Sven Lindqvist was born in Stockholm in 1932. He holds a PhD in History of literature from Stockholm University (his thesis, in 1966, was on Vilhelm Ekelund) and a 1979 honorary doctorate from Uppsala University. In 1960–1961, he worked as cultural attaché at the Swedish embassy in Beijing, China. From 1956–86 he was married to Cecilia Lindqvist, with whom he had two children. In 1986 he married the economist Agneta Stark. He lives in the Södermalm area of central Stockholm.
Lindqvist has written more than thirty books of essays, aphorisms, autobiography, documentary prose, travel and reportage. He occasionally publishes articles in the Swedish press, writing for the cultural supplement of the largest Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, since 1950. He is the recipient of several of Sweden's most prestigious literary and journalistic awards.
His work is mostly non-fiction, including (and often transcending) several genres: essays, documentary prose, travel writing and reportages. He is known for his works on developing nations in Africa and the Saharan countries, China, India, Latin America and Australia. In the 1960s, partly inspired by the works of Hermann Hesse, Linqvist spent two years in China. He became fascinated by the legend of the Tang dynasty painter, Wu Tao Tzu, who, when standing looking at a mural of a temple he had just completed, "suddenly clapped his hands and the temple gate opened. He went into his work and the gates closed behind him." 
His later works, from the late 1980s, tend to focus on the subjects of European imperialism, colonialism, racism, genocide and war, analysing the place of these phenomena in Western thought, social history and ideology. These topics are not uncontroversial. In 1992, Lindqvist was embroiled in heated public debate, when his book Exterminate all the Brutes was attacked for its treatment of the Second World War and the Holocaust. Opponents accused Lindqvist of reducing the extermination of the Jewish people to a question of economical and social forces, thereby disregarding the impact of Nazi ideology and anti-Semitism and what they viewed as the unique historical specificity of the Holocaust. Some of the harshest attacks were launched by Per Ahlmark, who declared Lindqvist to be a "Holocaust revisionist". This prompted a furious response by Lindqvist, who considered it a defamatory smear—at no point had he ever called into question the Nazi responsibility for, or the number of dead in, the Holocaust. Regarding the original dispute, Lindqvist retorted that his main argument was correct: the Nazi quest for Lebensraum had at its core been an application of the expansionist and racist principles of imperialism and colonialism, but for the first time applied against fellow Europeans rather than against the distant and dehumanized peoples of the Third World. However, he agreed that the long tradition of anti-Semitism in European and Christian thought had given the anti-Jewish campaign of the Nazis a further ideological dimension, and amended later editions of the book to better reflect this.
Awards and honors
- 1967 Svenska Dagbladets litteraturpris
- 1969 Doblougska priset
- 1969 Stora Journalistpriset
- 1973 Litteraturfrämjandets stora pris
- 1993 Aniara-priset
- 1999 Lotten von Kraemers pris
- 2000 Kellgrenpriset
- 2008 Svenska Akademiens essäpris
- 2011 Ivar Lo-priset
- China in Crisis (Kina inifrån, with Cecilia Lindqvist, 1963)
- The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu (1967), reprinted, London: Granta, 2012. ISBN 9781847085221.
- The shadow: Latin America faces the seventies (Slagskuggan : Latinamerika inför 70-talet, 1969)
- Land and Power in South America (Jord och makt i Sydamerika, 1973–1974, 2 vol.)
- Bench Press (Bänkpress, 1988)
- Desert Divers (Ökendykarna 1990)
- Exterminate All the Brutes (Utrota varenda jävel, 1992)
- The Skull Measurer's Mistake: And Other Portraits of Men and Women Who Spoke Out Against Racism (Antirasister: människor och argument i kampen mot rasismen 1750-1900, 1996)
- A History of Bombing (Nu dog du: bombernas århundrade, 1999)
- Terra Nullius (2005; Granta, London, 2007)
Works in Swedish
- Ett förslag (1955)
- Handbok (1957)
- Reklamen är livsfarlig (1957)
- Hemmaresan (1959)
- Praktika (1962)
- Kina inifrån (1963)
- Asiatisk erfarenhet (1964)
- Dagbok och diktverk (1966)
- Myten om Wu Tao-tzu (1967)
- Slagskuggan (1969)
- Självklara saker (1970)
- Jord och makt i Sydamerika (1973)
- Jordens gryning - Jord och makt i Sydamerika del II (1974)
- Arbetsbyte (1976)
- Lägenheter på verkstadsgolvet (1977)
- Gräv där du står (1978)
- Hamiltons slutsats (1980)
- Kina nu (1980) (with Cecilia Lindqvist)
- Hamiltons slutsats (1980)
- En älskares dagbok (1981)
- En gift mans dagbok (1982)
- En underjordisk stjärnhimmel (1984)
- Elefantens fot (1985)
- Bänkpress (1988)
- Ökendykarna (1990)
- Av nyfikenhet öppnade jag dörren i muren (1991)
- Livstidsmänniskan (1992)
- Utrota varenda jävel (1992)
- Arbete & kärlek (1995)
- Antirasister (1995)
- Nu dog du: Bombernas århundrade (1999)
- Framtidslandet (2000)
- Terra nullius - en resa genom ingens land (2005)
- Fadern, sonen och den heliga motorcykeln (2006)
- Avsikt att förinta (2008)
- Mats Bigert (Summer 2003). "Bombs Away: An Interview with Sven Lindqvist". Cabinet (11). Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- George Monbiot (16 December 2003). "A weapon with wings". The Guardian. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
- "Sven Lindqvist official website". Archived from the original on June 25, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
- Stuart Jeffries (22 June 2012). "Sven Lindqvist: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- Jenny Leonardz (February 2, 2008). "Sven Lindqvist har många böcker kvar". SvD (in Swedish). Retrieved June 21, 2012.
- Sven Lindqvist, The Myth of Wu Tao-Tzu. (London: Granta, 2012), p. 1
- Sven Lindqvist (official website) at the Wayback Machine (archived June 25, 2014)
- "The Power of Truth", keynote speech for the Lettre Ulysses Award 2005
- La mort venait déjà du ciel ("On Bombing"), in Le Monde diplomatique, March 2002 (French)