Harry Martinson
Harry Martinson was a Swedish sailor, author and poet. In 1949 he was elected into the Swedish Academy
Swedish Academy
The Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...

. He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson
Eyvind Johnson
Eyvind Johnson, was a Swedish writer and author. He became a member of the Swedish Academy in 1957 and shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with Harry Martinson in 1974 with the citation: for a narrative art, far-seeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom.Johnson was born Olof Edvin...

. The choice for Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson was very controversial as both were on the Nobel panel. They and Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

, Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow was a Canadian-born Jewish American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts...

 and Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

 were the favored candidates that year.


Martinson was born in Jämshög
Jämshög is a locality situated in Olofström Municipality, Blekinge County, Sweden with 1,543 inhabitants in 2005....

, Blekinge County
Blekinge County
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...

 in south-eastern Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. At a young age he lost both his parents whereafter he was placed as a foster child (Kommunalbarn) in the Swedish countryside. 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.

A few years later lung problems forced him to set ashore in Sweden where he travelled around without a steady employment, at times living as a vagabond on country roads. In the city of Malmö
Malmö , in the southernmost province of Scania, is the third most populous city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg.Malmö is the seat of Malmö Municipality and the capital of Skåne County...

, at the age of 21, he was arrested for vagrancy.

In 1929, he debuted as a poet. Together with Artur Lundkvist
Artur Lundkvist
Artur Lundkvist was a Swedish writer, poet and literary critic. He was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1968....

, Gustav Sandgren
Gustav Sandgren
Gustav Sandgren, born 20 August 1904 in Western Stenby in Motala, Östergötland, died 11 August 1983 at Lidingö in Stockholm, was an author. He married Titti Lindstedt in 1935. They lived in Björknäs at Hållsviken west of Trosa in Södermanland. He subsequently married Ria Wägner and then spent forty...

, Erik Asklund and Josef Kjellgren he authored the anthology Fem unga (Five Youths), which introduced Swedish Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

. His poetry combined an acute eye for, and love of nature, with a deeply-felt humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

. His popular success as a novelist came with the semi-autobiographical Nässlorna blomma (The Nettles Flower) in 1935, about hardships encountered by a young boy in the countryside. It has since been translated into more than thirty languages.

One of his most famous works is the poetic cycle Aniara, which is a story of the space craft Aniara that during a journey through space
Spaceflight is the act of travelling into or through outer space. Spaceflight can occur with spacecraft which may, or may not, have humans on board. Examples of human spaceflight include the Russian Soyuz program, the U.S. Space shuttle program, as well as the ongoing International Space Station...

 loses its course and subsequently floats on without destination. The book was published in (1956) and became in 1959 an opera
Aniara (opera)
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 in 1959. The opera was described by the composer as a "review about Man in Time and Space"....

 composed by Karl-Birger Blomdahl
Karl-Birger Blomdahl
Karl-Birger Blomdahl was a Swedish composer and conductor born in Växjö. He was educated in biochemistry, but was primarily active in music and by his experimental compositions he became one of the big names in Swedish modernism. His teachers included Hilding Rosenberg...

. The cycle has been described as an epic story of man's fragility and folly.

From 1929 to 1940 he was married to the Swedish writer Moa Martinson
Moa Martinson
Helga Maria Swarts, known as Moa Martinson, was a Swedish author. Helga's ambitions as a writer was to change the society and with her authorship portray the conditions of the working-class but also the personal development of women...

. The sensitive Harry found criticism in the 1970s after the Nobel prize hard to cope with, and attempted suicide with a pair of scissors. He died on February 11, 1978, at the Karolinska University Hospital
Karolinska University Hospital
The Karolinska University Hospital is a university hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, with two major sites in the municipalities of Huddinge and Solna....

 in Stockholm.

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


  • Nässlorna blomma (Flowering Nettles) 1935
  • Vägen ut (The Way Out) 1936
  • Den förlorade jaguaren (The Lost Jaguar) 1941
  • Vägen till Klockrike (The Road) 1948


  • Resor utan mål (Aimless Journeys) 1932
  • Svärmare och harkrank 1937
  • Midsommardalen (Midsommer valley) 1938
  • Det enkla och det svåra (The easy and the hard) 1938
  • Verklighet till döds (Reality to death) 1940
  • Utsikt från en grästuva (Views From A Tuft of Grass) 1963


  • Spökskepp 1929
  • Nomad 1931
  • Passad (Trade Wind) 1945
  • Cikada 1953
  • Aniara 1956
  • Gräsen i Thule 1958
  • Vagnen 1960
  • Dikter om ljus och mörker 1971
  • Tuvor 1973

External links

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