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Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem

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The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War - right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man's technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War - right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man's technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity's possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera. This volume is the first complete English language version and received the prestigious American Scandinavian Foundation Award.


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The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War - right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man's technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War - right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man's technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity's possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera. This volume is the first complete English language version and received the prestigious American Scandinavian Foundation Award.

30 review for Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Of all Nobels on my shelves, Harry Martinson's Aniara is the one I have reflected on the most, unable to put it into comprehensible context, and to give it an honest and fair evaluation. I don't claim to be able to do it now either, but I can't stand the idea of this favourite being left to travel in a void, straight ahead into space without any recognition from me, the grateful reader. It has shaped my relation to Swedish literature more than anything else. Being a poem, a science fiction Of all Nobels on my shelves, Harry Martinson's Aniara is the one I have reflected on the most, unable to put it into comprehensible context, and to give it an honest and fair evaluation. I don't claim to be able to do it now either, but I can't stand the idea of this favourite being left to travel in a void, straight ahead into space without any recognition from me, the grateful reader. It has shaped my relation to Swedish literature more than anything else. Being a poem, a science fiction post-apocalyptic verse epos, and a deeply disturbing journey into the human condition, it is one of the books I quite often open randomly to enjoy the brilliant Swedish verse. I actually bought an English translation, second hand but very expensive, because I thought I could read excerpts from it with my students, but in the end, Martinson's language was so much connected to Swedish in my mind that I did not go ahead with the project. Of all the Nobel Prizes in Literature, the one awarded to Martinson and Johnson in 1974 is probably the most disputed. Both were members of Svenska Akademien at the time, and they had to endure harsh criticism for receiving the prize from their own colleagues. It is still a sore chapter in Swedish literary history, and Martinson's dramatic suicide is thought to be directly linked to the fact that he was deeply hurt by the reaction to the Nobel award. Politics aside, having read quite a lot by both Johnson and Martinson, and at least two or three works by all other laureates worldwide as well, I belong to the party claiming they deserved the honour DESPITE being in the academy. Aniara speaks for itself. A group of survivors after an apocalyptic catastrophe on Earth travel straight ahead, without goal, in space, still mourning what they lost, and trying to make sense of their existence in a void. The result is a strange swaying back and forth between over-exalted emotions and complete numbness, - a scary feature of hopelessness which I recognise in many layers of global society today. While Wells in his The Island of Dr. Moreau still finds hope and solace in humankind's heart despite wild experiments with horrible outcomes, the dystopia of the nuclear age is bleak, hopeless, an eternal trap. "Efforts at escape through flights of mind and fading in and out from dream to dream - such methods were at hand. With one leg washed by surges of emotion, the other resting on emotive death, we'd often stand. My questions of myself got no reply. I dreamed a life up, but I lived a lie. I ranged the universe, but passed it by - for captive on Aniara here was I." The Swedish flow of words is a song, creeping under my skin: "Försök till räddning genom tankeflykt och överglidningar från dröm till dröm blev ofta vår metod. Med ena benet dränkt i känslosvall det andra med sitt stöd i känslodöd vi ofta stod. Jag frågade mig själv men glömde svara. Jag drömde mig ett liv men glömde vara. Jag reste alltet runt men glömde fara. - Ty jag satt fånge här i Aniara." Being locked forever in a small community, similar to the one evoked by Brooks in The Bunker Diary in its inevitable isolation and lack of possibilities, different religions and groups start to form according to the personalities of the inhabitants, leading to a cult of regret at the loss of paradise, which in this case is the less than perfect Earth they had to evacuate from: "In Memory Hall there are recanters' fêtes and those immersed most deeply in recanting have gathered, bearing ashes on their pates, self-torturers with their recanting-chanting: Stand and confess. The walls of grievous rage are closing on the fate we engineered. our doom is mirror-image to the cage at which from outside we at one time sneered." "I Minneshallen hålls det ångermässor och de som sjunkit djupast i sin ånger ha samlats där med askbeströdda hjässor torterande sig själv med ångersånger: Stån upp till svars. Den tunga vredens murar sig sluter om det öde vi beredde. Vårt straff är spegelbilden av de burar som en gång utifrån vi själv beledde." The Aniara travellers try different illusions to make their life more bearable, such as artificial gardens or projections in space to fill it with the illusion of context. These schemes fail, as the humans are too aware of the tricks and only feel more definitely detached from the earth they left behind. Theirs is a world where God and Satan drop their eternal fight and unite in mourning over the human disaster: "Describe the creature fine and fair who sewed the shrouds for his own seed till God and Satan hand in hand through a deranged and poisoned land took flight uphill and down from man: a king with ashen crown. Beskriv den människa som i glans sit släktes likdräkt sydde tills Gud och Satan hand i hand i ett förstört, förgiftat land kring berg och backar flydde för människan, askans konung." The dichotomy of the beautiful, heart-warming verse and the scary message is omnipresent in Martinson's epic poem, and the relevance of the worrying scenario is as acute now as in the 1950s. The world is still developing in a direction where power to destroy is given to people with no sense of love and responsibility for the beautiful nature of our shared planet and our common cultural heritage. Aniara is a cautionary tale, holding up the mirror of regret when it is too late: don't travel straight ahead without purpose! Noble Nobel Martinson! You were well worth your award.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    oh my good friends, i've stumbled on a little treasure that is hidden wonder. billed as an 'epic science fiction poem', 'aniara' was the crowning achievment of harry martinson. i came across this author, while digging into past nobel prize winners and seeing that martinson (along with another member of the swedish academy - yeah that's the group that decides who wins the award) was given the nobel prize over that years favorites: graham greene, vladimir nabokov, and saul bellow. bellow oh my good friends, i've stumbled on a little treasure that is hidden wonder. billed as an 'epic science fiction poem', 'aniara' was the crowning achievment of harry martinson. i came across this author, while digging into past nobel prize winners and seeing that martinson (along with another member of the swedish academy - yeah that's the group that decides who wins the award) was given the nobel prize over that years favorites: graham greene, vladimir nabokov, and saul bellow. bellow eventually won the award, but by some crime against humanities, nabokov never got one. alas, i had to know what the merit was of these two authors that the swedish academy deemed more deserving than a vladimir nabokov. i couldn't find much on eyvind johnson (the other winner), so i decided to take a shot on this harry martinson. of course my interest was piqued when i saw what his epic poem cycle aniara was about: a spacecraft, in a post-apocolyptic world, gets knocked of track on a flight to mars, and is thus floating into deep space with no chance of returning. the plot line alone is packed with several genres, philosophies, and prophecies. as you would imagine, my poor library did not own a copy, but had to get one from asu, to lend to me. i'm about a third of the way through this book, and so far it has lived up to its potential. i'll offer more thoughts upon completion, but i couldn't wait and had to share this spectacular, and unique work of art. so this is a wonderful, little piece of art that seems sadly overlooked in world literature. it is such a unique piece of writing that blends such disparate, genres, ideas, and styles. i'm not gonna go too far into it for two reasons: 1) i'm in the middle of re-reading it to try and unlock some of the allusions and mythology used in the poem (martinson used many different cultures and myths, as well as etymologies from different languages for his neologisms); also, 2) i don't wanna spoil it for anyone else who may wanna read it. so i'll prob. post so more thoughts on this, in a month or so.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wart Hill

