22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Johannes Anyuru

Portrait Johannes Anyuru
© Khim Efraimsson

Johannes Anyuru was born in Borås, Sweden, in 1979. His parents met in Kenya, where his mother worked as a volunteer in an aid project and where his father, a fighter pilot, had fled from his native Uganda.

Anyuru began writing poetry while still in high school. In 2003, he made his debut with the highly acclaimed poetry collection »Det är bara gudarna som är nya« (tr: Only the Gods Are New). The background and source of inspiration for the poetic texts in this collection is Homer’s »Iliad«. Critics have compared Anyuru’s style with that of contemporary Swedish poets of the older generation, such as Göran Sonnevi and Tomas Tranströmer, on the one hand, and with that of the lyrics of the hip-hop band The Latin Kings, on the other. The poems in Anyuru’s second volume of poetry, »Omega« (2005), unpack the death of a close friend who succumbs to cancer. Anyuru’s first novel »Skulle jag dö under andra himlar« (tr: If I Were to Die Under Other Skies) was published in 2010. In this story about love and friendship, a young, successful artist experiencing a creative crisis in Madrid meets a woman who is also an artist and radiates something he has always been looking for, without knowing exactly what it is. The plot of Anyuru’s second novel »En storm kom från paradise« (2012; Eng. »A Storm Blew in from Paradise«, 2019) is composed of fragments of his father’s biography: Raised in poor conditions in Uganda, he trains as a fighter pilot in Greece as a teenager. At the end of his training, after Idi Amin’s rise of power, he decides against returning home and accepts an offer from Zambia, where he is arrested immediately upon arrival and begins a journey of suffering that lasts for several years. The novel has won several literary awards and has been translated into seven languages. Anyuru eventually received the prestigious August Prize as well as the Per Olov Enquist Prize for »De kommer att drunkna i sina mödrars tårar« (2017; Eng. »They Will Drown in their Mothers’ Tears«, 2019). Anyuru began working on this novel after the terrorist attack on »Charlie Hebdo« in Paris in 2015. The dystopia is set in a Gothenburg of the future, where all Muslims must sign a special contract of loyalty to avoid risking deportation as enemies of the state.

Johannes Anyuru taught creative writing at the Clandestino Institute, run by the Bwana Club. Together with Sean McConnell, he founded the group Broken Word, with whom he performed numerous spoken word sessions. His first play, »Förvaret« (tr: The Detention Centre), co-written with Aleksander Motturi, premiered at Gothenburg City Theatre in 2009. In 2011, Anyuru participated as a crew member in the »Ship to Gaza« relief action. The author lives in Gothenburg.