Carpelan, Bo 1926- (Bo Gustaf Bertelsson Carpelan)

views updated

Carpelan, Bo 1926- (Bo Gustaf Bertelsson Carpelan)


Surname is pronounced "Car-pel-an"; born October 25, 1926, in Helsinki, Finland; son of Bertel Gustaf (an engineer) and Ebba Carpelan; married Barbro Eriksson (a reservations clerk for Finnair), April 13, 1954; children: Anders, Johanna. Education: University of Helsinki, Ph.D., 1960.


Home—Tapiola, Finland.


Writer and educator. City Library, Helsinki, Finland, assistant chief librarian, 1963-80, professor of arts, 1980—. Appeared in the film 1895—Elokuva Elokuvasta, also titled 1895—How the Movies Move.


PEN, Finnish-Swedish Authors Society.


Finnish State Prize and Nils Holgersson Prize, 1969, for Baagen: Beraettelsen om en sommar som var annorlunda; Nordic Councils Prize, 1977, for I de moerka rummen, i de ljusa; Pro Finlandia Medal, 1980; Finlandia Prize, 1993, for Urwind; Samfundet De Nios Prize and Aniara Prize, both 1995; Finlandia Prize, 2005, for Berg.



Som en dunkel vaerme, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1946.

Du moerka oeverlevande, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1948.

Variationer, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1950.

Minus sju, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1952.

Objekt foer ord, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1954.

Landskapets foervandlingar, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1957.

(Translator into Swedish with others) Eino S. Repo and Nils B. Stormbom, compilers, Ny finsk lyrik (anthology), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1960.

Den svala dagen, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1961.

Sjuttiotre dikter, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1966.

(Compiler) Findlandssvenska lyrikboken (anthology), Forum (Stockholm, Sweden), 1967.

Gaarden, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1969.

Kaellan, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1973.

I de moerka rummen, i de ljusa, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1976.

Dihter fraen trettio aer (selected poems), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1980.

Dagen vaender, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1983.

(Compiler) Modern finsk lyrik (anthology), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1984.

Marginalia, Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1984.

Room without Walls (selected poems), translated by Anne Born, Forest Books (Boston, MA), 1987.

Ar som loev, Schildt/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1989.

Homecoming, translated by David McDuff, Carcanet (Manchester, England), 1993.

J det seddan, Schildt/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1995.


Anders paa oen (juvenile), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1959.

(Contributor) Jag lever i republiken Finland (essays), Soederstroem (Helsinki, Finland), 1961.

Anders i stan (juvenile), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1962.

(With others) Aaret i norden (nonfiction), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1962.

Baagen: Beraettelsen om en sommar som var annorlunda (young adult), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968, translation by Sheila La Farge published as Bow Island: The Story of a Summer That Was Different, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1972, published in England as The Wide Wings of Summer, Heinemann (London, England), 1972.

Roesterna i den sena timmen (novel), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1971, translation published as Voices at a Late Hour (also see below), University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1988.

Paluu nuoruuteen (play), first produced in Helsinki at Kansallisteatteri, 1971.

Paradiset: Beraettelsen om Marvins och Johans vaenskap (young adult), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973, translation by Sheila La Farge published as Dolphins in the City, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1976.

Din gestalt bakom doerren: En beraettelse (novel), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1975.

Vandrande skugga: En smaestadsberaettelse (novel), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1977.

Jag minns att jag droemde (short stories), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1979.

Julius Blom (juvenile), Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1982.

Axel (novel; also see below), Holger Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 1986, Hydra Books (Evanston, IL), 1998.

Urwind (novel), Schildt/Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1993, Hydra Books (Evanston, IL), 1998.

I Det Sedda: Dikter, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1995.

Novembercredo: Dikter I Urval 1946-1996, Bonnier (Stockholm, Sweden), 1996.

Benjamins Bok, Schildts (Helsinki, Finland), 1997.

Ogonblickets Tusen Arstider: Dikter, Fragment, Marginalia, Schildts (Helsinki, Finland), 2001.

Berg (novel), Schildt (Helsinki, Finland), 2005.

(With Pentti Sammallahti) Staden Kaupunki, 2006.

(With Caj Westerberg) Nya dikter, 2007.

Also author of works for television, theater, and radio, including radio play, Voices at a Late Hour, produced by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC-Radio). A translation of Axel was published by Carcanet Press in 1989.


