Novelist, poet, and essayist Lars Gustafsson was born in Västerås, Sweden, on May 17, 1936. He recalls in his notebooks that he felt isolated in his early school years, since he was already thinking about the serious issues in human life and society. He wanted to be a poet from the age of fourteen. Leaving Västerås in 1955, he studied philosophy, aesthetics, sociology, and literature at the University of Uppsala, and in 1957, he received a scholarship to study at Magdalene College of Oxford University. This was also the year in which his first published prose work appeared. This was Vägvila: Ett mysteriespel på prosa: Till det förflutna och minnet av vindar (Rest at the Roadside: A Mystery Play in Prose: To the Past and the Memory of Winds). His first novel, Poeten Brumbergs sista dagar och död: En romantisk berättelse (The Poet Brumberg’s Final Days and Death: A Romantic Story) followed in 1959. His first poetry collection was published in 1962.
After Gustafsson received his Filosofie Licentiat degree from the University of Uppsala in 1960, he became editor, and from 1965 to 1972 editor-in-chief, of the Swedish literary journal, Bonniers Litterära Magasin. In 1962, he married Madeleine Lagerberg, with whom he had two children. During the 1960s he published four collections of poetry, three novels, and five collections of essays. Selections from three of the poetry volumes appeared in translation in The Stillness of the World before Bach: New Selected Poems (1988). The critical essays established Gustafsson’s reputation in Europe as an intellectual who grappled with political and philosophical issues.
During the 1970s, Gustafsson traveled extensively throughout the world, and he also wrote five novels, which further enhanced his reputation in Sweden. One of these, Tennisspelarna: En berättelse (1977) became the first of his novels to be translated into English, as The Tennis Players (1983). In 1978, he received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Uppsala.
In 1981, Gustafsson converted to Judaism, having rejected during the 1970s the Lutheranism in which he was raised. In the same year he published the collection of short stories, Berättelser om lyckliga...
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