    they played a game of chess with infinity. I don't know where to start with this review, so I'll just leave that quote up there and say my goal is to learn Swedish so I can get a copy in the original language and read it again. In Swedish. Did I mention Swedish? This poem is amazing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bjorn

    A spaceship hurtles towards a distant constellation, going faster than anything in human history but essentially standing still from a relative point of view. That wasn't the point, of course. They were just supposed to be temporarily evacuated to Mars and Venus while Earth "recovers". All of humanity being shipped out on spaceships - each one just making a routine trip, just on a much grander scale. Except for the Aniara which gets hit by a meteor shower. Her steering gets knocked out, her SOSs A spaceship hurtles towards a distant constellation, going faster than anything in human history but essentially standing still from a relative point of view. That wasn't the point, of course. They were just supposed to be temporarily evacuated to Mars and Venus while Earth "recovers". All of humanity being shipped out on spaceships - each one just making a routine trip, just on a much grander scale. Except for the Aniara which gets hit by a meteor shower. Her steering gets knocked out, her SOSs go unanswered, her AI kills itself after it sees Earth be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, and the Aniara and her thousands of passengers are sent hurling on a 15,000 year journey towards Vega, with only their memories for company. It's staring. It's staring cold outside. It sounds like a potentially cheap sci-fi movie, it is actually a pretty fucking great sci-fi story except told in verse. Martinson tells it through the eyes of the AI operator whose job it is to keep the systems running as the years pass, the systems fail, and all the distractions - virtual reality and social media (yes, in 1957), religion, sex, music, science, even suicide - lose their allure and only the impossible vastness of space remains. He switches style from canto to canto, examining different characters, different aspects, different ways of trying to cope with the uncopeable. Myself I questioned, but gave no reply. I dreamt myself a life, then lived a lie. I ranged the universe but passed it by - For captive on Aniara here was I. This book is 50 years old this year. It's lost absolutely none of its power.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex Black

