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the Complete Review

A Literary Saloon and Site of Review

Lars Gustafsson
at the
complete review:

biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Nationality: Swedish
Born: 17 May 1936
Died: 3 April 2016

  • Recipient of numerous awards and prizes
  • Adjunct professor at the University of Texas, Austin since 1983

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • Poeten Brumbergs sista dagar och död - novel, 1959
  • Bröderna - novel, 1960
  • Följeslagarna - novel, 1962
  • Förberedelser till flykt och andra beröttelser - stories, 1963
  • Den egentliga berättelsen om herr Arenander - novel, 1966
  • Herr Gustafsson själv - novel, 1971
  • Yllet - novel, 1973
  • Sommar berättelser - novellas, 1973
  • Familjefesten - novel, 1975
  • Sigismund - novel, 1976 (Sigismund, trans. John Weinstock (1985))
  • The Tennis Players - novel, 1977 (Tennisspelarna, trans. Yvonne I. Sandström (1984))
  • Den lilla världen - novel, 1977
  • The Death of a Beekeeper - novel, 1978 (En biodlares död, trans. Janet K. Swaffar and Guntram H. Weber (1981))
  • Stories of Happy People - stories, 1981 (Berättelser om lyckliga människor, trans. Yvonne L. Sandström and John Weinstock (1986))
  • The Stillness of the World before Bach - poetry, 1982 (Världens tystnad f&oum;re Bach, trans. Robin Fulton, Philip Martin, Yvonne L. Sandstroem, Harriet Watts, and Christopher Middleton in collaboration with Lars Gustafsson (1988))
  • Funeral Music for Freemasons - fiction, 1983 (Sorgemusik för frimurare, trans. Yvonne L. Sandström (1987))
  • Bernard Foy's Third Castling - novel, 1986 (Bernard Foys tredje rockad, trans. Yvonne L. Sandström (1988))
  • Samlade berättelser - stories, 1987
  • Det sällsamma djuret från norr - stories, 1989
  • The Tiler's Afternoon - novel, 1991 (En kakelsättares eftermiddag, trans. Tom Geddes (1993))
  • The Tale of a Dog - novel, 1993 (Historien med hunden, trans. Tom Geddes (1999))
  • Tjänarinnan - novel, 1996
  • Windy berättar - novel, 1999
  • Elegies - poetry, 2000 (trans. Christopher Middleton, Yvonne Sandström, Bill Brookshire, and Philip Martin)
  • Blom och den andra magentan - novel, 2001
  • Dekanen - novel, 2003
  • Doktor Wassers recept - novel, 2015

Please note that this bibliography is not complete:
- see also his bibliography -
Dates given are of first publication.

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What others have to
say about
Lars Gustafsson:

  • "He is driven to express himself, and he does it well." - Raymond E. Lindgren, World Literature Today (Spring/1995)

  • "In his latest collection Gustafsson once again confirms his position in Swedish literature as an accomplished classicist who succeeds in establishing total correspondence between form and content. It is this accomplishment which enables him to reach that state of authenticity and identity which was unattainable to Silfverstolpe: now time has found its poet and conqueror, and the poet himself has conquered time." - Sven H. Rossel, World Literature Today (Spring/1997)

  • "He is an omnipresent, multicultural individual, which is not an unintelligent thing to be for a modem philosopher serious about the duties of the profession. A central theme in his voluminous oeuvre (...) concerns human knowledge: how far does it reach and where lie its limits ?" - Brita Stendahl, World Literature Today (Winter/2001)

  • "(E)iner jener Autoren, deren Intelligenz nicht nur in Texten wirksam wird, sondern ein ebenso anregender wie angenehmer Gesprächspartner, dessen an Camus geschulte Philosophie nie krude und abgehoben wirkt. In der Tat ist dieser Schriftsteller die Ausnahmeerscheinung eines fabulierfreudigen, fantasiebegabten Intellektuellen, bei dem sich Reflexion und Erzählfinesse nie in die Quere kommen." - Die Welt (28/9/2002)

  • "Lars Gustafsson, Jahrgang 1936 und seit zwei Jahrzehnten an der Universität von Austin, Texas, tätig, ist ein poeta doctus, dessen Werke selbstbewußt und selbstverständlich mit großen Geistern wie Descartes, Schopenhauer oder Frege Zwiesprache halten. Viel eindringlicher aber als solche philosophisch grundierte Gedankenlyrik sind seine Dinggedichte" - Tobias Döring, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (7/10/2003)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • accomplished writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction
  • nice mix of playful and serious
  • clever presentation
  • philosophical concerns -- but never too heavy
  • wide variety of works

  • limited availability in English
  • occasionally too playful and confusing

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the complete review's Opinion

     Despite living and working in the United States for a long time, Lars Gustafsson remains relatively unknown to English-speaking readers. New Directions has, admirably, presented a few thin volumes of his work in the US, but much remains untranslated. It's a shame, because he is one of these authors who really offer a body of work (that's constantly growing) where each often small piece adds to an ever more impressive whole.
     Gustafsson is the rare writer who seems equally adept at writing fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He has a philosophy background, and often deals with complex concepts, but effectively and -- more importantly -- unobtrusively integrates theory and ideas into his work. His novels often are set around academia (the University of Texas, Austin, in particular), but in a far more incidental way than one usually finds: his is not the David Lodge approach. Significant characters tend to be intellectuals (or academics), but he's more interested in the person than the knowledge, and thus shows as deft a touch in using the common man in his work.
     His books are filled with linguistic, moral, and other philosophical concerns, but these never crowd out actual story. Amazingly, he's able to tie invention and philosophy together in a way that often enhances the stories (and poems). He does have a tendency to paint scenes -- episodes, anecdotes -- and present his stories piecemeal rather than as sweeping narratives, but he's very good at it, so that's something one comes to expect and puts up with.
     Gustafsson's books are always interesting, and often very accomplished. There are enough stand-out volumes to make him one of the significant European authors of the late 20-th century. Eventually, one hopes, that will be clear even in the English-speaking world.

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Lars Gustafsson: Lars Gustafsson's books at the complete review: See also:

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