Bo Carpelan is a prolific Finnish writer who first became known for his poetry but went on to develop a reputation as a novelist, dramatist, and literary critic. In a career that has spanned decades, the author has won numerous prizes, including the Finlandia Prize in 1993 and 2005. His works include books for children and young readers. "That Carpelan is at heart a poet shines through all his work, giving it an almost magical quality," wrote Margareta Martin in World Literature Today. "He … sees things from an unusual angle, and his observations merit careful thought and a bit of effort on the part of the reader, who is then richly rewarded."

In his novel Axel, first published in 1986 and then in the United States in 1998, the author bases the tale on his own great uncle named Axel, who was mentioned in the biography of a Finnish composer. Carpelan sets his story within Axel's fictional diary, with Axel struggling for happiness and a career in music when he meets the composer Jean Sibelius, long his hero.

Carpelan won his first Finlandia prize for his novel Urwind, published in Europe in 1993 and in the United States in 1998. The story revolves around Daniel Urwind, whose wife is in the United States for her work as a chemist. Urwind, whose name also stands for a cosmic wind, finds seclusion in his bookshop as he writes letters to his wife, revealing his philosophical and sometimes surrealistic thoughts. "His prose often issues from the uncontrollable subconscious, dreamlike and nightmarish realms whose surrealistic details are visually potent," wrote a contributor to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Web site. Thomas DuBois wrote in World Literature Today: "Urwind, like others of Carpelan's novels and poems, shows the influence of modernist literature from Sweden as well as a familiarity with the themes and style of Finnish-language modernists."

Benjamins Bok features an aging translator looking back at his life and pondering what he has made of it. A fight with his friend Ollie many years ago weighs on his mind. After throwing Ollie down, Benjamins watches as Ollie gets up and dives into a nearby lake only to hit his head on a rock, resulting in brain damage. Much of the story is told through diaries, in which Benjamins quotes authors and writers as he grapples with philosophical questions about life. "You tend to look for the meaning of life in the statements of philosophers, writers, the Bible," noted Martin in World Literature Today. "Bo Carpelan's Benjamins is you. He helps you sort it all out."

Carpelan received his second Finlandia Prize for his novel Berg, a story about a man named Mattias who returns to an old mansion where he summered as a child. The once beautiful but now aged Sonja is dying, and Mattias is dealing with the guilt of possibly having caused his uncle's death and the insanity of his half-brother Jonas, who was found in bed with Sonja by her fiancé, Mattias's uncle. "As always, Carpelan captures the Finnish summer landscape in all its glory," noted Margareta Martin in World Literature Today. Martin went on to write in the same review: "The novel offers the reader something more with each reading."



Choice, July 1, 1999, J.R. Cox, review of Urwind, p. 1950.

English Journal, January, 1983, review of Bow Island: The Story of a Summer That Was Different, p. 26; January, 1983, review of Dolphins in the City, p. 26.

Music & Letters, February, 1990, Lionel Pike, review of Axel, p. 123.

New York Times Book Review, September 4, 1988, Joseph Olshan, review of Voices at a Late Hour, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of Voices at a Late Hour, p. 270.

Scandinavian Studies, spring, 1990, George C. Schoolfield, review of Room without Walls.

Times Literary Supplement, July 14, 1989, Tom Aitken, review of Axel, p. 783; July 14, 1989, Tom Aitken, review of Room without Walls, p. 783; December 20, 1996, review of Urwind, p. 23.

World Literature Today, spring, 1989, review of Voices at a Late Hour; spring, 1989, Eric Sellin, review of Voices at a Late Hour; summer, 1990, Steven P. Sondrup, review of Ar som loev; spring, 1993, Helena Darnell, "A Way to Measure Time: Contemporary Finnish Literature"; spring, 1994, Thomas DuBois, review of Urwind; fall, 1996, George C. Schoolfield, review of I Det Sedda: Dikter; spring, 1998, Margareta Martin, review of Benjamins Bok; April 1, 2003, George C. Schoolfield, review of Ogonblickets Tusen Arstider: Dikter, Fragment, Marginalia, p. 135; November 1, 2006, Margareta Martin, review of Berg, p. 64.


Books and Writers, (January 6, 2007), profile of author and list of works.

Books from Finland, (January 6, 2006), Marten Westo, "Photo Promedia," interview with author.

Complete Review, (January 6, 2008), "Bo Carpelan's Second Finlandia Prize."

Northwestern University Press, (January 6, 2008), summary of Axel.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (January 6, 2008), review of Urwind.

About this article

Carpelan, Bo 1926- (Bo Gustaf Bertelsson Carpelan)

Updated About content Print Article