Eyvind Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Eyvind Johnson
Eyvind Johnson
Eyvind Johnson
BornOlof Edvin Verner Jonsson
(1900-07-29)29 July 1900
near Boden, Norrbotten, Sweden
Died25 August 1976 (aged 76)
Stockholm, Sweden
Notable works
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Literature
1974 (shared with Harry Martinson)

Eyvind Johnson (29 July 1900 – 25 August 1976) was a Swedish novelist and short story writer. Regarded as the most groundbreaking novelist in modern Swedish literature[1] 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 Verner Jonsson in Svartbjörnsbyn village in Överluleå parish, near the town of Boden in Norrbotten. The small house where he was born is preserved and marked with a commemorative plaque.

Johnson left school at the age of thirteen and then held various jobs such as log driving and working at a saw mill and as a ticket-seller and projectionist in a cinema. In 1919 he left his hometown and moved to Stockholm where he began to publish articles in anarchist magazines like Brand. In Stockholm he became friends with other young proletarian writers and started the magazine Vår nutid. He travelled in Germany in the 1920s and lived in Saint-Leu-la-Foret, near Paris, France between 1927 and 1930 with his wife Aase Christoffersen (1900–1938). At this point he had published his first books. The first De fyra främlingarna, a collection of short stories, was published in 1924. Influenced by writers such as Marcel Proust, André Gide and James Joyce, Johnson gradually took distance from the traditional novel and became the most important representative of modernist literature in Sweden. Johnson's early novels was not widely read, but his 1929 novel Kommentar till ett stjärnfall ("Comment on a falling star"), an attack on capitalist society, was a critical success.[2]

Johnson's first major success as a writer was four autobiographical novels published between 1934 and 1937, published together as Romanen om Olof ("The Novel about Olof"), about a young man growing up in the northern parts of Sweden. In the novels Johnson blended realism with fairy tales and typical modernist features such as inner monologue and changing point of view. Romanen om Olof became a classic in Swedish literature and was later filmed as Here Is Your Life.[2]

Increasingly upset by the rising totalitarianism in the 1930s, Johnson was strongly against fascism and nazism.[2] During World War II he was editor of the magazine Håndslag and published Krilon, a trilogy of novels that in the form of an allegory deals with the events during the war. In the novels Johnson condemns nazi oppression and criticises the controversial Swedish neutrality policy during the war.[2] Krilon is considered to be one of Johnson's best works.[3][4]

In 1946 he published one of his most famous novels Return to Ithaca, based on the story of Odysseus as he returns to Ithaca after the Trojan war. Johnson married translator Cilla Johnson in 1940. He lived with his family in Switzerland 1947–1949 and then a year in England. Travels to Italy and France inspired him to write several well-received historical novels. Among the best known are Dreams of roses and fire (Drömmar om rosor och eld, 1949) set in Cardinal Richelieus 17th century France, and Molnen över Metapontion ("The Clouds above Metapontion", 1957) that typically for his later novels switches back and forth between different time levels. In 1957 he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy.

Johnson's most noted works internationally include Return to Ithaca and The Days of His Grace (Hans nådes tid, 1960) which have been translated to many languages. For the latter novel Johnson was awarded the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 1962.[5] In 1974 Eyvind Johnson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (shared with Harry Martinson).[6]


The choice of Johnson and Harry Martinson as Nobel Prize winners in 1974 was controversial as both were on the Nobel panel themselves and Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow and Jorge Luis Borges were the favoured candidates that year.[7]


  • De fyra främlingarna (short story collection, 1924)
  • Timans och rättfärdigheten (novel, 1925)
  • Stad i mörker (novel, 1927)
  • Stad i ljus (novel, 1928)
  • Minnas (novel, 1928)
  • Kommentar till ett stjärnfall (novel, 1929)
  • Avsked till Hamlet (novel, 1930)
  • Natten är här (short story collection, 1932)
  • Bobinack (novel, 1932)
  • Regn i gryningen (novel, 1933)
  • Än en gång, kapten! (short story collection, 1934)
  • Romanen om Olof (1934-1937, published together in 1945)
    • Nu var det 1914 (novel, 1934)
    • Här har du ditt liv! (novel, 1935)
    • Se dig inte om! (novel, 1936)
    • Slutspel i ungdomen (novel, 1937)
  • Nattövning (novel, 1938)
  • Den trygga världen (short story collection, 1940)
  • Soldatens återkomst (novel, 1940)
  • Krilon (1941-1943, published together in 1948)
    • Grupp Krilon (novel, 1941)
    • Krilons resa (novel, 1942)
    • Krilon själv (novel, 1943)
  • Sju liv (short story compilation, 1944)
  • Return to Ithaca (Swedish: Strändernas svall, novel, 1946; drama, 1948)
  • Pan mot Sparta (short story collection, 1946)
  • Dagbok från Schweiz (1949)
  • Drömmar om rosor och eld (novel, 1949)
  • Lägg undan solen (novel, 1951)
  • Romantisk berättelse (novel, 1953)
  • Tidens gång (novel, 1955)
  • Vinterresa i Norrbotten (1955)
  • Molnen över Metapontion (novel, 1957)
  • Vägar över Metaponto – en resedagbok (1959)
  • The Days of His Grace (Swedish: Hans nådes tid, novel, 1960)
  • Spår förbi Kolonos – en berättelse (1961)
  • Livsdagen lång (novel, 1964)
  • Stunder, vågor – anteckningar, berättelser (1965)
  • Favel ensam (novel, 1968)
  • Resa i hösten 1921 (1973)
  • Några steg mot tystnaden (novel, 1973)
  • Olibrius och gestalterna (early short stories, 1986)
  • Herr Clerk vår mästare (original version of Minnas, novel, 1998)


  1. ^ Svenska Akademien
  2. ^ a b c d Petri Liukonnen Eyvind Johnson Books and writers
  3. ^ Örjan Lindberger Människan i tiden: Eyvind Johnsons liv och författarskap 1938-1976, Bonniers 1990 ISBN 91-0-047904-7, p. 134
  4. ^ Gavin Orton Eyvind Johnson. En monografi Aldus 1974 ISBN 91-0-039665-6, p. 73
  5. ^ Nordic Council Literature Prize
  6. ^ The Nobel Prize in Literature 1974 nobelprize.org
  7. ^ Raúl Fain Binda BBC Mundo (1 January 1970). "BBC Mundo – Noticias – Londres 2012: el cruel destino del atleta que llega cuarto". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 August 2012.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Nils Ahnlund
Swedish Academy,
Seat No.11

Succeeded by
Ulf Linde