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Dan Andersson (1888-1920) - byname of Daniel Andersson


Swedish musician and writer of working class background, who became one of the most popular Swedish poets. Andersson gained fame posthumously; during his lifetime he suffered from financial difficulties, and critics who lacked an understanding of his work.

God natt - god sömn jag önskar er,
ni alla vandringsmän.
Vi sluta sjunga och skiljas - vad mer
om aldrig vi träffas igen.
Jag har sagt något litet och fattig av det
som brunnit hos mig och så snart brinner ner,
men kärlek, där fanns, ej förgäbgselse vet -
god natt - god sömn åt er.
(from ''Epilog')

Dan Andersson was born in Skattlösberg, Grangärde. His father, Adolf Andersson, was a deeply religious, self-taught teacher in a small school, who earned additional income for the family by binding books. Dan's home was poor, and the family had to find extra income from odd jobs. His elder brother, Anders, used to read the Bible the whole day; sometimes at night he shouted like one possessed. Nobody slept then.

In his youth Andersson led a wandering life. He worked as woodsman, temperance lecturer, factory worker, and travelling salesman. At the age of 14, Andersson was sent for some time to the United States to explore possibilities for immigration. He worked there at his aunt and uncle's farm, but after eight months of toiling, he returned to Skattlösberg with nothing but blistered heels and no money. In 1905 Adolf Andersson rented a crofter's cottage called Mårtenstorp and tried his luck as a charcoal burner. The family had a horse, a couple of cows, a calf, chickens, and a borrowed cat. After three years, he gave up Mårtenstårp and moved with his family to Skattlösberg, where he earned his living as a shoemaker.  

Between the years 1905 and 1908, Andersson earned his living as a charcoal burner, and later depicted his experiences in several poems. He also sold knives in Eskilstuna, worked at a paper factory, and acted as a replacement teacher. In 1910 Andersson served in the army but was discharged because of tuberculosis. He then spent a vagrant life, working occasionally as an itinerant lecturer for a society of popular education. His early published poems Andersson wrote in his spare time at home or in empty crofters’ cottages. He read such thinkers as Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Among his friends was Martin Koch, who later published large working-class novels.

From 1913 Andersson devoted himself entirely to writing. This was a disappointment to his father, who had hoped that his son would pursue a clerical career. Andersson's first book Kolarhistorier (1914) was followed by Kolvaktarens visor (1915). After completing a course in 1914-15 at Brunnsvik, a folk high school, Andersson published a collection of short stories, Det kallas vidskepelse (1916). During the year in Brunnsvik Andersson read widely, devouring Oscar Wilde's De profundis, Rabindranath Tagore's works, Bhagavadgita, and Rabelais. Reading Dostoevsky's  Crime and Punishment and  The Brothers Karamazov felt like a revelation to him. Based on these influences and religious feelings of sin and guilt, Anderson developed a personal Nietzschean philosophy, which gradually developed from biological materialism into a more religious world view. He also found his first influential supporters, Niklas Bergius, a teacher at Brunnsvik, and Richard Sandler, who later became a foreign minister.

In Brunssvik Andersson lived in great poverty, trying to earn a living by writing. In 1915 his father moved with his family from Skattlösberg to Gräsberg, where he built a house. In its cold attic room Andersson composed several of his stories, including the collection Det kallas vidskepelse, and Svarta ballader (1917), a collection of poems. De tre hemlösa (1918) was an autobiographical work, which continued in David Ramms arv (1919). They received mostly good reviews, but as a writer Andersson remained unknown to the wider public.

In De tre hemlösa and David Ramms arv Andersson returned to his childhood and youth, and outlined his world view in which suffering, hatred, and crime are only grotesque reflections of the higher spirit. The protagonist is David Ramm, the son of a poor tailor. He grows up with his brothers in a remote village plagued by religious fanaticism. David goes to sea, experiences his degradation in London, and is saved by a self-sacrificing prostitute.

In 1917 Andersson hired to work as a journalist for the Ny Tid newspaper, which appeared in Göteborg. After resigning in 1918 he returned to Gräsberg. In 1918 he married Olga (Turesson) Andersson, and settled in the small village of Gonäs, where his wife worked as teacher. However, his restless travelling continued - he visited his friends in Stockholm, Sigtuna, Brunnsvik, Gräsberg, Skattlösberg and other places. "... min kärlek is gammal och börjar bli grå, / och hittar ej vildhonung mera i natten." (from 'Visa' - my love is old and becoming grey / and finds no wild honey at night, anymore.) Andersson's financial situation did not improve although he received grants and contributed to several magazines.

Andersson died of cyanide poison, in a hotel, during a visit in Stockholm on September 16, 1920. The cyanide was used to kill fleas and other bed bugs, but the bedding was aired badly. Andersson's novel Efterskörd was published posthumously in 1929, like unfinished portraits of his friends, Tryckt och otryckt (1942). In one of his most-loved poems, 'En spelmans jordafärd' Andersson told about the funeral of a folk musician, whose last journey is accompanied by four men and sounds of wind, storm and waves. "It is only Olle the fiddler, whispers the pine and sings the fir / he has come to the end of his homeless years." Andersson translated also into Swedish Kipling's book The Seven Seas (1918) and Baudelaire's poems. Hans Granlid has argued in Spänningarnas förlösning: om Dan Anderssons verk och verklighet - med särskild hänsyn till hans sena prosa (2004) that Andersson was the incarnation of an old soul, most likely with North Indian experience.  

