Isaksson, Folke 1927–

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Isaksson, Folke 1927–


Born October 9, 1927, in Kalix, Sweden; son of Otto (a missionary and Lutheran preacher) and Hildur (a hospital nurse) Isaksson; married Marianne Åhlén (an editor), December 16, 1964; children: Pär, Daniel. Education: Attended University of Uppsala. Politics: "Green Party." Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Foreign politics, utopias (built and dreamed), collecting Gulliver's Travels, photography, birds, flowers.


Home—Vaxholm, Sweden.


Expressen, Stockholm, Sweden, literary critic, 1948-52; Morgon-Tidningen, Stockholm, literary critic, 1952-58; Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, literary critic, 1958-72. Channel 2 (Swedish television), advisor to cultural section, 1977.


Swedish PEN (vice president, 1987-89).


Bellman Prize for Poetry, Swedish Academy, 1983; honorary doctorate, Luleå University, 1998.


Vinterresa (title means "Winter Journey"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1951.

Irrfärder, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1953.

Det gröna året (title means "The Green Year"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1954.

Blått och svart (title means "Blue and Black"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1957.

Teckenspråk (title means "Sign Language"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1959.

(With Lars Bergström) Älven, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1961.

Dikter från ett årtionde (title means "Poems from a Decade"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1962.

Terra magica, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1963.

(With Lütfi Özkök) Warszawa, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1964.

Dubbelliv (title means "Double Life"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968.

(With Stig T. Karlsson) Har Indien en chans?, Rabén & Sjögren (Stockholm, Sweden), 1969.

(With Jean Hermanson) Dom svarta. En bok om gjuteriarbetare i Sverige, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1970.

72 dagar i Paris. Pariskommunen 1871, PAN/Norstedts (Stockholm, Sweden), 1971.

(With Leif Furhammar) Politics and Film, translated by Kersti French, Praeger (New York, NY), 1971.

(With Jean Hermanson) Nere på verkstadsgolvet. En bok om metallarbetare, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1971.

(Editor) C.J.L. Almqvist, Det går en åska genom tidevarvet, PAN/Norstedts (Stockholm, Sweden), 1972.

(Editor) C.J.L. Almqvist, Armodets Son, FIB's Lyrikklubb (Stockholm, Sweden), 1972.

(With Glynne Kihlberg) Man är inte gammal förrän man är död, Gidlunds (Stockholm, Sweden), 1973.

(With Jean Hermanson) Människor i Nordvietnam, Gidlunds (Stockholm, Sweden), 1975.

(With Stig T. Karlsson) Hemma i Kina, LT (Stockholm, Sweden), 1980.

Tecken och under (title means "Signs and Wonders"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1981.

Gnistor under himlavalvet: Tjugofem kapitel om poesi (title means "Sparks beneath the Vault of Heaven"), FIB's Lyrikklubb (Stockholm, Sweden), 1982.

Från mörker till ljus, Skrivarförlaget/Norrbottens Bildningsförbund (Luleå, Sweden), 1985.

Skiftningar i en väv, Prosadikter I (title means "Changes on a Web"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1985.

Vingslag (title means "Wingbeats"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1986.

Ombord på Skymningexpressen: Prosadikter II (title means "Aboard the Dusk Express"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1988.

Vindens hand: Dikter från åren 1951-86, FIB's Lyrikklubb (Stockholm, Sweden), 1988.

De fjärran ländernas närhet: Resor och uppehåll 1949-89 (title means "The Proximity of the Faraway Lands: Travels and Sojourns 1949-89"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1990.

(With Olov Isaksson) Gammelstad: Kyrkby vid Lule älv, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1992.

Hos mormor (title means "At Grandmother's House"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1993.

(With Kjell Fredriksson) Timglasets barn (title means "Children of the Hour-glass"), Carlsson (Stockholm, Sweden), 1993.

Daggdroppen och världen, En bok om Satyajit Ray, Film Konst (Göteborg, Sweden), 1997.

Eldflugorna (title means "The Fireflies"), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1998.

Stenmästaren, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 2003.

Osäkra glimtar av ett oförklarligt Ijus, Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 2005.

Author and narrator of thirteen Swedish television documentaries on great poets, 1986-2000.