    I had a great deal of difficulty with this poem. The first 29 cantos were wonderful, and I found out after reading that they were originally a standalone piece of poetry. The rest of the poem was only added later, and for me the distinction was obvious. I was almost entirely lost for most of the rest of the story, only following again for a bit in the end. I'm sure part of that is because this is one of my first forays into poetry pretty much ever, and I'm not a sci-fi reader either. This was far I had a great deal of difficulty with this poem. The first 29 cantos were wonderful, and I found out after reading that they were originally a standalone piece of poetry. The rest of the poem was only added later, and for me the distinction was obvious. I was almost entirely lost for most of the rest of the story, only following again for a bit in the end. I'm sure part of that is because this is one of my first forays into poetry pretty much ever, and I'm not a sci-fi reader either. This was far out of my comfort zone in every regard. But I also read this online in what I believe was an unofficial translation. There were numerous spelling errors and inconsistent repetition and rhyming, so part of it could also have been the translation (I really have no idea in that regard- it could have been fine, but it seemed worth a mention). Additionally there were notes at the very end which I didn't know about until I'd already finished, and those would have been immensely helpful. They explained a lot of the made up words that were scattered throughout. So my rating is a combination of thoroughly enjoyed some parts of the poem, but couldn't follow others at all. I think the first 29 cantos would have been four stars for me because I thought they were lovely. The language was wonderful and the story itself grabbed me. Beyond that, it seemed to lose focus and that's why it took me over a month to get through. It was hard to pick up a poem I knew I wasn't understanding/appreciating. I think I would reread the first 29 cantos again and stop there, and I would definitely recommend picking this book up if you enjoy science fiction just for that beginning. It was worthwhile, and I'm glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone even the work overall wasn't for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg Fanoe

    Nobel Prize Project Year: 1974 Winner: Harry Martinson Review: This is a lyrical account of a group of people fleeing the destruction of Earth who are hurtled into the reaches outer space and are forced to confront the insignificance of mankind in the grand scheme of the cosmos. It's a beautiful, though bleak, book filled with great lines and fine observations. If the idea of an science fiction poem that confronts atomic age era fears appeals to you, this is about as good as it can be. It's an odd, Nobel Prize Project Year: 1974 Winner: Harry Martinson Review: This is a lyrical account of a group of people fleeing the destruction of Earth who are hurtled into the reaches outer space and are forced to confront the insignificance of mankind in the grand scheme of the cosmos. It's a beautiful, though bleak, book filled with great lines and fine observations. If the idea of an science fiction poem that confronts atomic age era fears appeals to you, this is about as good as it can be. It's an odd, thoroughly unique classic (though sadly, it is currently out of print and very expensive). My favorite poem of this book is Poem 85: "The galaxy swings round like a wheel of shimmering smoke which is the light of stars, or sun haze. For lack of other words, you know, we call it sun haze. I mean just that languages do not suffice to express everything contained in that spectacle. The richest of the languages we know, Xinombric, has some three million words, but the galaxy you are watching now contains far more than ninety billion suns. Has any human brain ever mastered all the words of the language of Xinombra? Not a single one! Now do you understand? And yet--do you? Analysis: The co-win in 1974 of Harry Martinson and Eyvind Johnson was considered controversial at the time, because both were members of the selection committee and both were pretty much unknown writers. I assume the fact that Harry Martinson has the most BS Nobel citation of all time didn't hurt either ("for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos"). I'm sure he won it for some more boring poetry, but it makes me happy that the writer of a book such as this won the Nobel, no matter how shady the circumstances.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Berit Lundqvist

