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Lars Gustafsson

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To purchase Elegies

Title: Elegies
Author: Lars Gustafsson
Genre: Poetry
Written: (2000)
Length: 74 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Elegies - US
Elegies - UK
Elegies - Canada
  • and other Poems
  • Five poems in this collection can also be found in The Stillness of the World before Bach (see our review)
  • The poems in this collection come from eight different volumes published in Swedish by Gustafsson between 1968 and 1996
  • Edited and with a Postscript by Christopher Middleton
  • Translated by Christopher Middleton, Yvonne L. Sandstroem, Bill Brookshire, and Philip Martin
  • "All these translations are the result of work alongside Lars Gustafsson himself"
  • Some of Christopher Middleton's translations "were worked up from Verena Reichel's German translation first, then brought into line through consultation with the poet"
  • Christopher Middleton acknowledges: "I do not know Swedish"

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good small survey of Gustafsson's varied poetry

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Elegies is a companion volume to the earlier sampler of Gustafsson's poetry, The Stillness of the World before Bach (see our review);in fact there is an overlap of five poems -- "in order to link this selection with its predecessor", editor Middleton writes. The poems in Elegies are taken from eight different volumes of Gustafsson's Swedish poetry-collections, five of which were also mined for the The Stillness of the World before Bach. However, Elegies also presents selections from three newer collections, first published in the 1990s.
       Most of the poems are fairly short, and they include the elegies of the title as well as a variety of other forms. There are small, simple scenes, focussed on a single occurrence or idea (Aunt Svea or Seven Very Small Events) as well as longer ruminations (such as the excellent The East to the Back of Me).
       Gustafsson's familiar obsessions and foci can be found here again. The passing of time is often noted, and questions or observations about memory often appear in the poems. In Meetings Gustafsson crosses his own tracks, seeing himself and his thoughts "now from another angle". In Elegy for the Old Mexican Woman and her Dead Child he sees both his future and his past self when looking in the mirror, wondering:

How can we dwell, so many men,
in the same body ?
       Even in these introspective poems Gustafsson also looks outward. It is not solely the self that is of concern: the questions he ponders, he realizes, are universal.
       Finding one's place in a universe that is unfathomable, complex, even unlabelled (to quote Gerald Edelman, as Gustafsson does) is always an issue. Gustafsson sees it as: "The world, a labyrinth of lost objects", and often it is merely a small scene or notion or idea that gives him a hold. (Rarely, interestingly, is it love.)
       Gustafsson realizes that he -- and we -- are often torn:
       What does our time want ?
What do our winds want ?
What do our lives want ?
To go. And we want to stay.
Instants are so unlike each other.
       A variety of historical, philosophical, even geographical notions are utilized in the poems. As usual, clever Gustafsson mixes interesting ideas and facts with his flights of fancy, generally very well.
       Elegies is a small collection, bits and pieces gathered together from thirty years worth of work. There is not quite enough sense of continuity, even when this volume is read in conjunction with the somewhat ampler collection, The Stillness of the World before Bach. But Gustafsson is almost always worth reading, and there are some very fine pieces here.

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Elegies: Reviews: Lars Gustafsson: Other books by Lars Gustafsson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Lars Gustafsson lived 1936 to 2016.

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