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Martinson, Harry

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1904-1978) Swedish author and poet, active from the late 1920s, member of the Swedish Academy; recipient of the 1974 Nobel Prize for Literature. A prolific writer, Martinson's one contribution to sf is Aniara: en Revy om Människan i Tid och Rum (1953 Cikada; exp 1956; trans Hugh MacDiarmid and Elspeth Harley Schubert as Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space 1963; new trans Stephen Klass and Leif Sjöberg 1991), a 103-canto epic poem (see Poetry) eloquently defending humane values against the inhumanity of Technology as the Spaceship Aniara, carrying emigrants from the Ruined Earth to Mars, collides with an Asteroid, which damages it so badly it can no longer manoeuvre; knocked off course, the ship continues irreversibly into interstellar space where, as this spacecraft was not actually designed as a Generation Starship, its passengers are ultimately doomed. A sentient Communications device known as the Mima distracts the crew and passengers with images of Earth past and present, but terminates itself in despair after seeing the destruction of the home port Dorisburg from which the ship was launched; the human voyagers soon follow its example.

Despite or possibly because of the participation of Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978), arguably Scotland's most important twentieth-century poet, the first English translation, though it is eloquent, does not always fully convey the resonant, melodic and quotable original. Karl-Birger Blomdahl's opera (see SF Music) based on the poem, Aniara (1959), features some pioneering electronic effects and has achieved international success. Some of the poems in the untranslated Doriderna (coll 1980) belong to the Aniara cycle. A film adaptation (in Swedish) is Aniara (2018), scripted and directed by Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja. [J-HH/JC]

Harry Edmund Martinson

born Jämshög, Sweden: 6 May 1904

died Stockholm, Sweden: 11 February 1978



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