For further reading: En bok om Dan Andersson by Waldemar Bernhard (1941); Dan Andersson före svarta ballader by Eric Uhlin (1950); Orestes och försoningen by Gustaf Fredén (1955); Dan Andersson by Anne-Marie Odstedt (1965); Dan Anderssons väg by Gösta Ågren (1955); Kärlek som i allting bor Gösta Ågren (1971); En bilderbok om Dan Andersson by E.R. Gummerus (1975); Trollkarlen vid Pajso: i Dan Anderssons värld by E. R. Gummerus (1980); 40 svenska författare by Sven Stople (1980); Den allra högstra sången by Jan Arvid Hellström (1981); Dan Anderssons härstamning by Erik Hellerström (1964, 2nd editition 1981); Att läsa för glädje och skriva sig hel by Bertil Lauritzen (1983); Diktaren och arvet by Hans Åkerberg (1985); Finnmarkens spelman by Gunde Johansson (1988); Dan Andersson och Gustav Hurtig by Jörgen Dicander och Isidor Sundberg (1988); "Min förtröstan all": en kompletterande studie om diktaren Dan Andersson by Jörgen Dicander (1998); Dan Anderssons visor och låtar by Jörgen Dicander (2001); Dan Andersson och Brunnsvik: en studie by Gösta Larsson (2003); Spänningarnas förlösning: om Dan Anderssons verk och verklighet - med särskild hänsyn till hans sena prosa by Hans Granlid (2004) - Huom 1: Andersonin tekstejä on tulkinnut suomeksi myös laulaja Martti Kadenius, joka kasetti Dan Anderssonin lauluja ilmestyi kunnianosoituksena Kalle Päätalon 75-vuotissyntymäpäivänä vuonna 1994. Päätalo, itsekin metsätyömiestaustalta kirjailijaksi ponnistellut, kuunteli niitä useaan otteeseen kirjoittamisen lomassa Tampereen Myllykylässä. Huom. 2: Hector teki Tommy Tabermannin ja Erkki Melakosken kanssa levyn Ruusuportti (1979), joka perustui Dan Anderssonin lauluille .

Selected works:

  • Kolarhistorier, 1914 (Charcoal Burner's Tales)
  • Kolvaktarens visor, 1915
    - Miilunvartijan lauluja ynnä muita runoja (toim. Otto Varhia, 1948)
    - Charcoal Burner's Ballad & Other Poems (selection, translated by Caroline Schleef, 1943) / The Last Night in Paindalen ('Sista natten,' from Kolvaktarens visor, translated by Caroline Schleef, 1958)
  • Det kallas vidskepelse, 1916
  • Svarta ballader: dikter, 1917 (Black Ballads)
  • På sju hav / Rudyard Kipling, 1918 (translator; original title:  The Seven Seas)
  • De tre hemlösa, 1918 (The Three Homeless Ones)
  • David Ramms arv, 1919 (David Ramm's Heritage)
  • Chi-mo-ka-ma. Berättelser från norra Amerika, 1920
  • Skrifter, 1921-1929 (5 vols.)
  • Skrifter. 2, Visor och ballader. Kolvaktarens visor. Dikterna i Det kallas vidskepelse. Svarta ballader. Efterlämnade dikter. Baudelaire-översättningar, 1921
  • Postuma noveller, 1922 (Skrifter 4: Korta historier, Efterlämnade noveller, Chi-mo-ka-ma, Litterturkritik)
  • Efterskörd av vers och prosa, 1929 (Late Harvest; Skrifter 5, foreword by Alf Ahlberg)
  • Samlade skrifter, 1930 (5 vols.)
  • Tryckt och otryckt, 1942 (Printed and Unprinted; edited by Bertil Lauritzen)
  • Fragment ur de underbara byttans berättlse, 1954 (illustrated by Ture Lidström)
  • Ballader och spelmansvisor, 1954 (edited by Nils Ferlin, illustrated by Mats Nilsson)
  • The Last Night in Paindalen, 1958 (translated by Caroline Schleef, from Kolvaktarens visor)
  • Den röda rosen: dikter och visor publicerade i Ny Tid 1917-1918, 1970
  • Kulturjournalistik, 1971 (foreword by Gunde Johansson)
  • Nattvandrare: okända dikter, 1972 (edited by Gösta Ågren)
  • Vildmarksliv och andra berättelser, 1971 (edited by Gunde Johansson)
  • Brödkortsromantik: reportage och artiklar publicerade i Ny tid 1917-1918, 1972  (foreword by Gunde Johansson)
  • Valda brev 1903-1913, 1972 (edited by E.R. Gummerus)
  • En spelmanssaga: okända berättelser, 1973 (edited by Gösta Ågen)
  • Sorgmarchen: novellsamling, 1973 (edited by Gösta Ågen)
  • Mot mörkret: okända kåserier, 1974 (edited by Gösta Ågen)
  • Milrök: okända dikter och berättelser, 1974 (edited by Gösta Ågen)
  • Valda brev 1914-1920, 1976 (edited by E.R. Gummerus)
  • Samlade skrifter, 1978 (edited by Gösta Ågren)  
  • En av dessa många hemlösa: okända texter, 1983 (edited by Gösta Ågren)
  • Tjärbrännare och andra kåserier och berättelser, 1986 (foreword by Gunde Johansson) 
  • Sång ur djuper: Dan Andersson, 1988 (edited by Ingel Jakobsson)
  • Dan Andersons dikter, 1988 (edited by Gösta Ågren, introduction by Thorstein Bergman, illustrated by Sven Ljungberg)
  • De mest älskade dikterna av Dan Andersson: 100 dikter, 1993 (edited by Gunde Johansson)
  • Hjärtats oro: Dan Anderssons brev till Elsa Ouchterlony, Eva von Bahr och systern Anna Andersson, 1993 (edited by Gunde Johansson)
  • Kärleksdikter, 1999 (selected by Peter & Maria Björkman)
  • Poems of Dan Andersson, 2003 (translated by Mike McArthur)

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