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Till en berättelse om tröst: Eyvind Johnson omläst
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2012 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
To a Tale of Consolation : Rereading Eyvind Johnson (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is devoted to the Swedish author and Nobel Laureate Eyvind Johnson. The study involves a rereading of his oeuvre and an attempt to reformulate the prevailing picture of the author and his works.

The study begins by discussing the image of Johnson, as he portrays himself and as he is viewed and talked about by others: readers, critics and researchers. The discussion leads to an attempt to understand what Foucault calls the author-function, as a web of narrative, internal and external, that of the author, the readers and the critics.

Something that Johnson calls “truth” is important for his oeuvre. This is linked to the author’s experience and a duty to present testimony about reality, what Johnson would call documents. This reasoning leads to a discussion of different readings and the potential of cognitive values in fiction, and to an exploration of large and small themes, the general and the particular. Autobiographical texts as well as private correspondence with colleagues and friends are discussed from this perspective.

Through studies of forgotten and buried or vanished layers – a method that could be called archaeological – the dissertation examines texts in Johnson’s oeuvre that have received less attention, often neglected or ignored. Early short stories, unsuccessful novels and rejected manuscripts can allow recurrent motifs and themes to stand out more clearly and indicate new ways to read the major canonical works in his oeuvre as well. Such themes are found to be abandonment and homosociality, sexuality and misogyny. Important but hitherto often neglected motifs become keys that open the novels to new, closer interpretations.

Central features in the study are analyses of the novels Krilon, Strändernas svall (Return to Ithaca, London/New York 1952) and Några steg mot tystnaden. These particularly concern betrayal and being let down, often staged in a gender context. The dissertation leads up to a discussion of what in Johnsons works is reflections on a male, and ultimately also a human predicament. Different concepts are tested: male tragedy, melancholy, but the analysis finally settles on the term male pessimism.

It is not Prometheus that represents Johnson but Sisyphus. One must endure, and perhaps imagine oneself happy. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bokförlaget Atlantis, 2012. , 414 p.
Keyword [en]
Swedish literature, author-function, autobiography, truth and fiction, large and small themes, return of the warrior, Parsifal, melancholy, male pessimism
Keyword [sv]
Svensk litteratur, författarfunktion, självbiografi, sanning och fiction, stora och små teman, krigarens återkomst, Parsifal, melankoli, manlig pessimism
National Category
General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-61470ISBN: 978-91-7353-593-9OAI: diva2:567994
Public defence
2012-12-07, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-11-16 Created: 2012-11-15 Last updated: 2012-11-15Bibliographically approved

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Tormod, Mats
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