Göran Sonnevi was born in Lund, Sweden in 1939 and grew up in Halmstad. His preoccupation with literature displaced his earlier interests in chemistry, mathematics and music. He studied literary history, philosophy, art history and history of religion at the University of Lund. At this time he was awarded second place in a poetry competition run by the Bonnier literary magazine. At the age of twenty he began to translate poetry, including Ezra Pound’s »Cantos« and various works by Celan, Mandelstam and Enzensberger. After training to be a librarian, Sonnevi was awarded a grant by the Swedish Authors’ Association and began to work as a free-lance author.
In 1965 he achieved recognition with his third collection of poetry »ingrepp-modeller« (t: intervention-models), in particular with the poem »Om kriget i Vietnam« (t: On the War in Vietnam), which established him as »poet of the new left«. Politics is a constant theme in Sonnevi’s work, which encompasses topics as diverse as nature, personal experience, reflections on metaphysical questions and language, science and mathematics. With approximately 20 works which have been translated into as many languages, Sonnevi is considered one of the most important Scandinavian poets.
»Das brennende Haus« (2009; t: The Burning House) is an anthology recently published in German containing poems from the volumes »Trädet« (1991; t: The Tree), »Mozarts tredje hjärna« (1996; t: Mozart’s Third Brain), »Klangernas bok« (1998; t: The Book of Sounds) and »Oceanen« (2005; t: The Ocean). The song-like flow of language steers clear of common poetic metres and instead incorporates caesuras and a combination of halting and flowing syllables and phrases. A contemporary linguistic medley emerges, engaging with the state of the world and the individual’s place in it. The words never take on the format of a panorama: the insufficiency of language and the complexity of all possible associations is itself a recurring motif whose inevitable failure is con tinu ously offset by the hope for love. This can be seen in the motto from »The Ocean«: »Every word / only exists / in love.«
Amongst the many awards received by the poet are the Carl Emil Englund Prize, a Gustaf Fröding Grant, a lifelong bursary by the Swedish government, the literature prize awarded by the Swedish »Dagbladet«, the Gerard Bonnier Prize, the Nordic Prize of the Swedish Academy and the Nordic Council’s literature prize. The Nordic Council’s jury justified their choice as follows: »Sonnevi writes poetry from an intense necessity, in constant dialogue with social and political events as well as dealing with personal issues like guilt and responsibility.« The author currently lives in Järfälla, near Stockholm.
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