Harry Martinson was born at Jämshög, Sweden, in 1904. He was left an orphan at an early age, and after a chequered childhood, in which the children's homes and institutions were as numerous as the escapes, he went to sea at the age of 16, spending six years of his life on board various ships and as a workman in foreign countries.
It was from these travels and years of work in environments of all kinds that he later drew material and inspiration for his literary efforts - a couple of books of prose with glimpses, views and memories of the world of coal-heated ships during the 1920s.
These accounts were followed a few years later by one or two books with an autobiographical strain and fictional recollections of a boarded-out child's existence, especially the child's own way of perceiving and trying to understand life and the people in it.
Side by side with this psychological cognition of the childhood land of memory, there appeared some collections of poetry which were continued by degrees in a series of nature studies in prose, in which words and observation are combined in what the author has called 'thinking out in the meadow'.
In a later work, the novel Vägen till Klockrike, the description of the human side is devoted entirely to the relationship between the settled and the itinerant man within ourselves. A world of journeying in a still wider sense emerges in Aniara, an epic work about an imagined space flight with a perspective in depth towards our own time. In it, jostling for room in our consciousness, are our fears and our questions as to where we are heading, together with the planet that our generation is treating as it does.
Harry Martinson died in 1978.
The above biographical note is reprinted from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1993
Harry Martinson's Chickweed Wintergreen: Selected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton with an introduction by Staffan Söderblom, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2010.
Books by Harry Martinson