Lars Gustafsson was born in Västerås, central Sweden, in 1936. He completed his philosophy studies at the University of Uppsala and Magdalen College, Oxford, with a dissertation in 1978 on »three extremists in the philosophy of language« (incl. Friedrich Nietzsche). From 1960 Gustafsson worked as editor, and from 1965 to 1972 as chief editor, of the Swedish literary journal »Bonniers Litterära Magasin«. After this he travelled extensively and was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin and at ZIF, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research Bielefeld. The offer of a DAAD scholarship brought him to Berlin in 1972/3. Gustafsson had already made a name for himself internationally as a writer and academic when he decided to change his life dramatically in 1982 by emigrating to the USA. He converted to Judaism and taught creative writing and philosophy as a professor in Austin, Texas. He returned to Sweden in 2006.
Gustafsson published his first novel, »Vägvila: ett mysteriespel på prosa«, (Engl: »Rest on the Way – A Mystery Play in Prose«), at the age of only 21. He became known in Germany through his volume of poems »Die Maschinen« (Engl. »The Machines«). His work is characterised by the strong interrelationship between the subjects that interest Gustafsson the philosopher and linguist, as well as the story-teller and poet. The search for identity, moral consciousness, the relationship between personal experience and self-awareness, juxtaposed with a philosophically founded skepticism towards language, are the main themes in his novels, poems and essays. Since the release of his novels that would later form the series »Sprickorna i muren« (Engl: »The Cracks in the Wall«), Gustafsson is regarded internationally as one of Scandinavia’s best-known authors. Here the author uses crime motifs to present the fragility of a world view which relies on expressions such as »good« and »evil« and concepts of personal integrity. Lars Gustafsson is a master of the most varied literary forms. In 2006, his epic poem »Den amerikanska flickans söndagar« (Engl. »Sundays of the American Girl«) was released, and in 2011 the essay »Mot noll. Matematiska fantasier« (tr. Against Zero. A Mathematical Fantasy) about the complex relationship between human existence and logic. In collaboration with his wife, Agneta Blomqvist, he wrote the »Das Lächeln der Mittsommernacht« (Engl. »The Smile of the Midnight Sun«, 2013), a travel book about Sweden and at the same time a declaration of love to their homeland.
His extensive work has won many awards, including the Prix Européen de l’essai Charles Veillon (1983), the Swedish Academy’s Bellman Prize (1990) and the Swedish Pilot Prize (1996) as well as the Goethe Medal (2009). Since 2000, he has been a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Today he lives nearby Stockholm.