    This year, it has been 40 years since the Swedish Author Harry Martinson died. On February 11, 1978, he took his own life by cutting up his belly with a pair of scissors, a ritual suicide just like harakiri. He was at the time admitted to a hospital in Stockholm had been suffering from severe depression for quite a while. But why was he depressed? one might ask. He was at the prime of his career. Only four years earlier he had received the Nobel Prize for literature. Well, in this case the Prize This year, it has been 40 years since the Swedish Author Harry Martinson died. On February 11, 1978, he took his own life by cutting up his belly with a pair of scissors, a ritual suicide just like harakiri. He was at the time admitted to a hospital in Stockholm had been suffering from severe depression for quite a while. But why was he depressed? one might ask. He was at the prime of his career. Only four years earlier he had received the Nobel Prize for literature. Well, in this case the Prize was the problem. As a member of the Swedish Academy he had awarded himself with the Literature Prize, and for this he was violently critizised by both the newspapers and fellow authors. As a result, he fell into a depression. Nothing new under the sun regarding the Swedish Academy, eh. Juicy scandals then, juicy scandals today. Today Harry Martinson is mostly remembered for his epic space poem Aniara from 1956. I’m usually not very keen on reading poetry, since it’s far beyond my horizon. But Aniara is something very special, and very beautiful. You don’t need to be into neither poetry nor science fiction to appreciate it. On the contrary, both the verse and the distance in time and space are of utter importance to refine the thoughts. The text is divided into 103 songs of pure magic, a universe in a drop of rain. Some time in a far future, the 32:nd World War has made the Earth inhabitable. People are evacuated to Venus and Mars. 8,000 people are travelling to Mars on the space ship Aniara. However the ship is knocked out of course, and heads into deep space with no chance of returning. Life goes on, but people will never be the same. Still they try do the same things as before. There is a supercomputor for entertainment, a sex cult (also for entertainment), religious cults, and of course an evil commander. The whole story is told mainly by the voice of a narrator to the bitter end. All that remains for him is to come to terms with his ultimate fate. Light a candle, put on some soft music and embark on the spaceship Aniara to explore the beginning, the final destiny, and everything in between. English online version here (the songs start on p 33): https://www.scribd.com/doc/238998252/... Swedish online version here: https://litteraturbanken.se/forfattar... Or, if you’re not in the mood to read, just listen to this beautiful interpretation of the Blind poetiss’ song (song 49) by the wonderful Helen Sjöholm, from a fairly recent musical version: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GYIKTT5...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anders

    An immense spaceship drifts deeper into space, away from an Earth ravaged by nuclear holocaust. Wonderfully melancholic and at times painfully tragic, reading Harry Martinson's sci-fi poem (here in the original Swedish) is a great but uneven experience. I found the first third or so, as well as the finale, to be the most powerful, while the middle part failed to hold my interest in the same way. Some parts are excellent, but at other times the text feels confusing and contrived. I'm also not An immense spaceship drifts deeper into space, away from an Earth ravaged by nuclear holocaust. Wonderfully melancholic and at times painfully tragic, reading Harry Martinson's sci-fi poem (here in the original Swedish) is a great but uneven experience. I found the first third or so, as well as the finale, to be the most powerful, while the middle part failed to hold my interest in the same way. Some parts are excellent, but at other times the text feels confusing and contrived. I'm also not crazy about Martinson's way of using invented words (this is not a principled objection, it just didn't work that well for me here). To be fair though, my expectations may have been unreasonably high. Overall, I wanted to like "Aniara" more than I actually did; for me, the premise is better than the execution. I will probably give it another shot in a year or so, however, as I got the feeling it will improve on a second reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bbrown

