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Harry Martinson

AKA Harry Edmund Martinson

Born: 6-May-1904
Birthplace: Jämshög, Sweden
Died: 11-Feb-1978
Location of death: Gnesta, Sweden
Cause of death: Suicide
Remains: Buried, Silverdals Griftegård, Stockholm, Sweden

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Poet, Author

Nationality: Sweden
Executive summary: Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space

Harry Martinson's father contracted tuberculosis in prison and died, and his mother abandoned her children and came to America. He had little formal education, and frequently ran away from the orphanages where he was housed, finally becoming a merchant seaman when he was 16. By his early 20s he was a vagabond, an experience which formed the basis for his novel of homelessness Vägen till Klockrike (The Road). His best-known work is Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space, a 103-canto epic poem that reads more like a well-crafted science fiction novel. An allegorical tale of a spaceship that flees war-ravaged Earth only to be lost in space, Aniara was later the basis for a popular opera and filmed for Swedish television.

Martinson won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974, "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos". His Nobel honors were shared with his fellow Swede Eyvind Johnson, but their honors were considered controversial, since Martinson and Johnson were close friends and both had been long-time members of the Swedish Academy, which debates and determines who wins the honor they shared. Martinson's honor came on the 25th anniversary of his membership in the Academy. He said he was offended by the insinuation of corruption, but his complaints only amplified the insinuations. He withdrew into depression, and four years after winning the Prize Martinson killed himself by slicing his stomach open with scissors.

Father: Martin Olofsson (owned a grocery store, d. 1910 tuberculosis)
Mother: Bengta Svensdotter ("Betty", m. 1895)
Sister: Edith (d. 1911 tuberculosis)
Sister: Clara
Wife: Moa Swartz Martinson ("Helga Johansson", writer, b. 1890, m. 1928, div. 1940, d. 1964)

    Nobel Prize for Literature 1974 (with Eyvind Johnson)
    Risk Factors: Depression

Official Website:

Author of books:
Spökskepp (Ghost Ship) (1929, collected poems)
Resor Utan Mål (Aimless Journeys) (1932, travelogue)
Kap Farväl (Cape Farewell) (1933, travelogue)
Nässlorna Blomma (Flowering Nettle) (1935)
Vägen Ut (The Way Out) (1936)
Passad (Trade Wind) (1945, collected poems)
Vägen till Klockrike (The Road) (1948)
Aniara: En Revy om Människan i Tid och Rum (Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space) (1956, epic poem)

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