A sceptic´s way

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In 1961 Gierow was elected to the Swedish Academy, and served as its Permanent Secretary from 1964 to 1974. Gierow has always taken great interest in international literary understanding. He has furthered an international dimension in Swedish letters not only with his numerous articles and reviews, but also with his fine translations. These include Hebbel’s Der Diarmant, Ibsen’s Brand and Peer Gynt, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King John and Barnes’s The Antiphon, the latter in collaboration with Dag Hammarskjöld.
Gierow’s poetry of the 1960s and 1970s has drawn mixed reviews. Ironically, as Gierow perfected his poetic style, it became less and less fashionable. On the surface there is not a great deal of difference between Gierow’s early and late poetry. The themes are essentially the same, and form and language become no less traditional in time. The differences lie in a greater simplicity of expression and a move from a rather egocentric lyric perspective to a more universal point of view.

Om livet är dig kärt (If You Value Your Life), which appeared in 1963, contains some of Gierow’s most mature verse. Its best poems are marked by a laconic style and subtle use of sound and rhythm. The expression seems more personal than in the preceding volumes, yet more sublimated. A sense of quiet desperation in the face of life as well as death runs through the collection. The familiar figure of the wanderer makes his way toward a final oblivion in ”Ut mot udden” (Toward the Headland), one of Gierow’s finest poems. Sound and imagery are so compressed in this text that a translation gives only an approximation of it.

Sand erases
all the tracks
toward the headland, where I pass.
Wind effaces all.
The seagull calls
in my tracks,
the ocean crashes.
Singly o’er the ocean crashes
billow after billow.

The seagull calls
without reply,
no one left?
No one left to follow.


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