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||Göran Tunström (1937-2000)|
Swedish novelist and poet, who depicted his native region, Sunne, in several novels. Among Göran Tunström's best-known works is Juloratoriet (1983, The Christmas Oratorio), a Nordic tour de force in magic realism. The book was translated into twenty languages and filmed in 1996. "All stories, at the same moment as they are told, are true. As stories," has Tunström said. He has often combined in his works memories, autobiographical material, and dreams, which give his writing a nostalgic tone.
"Ingenting binder en, livet är ett provisorium, en leda. Man är fången i nånting man aldrig valt." (from Prästungen, 1976)
Göran Tunström was born in Karlstad, but he grew up in Sunne, Värmland. His father was a Protestant minister; he died when Göran was 12. This loss is one of the central issues in Tunström's work, the dialogue between a father and a son which was never finished. From the vicarage the family moved to a small apartment. During these years Tunström started to write. His first "'novel" was a thriller, 32 pages long, which he wrote in his teens. Periodically Tunström lived in Billingsfors with his maternal grandfather Oskar Persson, whom he later described in Prästungen (1976).
In 1957 Tunström graduated from a high school in Uppsala. Inringnin, his first collection of poems, came out in 1958. Maskrosbollen
(1962), a story about a young man, his early love affairs, and his way
out of Sunne, marked Tunström's breakthrough as a novelist. In 1964 he
married the artist Lena Cronqvist, who illustrated among others their
travel book Indien - en vinterresa (1984). Tunström also dedicated his poetry collection Dikter till Lena (1978)
to his wife; their marriage and love was a basic theme in Tunström's
In the 1960s, when Tunström was still an aspiring
meet the singer and poet Leonard Cohen in Hydra, a Greek island, where
he had lived since the late 1950s and worked as a tourist guide; the
two remained friend through the decades. Hydra was populated by
writers, artists, and intellectuals from around the world. The
expat colony was run by George Johnston and Charmian Clift; both were
journalists. Cohen had an affair with the wife of the Norwegian writer
Axel Jensen; she was his muse and inspired the song 'So Long, Marianne.'
With Staffan Söderblom, Tunström translated a selection Cohen's poems under the title Dikter från ett rum, published by Norstedt in 1972. Cohen donated a lithograph, 'Good Greek Coffee,' to Sunne in 2010. The self-portrait was placed in the local public library.
Tunström's plainly autobiographical stories are presented with great narratological virtuosity. His early Sunne novels include De heliga geograferna (1973), Guddöttrarna (1975), and Prästungen. In the first two novels the central characters are the minister Hans-Christian Wermelin and his wife Paula, loosely based on Tunström's parents, and the third concerns their son Jacob, in search for his deceased father. "Alla historier, i och med att de berättas, är sanna. Som historier. Och för att du tvivlade, skall jag förelägga de in den verkligaste av alla verkligheter." (from De heliga geograferna) Tunström was first labelled as a regional novelist, expressing his nostalgia for a supposedly simpler and more authentic way of life. However, with the success of Juloratoriet and Tjuven (1986) critics realized that Sunne is Tunström's Macondo, an existential setting for his characters' loneliness, guilty conscience, dreams and hopes.
Tjuven blended fantasy, humor and mythology. It depicted an unconventional pair, Ida and Fredrik Jonsson Lök, and their 12 children. The story of the thirteenth child, Johan, followed the journey of an Swedish Orpheus into the Underworld to reclaim his Eurydice, called now Hedvig. Johan believes that he can rise from poverty and help Hedvig by stealing the Codex Argenteus, a national treasure. A strong Christian interest became apparent in Ökenbrevet (1978), Jesus' account of his life before he enters upon his public mission. "Öräkneliga är de krav människan ställer på människan." Like Nikos Kazantzakis in The Last Temptation of Christ (1955), Tunström focused on Jesus' inner struggles to understand his true self. Upon accepting who his real father is and understanding what has once taken place in one's life, it will always be part of it, Jesus finds the meaning of his life.
The idea for Juloratoriet (The Christmas Oratorio) was born
in Nepal. There the author met a Swedish foreign aid worker, who
rehearsed Thursdays with other Westerners Bach's Christmas oratorio.
Tunström's novel centers on the characters and the destinies of three
generations of Nordensson men, united by death and sorrow,
music and fantasy. Also Marc Chagall, Selma Lagerlöf, Sunne's most famous author, and the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, also born in Sunne, appear in the story.
Juloratorioet opens with an accident, that casts its shadow far in the future. Aron Nordensson, a farmer, loses his beloved wife, Solveig – she is due to sing Bach's Christmas music in a church but she falls with her bicycle and dies. Through his DX hobby Aron gets in contact with Tessa, who lives in New Zealand. They exchange letters and Aron travels to meet her on the other side of the earth. Before they see each other, Aron takes his life when he realizes that he is chasing after a dream. Tessa waits for Aron without knowing his fate and loses her memory. Years later Aron's son Sidner meets Tessa. She learns what happened to Aron and regains her own lost past. Sidner's son Victor becomes a musician and he returns to Sunne to direct Bach's famous Christmas oratorio. The story ends in the soothing words of a choral: "You shepherd folk, be not afeared, / because the angel tells you: / this weak babe / shall be our comfort and joy, / thereto subdue the devil / and bring peace at last."
The play Chang Eng (1987) was about the Siamese twins Chang
and Eng Bunker, who were exploited by the promoter P.T. Barnum, famous
for the quote, "There's a sucker born every minute." From the late
1980s Tunström suffered from a writer's block. He was in three car
accidents and had a lung cancer operated. Tunström's crisis ended with
the novel Skimmer
(Glittering), which was published in 1996. In the story of life and death Pétur and his father
live in the world of music. Pétur travels to Paris, where his aging and ill father sends letters.
In Berömda män som varit i Sunne
(1998) the author again returned to his native region. Tunström died in
Stockholm on February 5, 2000, at the age of 63. He was buried near the east gable of Sunne Church
Because his father had died of a heart attack at the age of 54, Tunström had been decades afraid that he would not pass that age. During his career, Tunström received several literary awards, including the Nordic Literature Prize (1984) for The Christmas Oratorio, Selma Lagerlöf Prize (1987), August Prize (1998), and Tegnér Prize (1999).