Authors: Eyvind Johnson

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Swedish novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Timans och rättfärdigheten, 1925

Stad i mörker, 1927

Stad i ljus, 1928

Minnas, 1928

Kommentar till et stjärnfall, 1929

Avsked til Hamlet, 1930

Bobinack, 1932

Regn i gryningen, 1933

Nu var det 1914, 1934 (1914, 1970)

Här har du ditt liv!, 1935

Se dig inte om!, 1936

Slutspel i ungdomen, 1937

Nattövning, 1938

Soldatens återkomst, 1940

Grupp Krilon, 1941

Krilons resa, 1942

Krilon själv, 1943

Romanen om Olof, 1945 (includes Nu var det 1914, Här har du ditt liv!, Se dig inte om!, and Slutspel i ungdomen)

Strändernas svall: En roman on det närvarande, 1946 (Return to Ithaca: “The Odyssey” Retold as a Modern Novel, 1952)

Krilon: En roman om de sannolika, 1948 (includes Grupp Krilon, Krilons resa, and Krilon själv)

Drömmar om rosor och eld, 1949 (Dreams of Roses and Fire, 1984)

Lägg undan solen, 1951

Romantisk berättelse, 1953

Tidens gång, 1955

Molnen över Metapontion, 1957

Hans nådes tid, 1960 (The Days of His Grace, 1968)

Livsdagen lång, 1964

Favel ensam, 1968

Några steg mot tystnaden, 1973

Short Fiction:

De fyra främlingarna, 1924

Natten är här, 1932

Än en gång, kapten!, 1934

Den trygga världen, 1940

Sju liv, 1944

Drama:

Strändernas svall, pr., pb. 1948

Nonfiction:

Dagbok från Schweiz, 1949

Vinterresa i Norrbotten, 1955

Vägar över Metaponto, 1959

Spår förbi Kolonos, 1961

Stunder, vågor, 1965

Biography

Eyvind Johnson (YEWN-sawn) was born Olof Edvin Werner Jonsson on July 29, 1900, at Svartbjörnsbyn, near Boden, in Sweden’s northernmost province, Norbotten. His parents were Olof and Cevia Jonsson, his father having come north as a rallare, a laborer who built railroads. Johnson’s boyhood was grim. At four years of age, he was given over to foster parents, Anders Johan and Amanda Rost, when his father’s mental illness reduced the family to poverty. He attended the village school in Boden until age thirteen and had no formal education thereafter. Until he was nineteen, he lived a life of hard labor, sorting timber and laying drainpipes near the Arctic Circle.{$I[A]Johnson, Eyvind}{$S[A]Jonsson, Olof Edvin Werner;Johnson, Eyvind}{$I[geo]SWEDEN;Johnson, Eyvind}{$I[tim]1900;Johnson, Eyvind}

Eyvind Johnson

(© The Nobel Foundation)

By 1919, Johnson had become a Young Socialist, was living in Stockholm, and was contributing revolutionary articles and poems to the periodical Brand under the name Eyvind Ung (Eyvind Young). At twenty, he ventured south into war-ravaged Western Europe and spent the next decade in Berlin and Paris. He was long impatient with his native country’s insular attitude toward the misery beyond its borders. In 1927, he married Aase Christoffersen; the marriage ended with her death in 1938. Two years later, he married Cilla Frankenhaeuser.

For much of his life, Johnson led a peripatetic existence. During the 1930’s, he wrote a tetralogy–eventually collected under the title Romanen om Olof (the novel about Olof)–exploring the formative years of a highly autobiographical hero. His early novels mainly concern the frustration of human aspirations. Bobinack is an exposé of the negative aspects of modern capitalism, and Regn i gryningen attacks the drudgery of modern day office work. Johnson, one of the few working-class novelists to bring new themes to Swedish literature, very much admired the works of Marcel Proust, Andre Gide, and James Joyce, experimental novelists of the early twentieth century. He experimented, himself, with point of view, epistolary narrative, wordplay, and stream of consciousness.

Johnson returned to Sweden prior to World War II. His opposition to the rise of Fascism forced him to abandon reluctantly his stance as a pacifist. During the war, he argued for Scandinavian solidarity in resisting Russian and German aggression. Sweden remained neutral, however, and Johnson was disappointed. His Krilon trilogy–collected under the title Krilon: En roman om de sannolika, 1948–is the story of a Swede, Johannes Krilon, who is reflective and tolerant but who cannot retain his neutrality in the Europe of the 1940’s. After the war, Johnson lived in Switzerland and later in England, where he worked for the BBC. In his postwar fiction, he turned to historical themes. It was his writing of historical fiction that, in time, the Swedish Academy would specifically cite.

Returning to Sweden once more, Johnson was increasingly honored for his literary work. In 1953, the University of Gothenburg awarded an honorary doctorate to this writer of humble origins who had never finished high school. The Swedish Academy elected him to membership in 1957, and the Nordic Council awarded him its literature prize in 1962.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was presented to Johnson on December 10, 1974. He shared the award with his countryman, the poet Harry Martinson. Two shadows fell, however, over the proceedings. First, the Royal Swedish Academy was roundly criticized for awarding the prize to two of its own members. The Academy members responded that it would be unfair to exclude writers from consideration simply because they were Swedish, that both recipients had recently done important work, and that twenty-three years had passed since a Swedish writer was honored. Second, Johnson and Martinson shared the stage with the charismatic exiled Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was finally making an appearance in Stockholm to accept his 1970 Nobel Prize. Less than two years later, the novelist’s prolific and honored career came to an end when Johnson died in Stockholm.

BibliographyOrton, Gavin. Eyvind Johnson. New York: Twayne, 1972. The first chapter provides a brief biography and a summary of Johnson’s literary career. The eight succeeding chapters deal with his work thematically and chronologically. Each novel is analyzed in detail.Sjöberg, Leif. “Eyvind Johnson.” The American-Scandinavian Review 56 (1968): 369-378. The article is a general discussion of Johnson and his work, written from the perspective of a Swedish critic who has lived in the United States for two decades. One of the few articles on Johnson written in English, it is an attempt to stimulate interest in his work within the English-speaking community.Warme, Lars G. “Eyvind Johnson’s Några steg mot tystnaden: An Apologia.” Scandinavian Studies 49 (1977): 452-463. The article is an examination of Johnson’s last novel, which received the major prize of the Nordic Council and may well have precipitated his selection for the Nobel Prize.
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