Author: Thomas Warburton

Cautionary tales

30 September 2002 | Fiction, Prose

Short stories from Förklädnader. Sagor, parabler (‘Disguises. Stories, allegories’, Schildts, 2001; Valepukuja. Satuja, vertauksia, WSOY, 2002)


All over Hellas, even in the barbarian lands, the lyre-players competed with one another. Odes, paeans, dithyrambs echoed endlessly. Phoebus Apollo himself generously oversaw these productions.

A certain promising singer, Deinarchos by name, who hoped to participate in the upcoming Pythian contest, sat in his study-cave in the mountains of Thessaly waiting for inspiration. He prayed repeatedly to Phoebus for help, but did not detect any response. More…

A sense of order

Issue 2/1987 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Solveig von Schoultz

Solveig von Schoultz. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

That Solveig von Schoultz occupies the position of ‘grand old lady’ of Finland­-Swedish poetry is beyond question; yet it is an epithet that fits her badly. It all too easily suggests the image of a stern and queenly poetess, an Edith Sitwell, Marianne Moore or Gabriela Mistral. The poetesses of Scandinavia are, by and large, less solemn – more gentle and down-to-earth, even when they grow older and wiser and ascend some of Parnassus’s more elevated thrones.

Solveig von Schoultz has, of course, had a long journey to the top. She has behind her twelve collections of poetry, at least fifteen volumes of prose, and an even greater number of plays for radio, television and theatre, spanning a good fifty years’ acitivity as a writer.

In this long artistic career there is both continuity and development. It might be said that the continuity is represented by the fact that from the very beginning she has preferred to describe women – their daily lives, their loves, thoughts, impulses, relationships. But since so much in the world of women and in women’s thinking has changed during the decades since her literary debut in the 1930s, both her themes and her outlook have necessarily altered, too. Among other things, she has had many of her early, then only half-developed ideas taken up by a later generation, and has thereby had them given back to her renewed. As a feminist she has always been one of the least militant, and for a short time some of her younger co-sisters were uncertain about the strength of her commitment to the Cause. More…

The Poet as a Progressive

Issue 3/1979 | Archives online, Authors

Claes Andresson

Claes Andersson. Photo: Johan Bargum.

Why do some poets adopt a chill tone or an intellectual stance, while others bleed in public, clench their fists or bellow with pain? Temperament alone cannot explain this. Poetical traditions, and the current climate, are more influential.

Modern Swedish poetry – in fact all Scandinavian poetry, including that of Finland – has inclined toward German and Continental Expressionism. This is, in essence, a romantic tradition, and there are other, more endogenous romantic traditions, as well, driving poets the same way. In such an ambience any pronouncedly intellectual poet will always seem exceptional. He will risk being accused of aloofness or disdain, be easily damned as a ‘difficult’ writer. Rabbe Enckell and Paavo Haavikko in Finland, Gunnar Ekelöf in Sweden, are cases in point.

Claes Andersson (born 1937) seems to belong to this category. He certainly tells his readers where he stands, unapologetically. But he is also a lover of his language – the Swedish spoken in Finland – and he likes to play intellectual games with the language, to coin a word or a phrase and turn it over, sometimes upside-down, to reflect and comment on the language itself: ‘Words,’ he once wrote, ‘possess hidden valences – shown, for instance, when the word Sodium jumps into the word Water to cool itself, never suspecting what will happen. Hidden tensions may thus be disclosed.’ More…