Swedish poet, editor, and translator Folke Isaksson has produced a considerable body of work since he first began publishing in the early 1950s. Isaksson grew up in a tiny area near Sweden's northern coastline and the Arctic Circle, where snow and winter were influential elements in his life, and he often writes about them in his poetry. His debut effort was a work titled Vinterresa, or "Winter's Journey." And in a poem titled "Patria mia," Isaksson later wrote, "In my land the snow is always falling." Other works throughout Isaksson's career continue the theme of carving out an existence in a wintry world, although he did not necessarily see the ice and snow as negatives. On the contrary, Isaksson often portrayed them as invigorating, such as in the poem "The Love Letter," from the collection Terra magica, which was inspired by the more bucolic nature of the island of Gotland: "He stands transfigured, a discoverer,/ and whispers to himself:/You are a seed./ A snow seed. Ready to fly!/ You will strike root/ in a cleft of the sun."

Isaksson's other volumes of poetry include Det gröna året, Blått och svart, Teckenspråk, and Tecken och under, which marked Isaksson's return to poetry after an absence of almost two decades. However, Isaksson has published more than poetry. He is also a noted prose writer, journalist, and translator. In Dubbelliv, a semi- biographical volume containing memoirs, diary excerpts, essays, poems and journalistic pieces, Isaksson again takes up the theme of living in a land isolated by its geographic location and harsh climatic conditions. "Dream about exile. The snow falls outside the window, continually, also here in Europe [as distinct from Scandinavia]," he wrote. "So I am at home even in my exile."

In 1964, Isaksson wrote a portrait about the Polish city of Warsaw, and four years later, with Leif Furhammar, published an examination of film propaganda titled Politics and Film. In addition, Isaksson has translated into Swedish the work of Hungarian poets and authors such as William Blake and Wallace Stevens. De fjärran ländernas närhet: Resor och uppehåll 1949-89 is a collection of Isaksson's travel writings. For the book's title, Isaksson borrowed a line from the poem "Euforia," by fellow countryman and poet Gunnar Ekelöf. In the book's introduction, the author explains that he spent hours and days in his isolation dreaming of tropical lands. Isaksson's inspirations were stamps and old postcards, the voices and sounds of the short-wave radio and small keepsakes from his pious father's only journey abroad. (Isaksson's father was bound for Eritrea as a missionary, but was stopped in Naples and sent back without an entry permit by Fascist authorities.) Those postcards piqued Isaksson's interest in the idea of traveling the world. Over the course of forty years, he fulfilled that interest by traveling to such cultural centers as Berlin, Dublin, Vienna, Madrid, Prague, Leningrad, Shanghai, Calcutta, Venice, Mexico City, and New York. The book recounts his experiences during those travels, including his time in Kathmandu and being in San Francisco during the city's 1989 earthquake. In the work's final section, Isaksson describes the trips he took to a number of islands, including the Aran Islands, the Faroes, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and the little-known Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean.

After reviewing the volume, literary critic Margareta Mattsson of World Literature Today referred to Isaksson as "a literate and literary traveler" who "seems to be at ease in all ports of call." Isaksson has also written some volumes of prose poetry, the first being Skiftningar i en väv. A second collection of his prose poems is Ombord på Skymningsexpressen: Prosadikter II, in which the poems describe riding on a train as it travels across the landscape at dusk. Skymning is the Swedish word for "dusk." "I sit aboard the twilight express with/ departure's tart taste on my tongue," Isaksson writes in the volume's final poem. "I don't know where I'm heading or if it's possible any more to get off." The work impressed literary critics, including Brita Stendahl of World Literature Today, who compared reading it to "traveling in a luxurious train toward evening."Stendahl continued: "The impressions are jewels of clarity and form. They are by no means hastily produced but carefully chosen, polished and framed to delight the traveler."

Isaksson told CA: "To be an author is to be on an ever-present journey, a voyage of discovery. I write in order to enhance my awareness and deepen my understanding, and to defend something that is threatened and most precious: our humanist culture.

"Initially my work was mainly influenced by film. Later on, it was the experience of reading poets like William Blake, Friedrich Hölderlin, Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Federico García Lorca. I would also add the masters in our own language, and the singer—and the soothsayer from the Karelia isthmus in Finland—Edith Södergran.

"A year ago, I began working on a collection of some 150 portraits, varying in length. These are authors, politicians, and others whom I have met or been particularly touched by. They include T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.H. Auden, and Paul Celan.

"You will not write better when you get older. You will write more slowly. The ink dries, the text pales. But there is the possibility of rendering the text more dense, more compact."



Isaksson, Folke, Dubbelliv (memoir), Bonniers (Stockholm, Sweden), 1968.


World Literature Today, autumn, 1989, Brita Stendahl, review of Ombord på Skymningexpressen: Prosadikter II, p. 699; winter, 1992, Margareta Mattsson, review of De fjärran ländernas närhet: Resor och uppehåll 1949-89, p. 150.