a globe or a wheel.

    You turn this book, globe, or book wheel over and over, all too interested to be able to leave it to its fate at once. It turns out to be alike on all sides, without the least opening between the pages, a completely closed book (if it is a book).

    It is too heavy and shapeless to lift, possibly you could roll it with you, it even seems intended for that. If you could open it, it would be high enough so that you could read it comfortably sitting, while turning it around as your read.

    But however you try, this book (if it really is a book) is still completely inaccessible, impossible to open, only page stuck to page, running around unchanging, and finally you must give up the hope of findng an opening where you can begin to read.

    Then you get the idea of getting an axe and attacking the book, it's not going to slip away from you so easily. You chop and the axe blade fastens in the packed mass of paper, it si hard to get it loose again after each chop. When you finally manage to make an opening and get some bits of paper loose, it is a disappointment: only white paper and nothing to read!


                   —Translated from the Swedish by Diana W. Wormuth in collaboration with

                      Steven P. Sondrup



from Journeys in Dream and Imagination



                                                     It is the dog returning, the same dog or a different one, a shadow dog I cannot clearly perceive, it has no definite form or color, approaches me somewhat threateningly, with a purpose, but then it becomes uncertain, hesitates, lies down or turns around, starts walking away, but remains silent,

                                                     maybe it is quite harmless, jsut seems to want something without knowing what, maybe it is looking for company or a stroking hand, someone who will talk to it, someone who will treat it as a human being,

                                                     it might be an unfortunate soul imprisoned in its fur, in its dog-like apparition, it keeps approaching me, maybe hoping each time that I am the human it is looking for, the one who will recognize it and give it a right to exist,

                                                     the dog remains totally silent, does not yelp or whine, maybe so as not to disburb me or even frighten me, or mabye it has no voice,

                                                     should I do something for this dog, attempt to call it close to me, reach out to stroke its fur...but I am not particularly fond of dogs and I do not quite trust this dog in spite of the compassion that eventually fills me,

                                                     I try to tak to it when it approaches me again, but no, it is more apprehensive than before, it is as if it wants me there, but immobile and silent, sometimes it disappears after a while as if prematurely giving up even trying to come close, it may not show up for two or three days, and then it returns as if nothing had happened,

                                                     this dog confuses me more and more, we have nothing in common and yet, there seems to already be some kind of connection between us, as if, against my wishes, I have become its lord and master, responsible for its destiny, as if it were a part of my own destiny    []


                                                      A gate, a gate! I see it in front of me, a gate in a high wall as around an old city, a gate that is still open, I can see that from a distance, a gate one must reach at the very last moment, before it is inexorably closed for the night or perhaps forever,

                                                      I hurry as much as I can, still running although I am losing my breath, my heart beats furiously in my chest, blood flows through my limbs so that my hands feel like stuffed gloves,

                                                      I probably will not make it in time, I despair about it but still continue my effort to the utmost, but if I do not arrive there before the gate is closed, I mgiht just as well fall in front of it, and I am lying there as if dead, one arm still lifted to pound on the gate,

                                                      but in vain, meaningless, since the gate is of iron and there is not the smallest window or opening in the wall so that someone might see me 





                                                      You can see flocks of birds agains the spring sky, pollen edges the riverbanks with yellow, a silken black bird with wheat-colored beak follows the shorelines and sings, like a master of threetops, also showing the direction of the wind,

                                                      there are the tall ones, the blond and reddish ones, with eyes blue as lakes and sky, hands with calloused grips and hair like sparse grain on the body,

                                                      they are like gods singed by fire, grandiose, bragging, power-charged, urinating like stallions, contemptuous of the renegades who flocked to the pale god or to Ulfila, for them rather skulls of horses carried on lances, tails of horses fluttering in the wind between tents of skins and sails of skins,

                                                      the oars are smeared with honey so as not to squeak and creak, smoke gives taste and smell to man and follows him like the fresh tar and the white birch bark around the dwellings with groups of swine and poultry, there are rotating grindstones and stone mills already invented and brought along for the journey,

                                                      the art of smithing is half secret, its masters living in caves, at hearths with fire, shrunken to dwarfs and enlarged to giants, strings are strung between bows of trees, with harmonies plucked by the wind like wildflowers, fire lives in the flint, knife-sharp, and attracks lightning,

                                                      the shores of the sea yield amber that is gall-green stomachs cannot digest, like petrified sunshine from the darkness of depth, for ornaments between women's breasts and on wrists, with a fly caught in the amber as a small miracle to gaze upon in a streak of sun that shines through the fingers making them wine red,

                                                      the long boats are buried in the earth with their chieftains to never more tempt them to break up and travel, the settled ones anchored by rocks and tree trunks   []


                  —Translated from the Swedish by Ann B. Weissmann and Annika Planck





"To Maria," "Relativity," and "The Wheel Book"

Reprinted from The Talking Tree: Poems in Prose, trans. by Diana W. Wormuth with Steven P. Sondrup (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1982). Copyright ©1983 by Brigham Young University Press. Reprinted by permission of Brigham Young University Press.


"[It is the dog returning, the same]," "[A gate, a gate! I see it in front of]," and "[You can see flocks of birds against]"

Reprinted from Journeys in Dream and Imagination, trans. by Ann B. Weissman and Annika Planck (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991). Copyright ©1991 by Artur Lundkvist. Reprinted by permission of Four Walls Eight Windows.

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