Bertil Malmberg was born in Härnösand, Sweden, in 1889. He was a precocious talent, publishing five books of poetry, and a volume of translations of Schiller by the time he was thirty. From the start it was clear that he was a metrical virtuoso, though the world-weary aestheticism that characterized his early collections was not always to the critics’ liking. From 1917 to 1928 Malmberg lived in Germany, where he was first fascinated, then repulsed by, the rise of fascism. He was later to publish one of the first accounts in Swedish of a concentration camp, following a visit to Dachau in 1936.
His poetry, meanwhile, had deepened, growing more nuanced and self critical, and Vinden (The Wind) from 1929 contained what many consider his strongest single poem, “Dårarna” (‘The Mad’). The collection Dikter vid gränsen (Poems from the Border 1935), with its nightmarish visions of a western world in collapse, was one of the most important, and most debated, volumes of poetry published in Sweden in the 1930s and it established Malmberg as one of the major writers of his generation.
In addition to his poetry, Malmberg was active as a critic, translator and dramatist, and his novel Ǻkes och hans värld (Ǻke and His World), a fictionalized account of his childhood, is a classic. In his last several collections Malmberg made major stylistic shifts, writing primarily in free verse and in a more concentrated, modernist style. He was inducted into the Swedish Academy in 1953 and died in 1958. Though he was always included in major anthologies of Swedish literature, Malmberg’s reputation went into eclipse from the 1960s on, in spite of advocates such as the poet and novelist Lars Gustafsson. This situation has begun to change somewhat in recent years. In 2000 the Bertil Malmberg Society (www.bertilmalmberg.org) was founded, and a collection of his newspaper articles, Diktaren i sitt sekel (The Poet in his Century) was published in 2006.
– from Bill Coyle’s introduction in MPT 3/9 Palestine
– photo from Wikipedia