Karl Vennberg

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right Karl Vennberg

Karl Vennberg (11 April 1910 - 12 May 1995) was a Swedish poet, writer and translator. Born in Blädinge, Alvesta Municipality, Kronoberg County as the son of a farmer, Vennberg studied at Lund University and in Stockholm and worked as a teacher of Norwegian in a Stockholm folk high school. His first poem "Hymn och hunger" ("Hymn and Hunger") was published in 1937. During his career, he published 20 collections of poetry. His literary criticism had an important influence on the Swedish literary scene. He also translated literary works into Swedish, among others Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Generally considered a leading Swedish Modernist poet, several dissertations has been written about Vennberg's works. His poems are analytical but also often make use of irony. Vennberg is often said to be influenced by T. S. Eliot.

Political views[edit]

During the 1930s and 1940s, Vennberg expressed some level of support for fascism and nazism. For example, in a letter in 1936, he wrote: "I know that Hitler and Mussolini have given the youth of their countries something to live for, an inexorable and inevitable demand, beyond all reflection and analysis. The equilibrium of life cannot be restored in any other way. Liberty is a divine privilege, which among humans only leads to dreary decay".[1] Following the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, Vennberg argued that "whether Hitler's expansion of his realm was justified or unjustified, we may in confidence leave for history to decide".[2] He also argued that other countries had raised "compact walls of derision and enmity towards German will of life".[1]

During the early Cold War, Vennberg was an adherent of the so-called "third stance" (Swedish: tredje ståndpunkten) in Swedish public debate, which advocated a neutral stance in the conflict between the two superpowers. Despite this, he participated in a gathering at the USSR embassy in Stockholm where he praised the "cultural upbuilding" in the USSR.[3] In 1948 he participated in the founding of the Intellectuals' International Relations Committee for Peace, a USSR-controlled front organization which summoned the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace of 1948 in Wrocław.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Karl Vennberg won a number of literary prizes during his career:

He was also awarded an honorary doctorate at Stockholm University.


  1. ^ a b Lagerlöf, Karl Erik (1967). Den unge Karl Vennberg (in Swedish). Stockholm: Bonnier. 
  2. ^ Ahlmark, Per (1994). Vänstern och tyranniet : det galna kvartsseklet (in Swedish). Stockholm: Timbro. p. 174. ISBN 91-7566-274-4. 
  3. ^ a b Häggman, Bertil (1991). Medlöparna (in Swedish). Stockholm: Contra. p. 87. ISBN 91-86092-22-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Anders Johansson (2000) The negativity of poetry. A study of Karl Vennberg's literary criticism and poetry. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. ISBN 91-22-01865-4 (Abstract)

External links[edit]

  • Karl Vennberg - Albert Bonnier publishing house presentation page (in Swedish)