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“Rilke und kein Ende”: Zur Rilke-Rezeption in Schweden von 1904 bis in die 1960er Jahre

Birgitta Fryksen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The subject of this dissertation concerns the visit of the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Sweden in 1904, and its subsequent impact on modern Swedish literature. Rilke came to Sweden at the invitation of the feminist writer Ellen Key and stayed for almost half a year, lecturing and meeting with many of the country's leading cultural figures. While scholars have often discussed the ways in which Rilke's brief Swedish sojourn affected his own work, this dissertation seeks to examine the extent of Rilke's influence on succeeding generations of Swedish writers and poets, from the turn of century through the late sixties. Ellen Key's widely read essay published in 1904, marked the beginning of the Swedish interest in Rilke. However, it was not until two decades after this event that anything of consequence was written about him, when in the mid-twenties, Rilke's works were briefly mentioned in a book on modern German literary history. The 1930s saw the emergence of a renewed interest in Rilke, with Johannes Edfelt beginning the first major translation of the latter's poems into Swedish. While subsequent interpretations of Rilke's poems were made by other literary figures such as Bertil Malmberg and Karin Boye, Edfelt's work stands out as clearly the most significant. Swedish interest in Rilke continued unabated throughout the 1940s, before reaching its apogee in the fifties—a period that ushered in still more translations of the author's works, by Arnold Ljungdal and Mirjam Touminen. Perhaps, the most noteworthy examples of Rilke-inspired literature from this decade were the poems and newspaper articles of Folke Isaksson, a neo-romantic writer, whose early works demonstrate a deep attachment to Rilke. However, this admiration later turned to open criticism during the politically turbulent sixties—resulting eventually in a complete break with ‘the master’. While the 1980s and 90s saw yet another periodic revival of Swedish interest in Rilke, the majority of significant literary texts concerning the latter were published between 1904–1968—a period which, as previously indicated, serves as the principle focus of this dissertation.

Subject Area

Germanic literature

Recommended Citation

Fryksen, Birgitta, "“Rilke und kein Ende”: Zur Rilke-Rezeption in Schweden von 1904 bis in die 1960er Jahre" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988782.