[mahr-tn-suhn; Sw. mahr-tin-sawn]
Martinson, Harry, 1904-78, Swedish writer. Orphaned early, Martinson was self-educated. His works reveal his appreciation of nature and his distrust of modern technological society. He is best known for his long narrative poem Aniara (1956), about the journey of a spaceship. It was set to music in 1959 by K. B. Blomdahl. Noted for their novel, expressive style, his major works include Kap Farväl! [Cape Farewell] (1933), based on his travels; several volumes of poetry, Nässlorna blomma [flowering nettle] (1936); and Vägen till Klockricke (1948, tr. The Road, 1956), a sympathetic portrayal of society's outcasts. Martinson was the first writer of the working classes to be admitted to the Swedish Academy. He shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in Literature with the Swedish writer Eyvind Johnson. A collection of Martinsson's poems, tr. by William Jay Smith and Leif Sjöberg, was published as Wild Bouquet (1985).

See study by L. Sjöberg (1974).

Martinson, Helga Maria (Moa), 1890-1964, Swedish novelist and poet. The mother of five children before she was 25, Martinson began writing late; her first novel was Women and Apple Trees (1933, tr. 1985). My Mother Gets Married (1936, tr. 1988), considered her best work, depicted the miseries of working-class women, as did most of her novels. Her works are often autobiographical as well as historical in content.

See study by E. Witt-Brattström (1988).

Harry Martinson (May 6, 1904February 11, 1978) was an author and poet. In 1949 he was elected into the Swedish Academy. He was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974 together with fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson. The choice for Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson was very controversial as both were on the Nobel panel. They and Graham Greene, Saul Bellow and Vladimir Nabokov were the favored candidates that year.


Martinson was born in Jämshög, in the Swedish county of Blekinge in south-eastern Sweden. At a young age he lost both his parents, whereafter he was stationed on the Swedish country side as a foster child (Kommunalbarn). At the age of sixteen, Martinson ran away, and enrolled on a ship where he spent 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. The next years were spent travelling around Sweden without a steady employment, at times living as a vagabond on country roads. In the city of Malmö, he was arrested for vagrancy, at the age of 21.

In 1929, he debuted as a poet. Together with Artur Lundkvist, Gustav Sandgren, Erik Asklund and Josef Kjellgren, he authored the anthology Fem unga (Five Youths), which introduced Swedish Modernism. His poetry combined an acute eye for and love of nature with a deeply felt humanism. His popular success as a novelist came with the semi-autobiographical Nässlorna blomma (Flowering Nettle), in 1935, about hardships encountered by a young boy in the countryside. It has since been translated into more than 30 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 loses its course, and subsequently aimlessly floats through space, without destination. The book was published in (1956), and became in 1959 an opera, composed by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. 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. The sensitive Harry found criticism in the 1970s subsequent to the Nobel prize hard to cope with. He committed suicide with a pair of scissors in Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm in 1978.

The 100th anniversary of his birth was celebrated around Sweden in 2004.


Titles in English where known.


  • Vägen till Klockrike (The Road)
  • Nässlorna blomma (Flowering Nettles)
  • Vägen ut (The Way Out)


  • Svärmare och harkrank
  • Midsommardalen (Midsommer valley)
  • Det enkla och det svåra (The easy and the hard)
  • Utsikt från en grästuva (Sight from a tussock)
  • Verklighet till döds (Reality to death)
  • Den förlorade jaguaren (The Lost Jaguar)
  • Resor utan mål (Aimless Journeys)


  • Spökskepp
  • Nomad
  • Passad (Trade Wind)
  • Cikada
  • Aniara
  • Gräsen i Thule
  • Vagnen
  • Dikter om ljus och mörker
  • Tuvor

Radio plays

  • Gringo
  • Salvation
  • Lotsen från Moluckas

Stage play

  • Tre knivar från Wei


  • De blomster som i marken bor

External links

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