Mats Wahl

Mats Wahl, the great »realist of the young adult novel« (»Die Zeit«), was born in 1945 on the Swedish island of Gotland. After completing his studies in educational psychology, literature and social anthropology he worked as a teacher of underprivileged children for twenty years, as well as in adult education. Since making his literary début with, »Hallonörnen« (1980; t: Raspberry eagle), he has published more than forty books. His much translated œuvre spans a variety of genres – from historical works, crime novels, novels of childhood and adolescence to screenplays, stage plays and works of non-fiction. Today Mats Wahl counts among the most significant writers in Scandinvian literature for young adults. When asked about his role as an author, Wahl responded, »I don’t consider it my task to write hopeful stories, but rather good stories. And that is not the same thing«.

Wahl relates many-layered, great and small dramas of growing up. Inspired by his own experiences with young people at the margins of society, he sketches true to life characters who have to assert themselves in complex situations. His protagonists’ fallibility is what makes them human, turning his novels into unflinching investigations of the experience of teenagers. They uncover the flaws below the surface of things, exposing adults’ lies. With his relentless approach and psychological intuition, he succeeds in revealing the inner life and giving his readers hope along the way. As the jury of the German Youth Literature Prize commented on »Vinterviiken« (1993; t: Winter bay): »As wild as adolescence itself, breathless, direct and expressive.« The novel portrays the life of the first person narrator John-John. Growing up between petty crime and the petty bourgeoisie, he dreams of a better life. »Mats Wahl is no friend of prosaic vagueness«, commented »Die Zeit«. »When he writes about young people’s existential crises, of pubescent desire, friendship, love, longing, violence and hate, nothing seems made up.« In his much celebrated four part detective series featuring Commissioner Harald Fors, which began with »Den Osynlige« (2000; Eng. »The Invisible«, 2008), he captivates readers through great storytelling and casts a critical glance at present-day Swedish society. When Hilmer Eriksson disappears without a trace, Fors discovers a right-wing extremist group in his school. Wahl expertly sets up an atmospheric story about xenophobia and blind hate. Just as masterly, he tells the story, in his subsequent books, of young desperadoes and perpetrators who themselves are more often than not victims in his subsequent books. In »Ǻterkomst« (2005; t: Revenge), he turns his attention to the question of whether a gruesome act can be vindicated by making its perpetrators suffer.

Mats Wahl has received international awards, including the Nils Holgersson Medal (1989), the August Prize (1993), the Janusz Korczak Award (1994) and the German Youth Literature Prize (1996). The writer lives in Stockholm.

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