Author: Birger Thölix

God and the incomplete

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Authors

It took 25 years for Gunnar Björling to be transformed from the madman traditionalists universally considered him to be into a writer the world could not ignore and, moreover, a poet who, in his at- tempts to capture silence and say the unsayable, supplied ‘equipment for living’. When the Swedish Literature Society of Finland finally gave him a prize after the Second World War – his breakthrough as a poet had taken place in 1933, with Solgrönt (‘Sungreen’) – there was an outcry. The Society’s long-time president, an anti-Nazi historian, could not stomach the work of the poet’s Sturm und Drang period, and resigned in protest.

Björling published his first collection with his own press in 1922, a year before the death of Edith Södergran. Along with Södergran and Elmer Diktonius, he is one of the three great figures of Finland- Swedish modernism. His friend, the poet Rabbe Enckell, one of the few people who understood and were in sympathy with him early on, called him Europe’s last Dadaist. He himself gave himself the title of Universal Dada-Individualist. After the publication of his first book, he spent some time drinking in pubs, carrying on debates and writing moral laxatives for the constipated bourgeoisie in the hope that it would have a spiritual bowel-movement. It responded by laugh ing at him. He became incomprehensibility personified. He gave generous quantities of copies of his books to friends and patrons of literature which he would sometimes find, their pages uncut, in second-hand bookshops. More…