Shortlisted for the Bernard Shaw Prize 2018 (for Translation from Swedish)
Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation
Introduction by Per Wåstberg
Poet, novelist, and philosopher Lars Gustafsson (1936-2016) was one of Europe’s leading literary figures. Much of his writing is concerned with the search for moral consciousness and the relationship between personal experience and self-awareness, imbued with a philosophically founded scepticism toward language. His poetry is renowned for relating the metaphysical to the mundane with a particular clarity and precision, illuminating the potency of ordinary objects and everyday events as he addresses critical issues that have concerned great thinkers over the centuries.
‘I am amazed at his imaginativeness, empathy and extraordinary divining-rod… His poems, half violent movement, half fleeting shadow, are borne by the intention “to create out of experiences that have been made experiences that have not been made”… Lars Gustafsson’s poetry is a song to what has been lost, to the faces that are glimpsed in train windows and never return. Cultures and epochs swirl round each other like leaves in an autumn gale and attain a balance, if not before then in the smithy of metaphors that the poet keeps heated.’ – Per Wåstberg, from his Foreword to Selected Poems
'This is an accurate and faithful rendering of the sweeping and distinctly ingenious work of a great writer. ' - Karin Altenberg and Helen Sigeland, Judges of the Bernard Shaw Prize 2018, on John Irons' translation of Selected Poems
‘Gustafsson’s terse, exacting voice in his excellent collection does little to lighten the mood, but not in a bad way. He has the eye and ear for the heart-rending everyday object: abstractions rub shoulders with vivid nature poems. This elegy for ‘sulky old Sweden’ will have you in tears.’ James Kidd, The Independent
‘There are wonderful poems here about music, painting, and our relationship with nature that will appeal to an English audience.’ – Ross Cogan, PN Review