    "That was how the solar system closed its vaulted gateway of the purest crystal and severed spaceship Aniara’s company from all the bonds and pledges of the sun. Thus given over to the shock-stiff void we spread the call-sign Aniara wide in glass-clear boundlessness, but picked up nothing. Though space-vibrations faithfully bore round our proud Aniara’s last communiqué on widening rings, in spheres and cupolas it moved through empty space, thrown away. In anguish sent by us in Aniara our call-sigh faded "That was how the solar system closed its vaulted gateway of the purest crystal and severed spaceship Aniara’s company from all the bonds and pledges of the sun. Thus given over to the shock-stiff void we spread the call-sign Aniara wide in glass-clear boundlessness, but picked up nothing. Though space-vibrations faithfully bore round our proud Aniara’s last communiqué on widening rings, in spheres and cupolas it moved through empty space, thrown away. In anguish sent by us in Aniara our call-sigh faded till it failed: Aniara" Such is the fate of the spaceship Aniara, as chronicled in Nobel Prize-winner Harry Martinson’s epic poem. After being thrown off course its 8,000 souls are left to live what remains of their lives in a vast spaceship hurtling into the unknown emptiness of space, with no hope of ever returning to Earth. This epic poem is everything a work of science fiction should be, providing a fantastic situation that nevertheless resonates with us, and using that situation to explore mankind. Here Martinson chooses as his topic how mankind comes to terms with hopeless, pointlessness, and the inevitability of death. Being trapped on Aniara renders life meaningless for all the passengers on board- if they make scientific discoveries they can’t send them back to Earth so no use will ever come of them, they can write poems and songs but they will be trapped within the confines of the ship, and everyone knows that eventually Aniara will reach its limits on this unending journey and everyone aboard her will die. This is a fantastic situation, yes, but is it really so different from our lives? The passengers of the spaceship Aniara are making, after all, “A lifelong journey onward to an end which would have come in any case, and comes.” The struggle with whether our actions in life have meaning, and the struggle to come to terms with our eventual demise are not challenges that require space travel to be a reality. Martinson explores how people deal with these challenges by presenting us with the microcosm of the ship. At first the passengers keep the hopelessness of the situation at bay with mima, “a filter of truth, with no stains of her own.” Mima presents the passengers with images of far off planets and with recordings of terrible events happening back on Earth, providing a Plato’s cave that people are all too happy to flock to. Mima is more than a computer, she’s a conscious thing that has desires of her own, and she eventually welcomes death to avoid seeing the horrors of Earth dying behind them. With the loss of mima the mirror-world she created is lost as well, and thus the passengers turn to religion, whether the old ones of Earth, or factions worshipping the lost mima, or sex cults. As the journey gets longer and the ship strikes further into the emptiness of space the religion gets more extreme as the hopelessness becomes harder to bear: a cult featuring human sacrifice has a surplus of volunteers. People retreat into memories of their life before entering the ship, even if the worlds left behind seem hellish. The bearers of these memories aren’t the usual archetypes found in science fiction but interesting characters in their own right, from a female pilot (about whom the narrator notes “she wounds you in the way that roses wound”), to a blind poetess, “with songs so beautiful they lifted us beyond ourselves, on high to spirit’s day. She blazoned our confinement gold with fire and sent the heavens to the heart’s abode, changing every word from smoke to splendor.” Despite a few events that rejuvenate the excitement of the passengers there are no long-term victories on Aniara. Being on the ship forces an acknowledgment of the inevitability of death, strips the passengers of the normal pantheon of reasons life isn’t pointless, and the passengers are powerless to invent new reasons that satisfy them; even the religious cults are abandoned in time, with only some small symbolic gestures remaining. Nihilism conquers this microcosm, as the numbers of insane and suicides multiply. Eventually the ship breaks down too severely to be repaired and death comes for all who remain. Having read The Death of Ivan Ilyich recently I can say with certainty that I found Aniara more affecting. The events of the poem are hopeless, yes, but the warning rings through clear: for all its flaws Earth is a paradise, and mankind, “a king with an ashen crown,” must maintain it or face the vast emptiness of space. This work essentially won Martinson his Nobel Prize in literature, and despite the controversy the win was well deserved. It’s a travesty that this work is out of print, and so rare that used copies cost hundreds of dollars. It’s beautifully written, the characters are usually not drawn with much detail but still manage to be interesting, and the setting it presents is masterfully constructed. Best of all, these virtues exist to actually explore ideas worth exploring and to say something worth saying, which you would expect to be commonplace in science fiction but which, sadly, is not. Why is this work so little known in the genre of science fiction when far, far lesser works like Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Neuromancer by Gibson are not only still widely read, but held up as some of the best works of science fiction to ever be put to paper? Aniara is better than any of those works by an order of magnitude, and yet it’s been all but forgotten. It speaks poorly of the genre’s fans, and sadly is justifies some of the lack of respect shown to science fiction. Aniara lives up to the potential of science fiction, and you should read it unless you absolutely can’t stand that genre. One minor complaint: in Aniara Martinson makes up a plethora of words, both used to identify technology and used in normal conversation. Especially in the few stanzas that make heavy use of the slang of old Earth I found it just too much. I wish he had pulled a Gene Wolfe and only used existing but rare or archaic words, but it’s impossible for me to criticize Martinson for this too severely when he effectively addresses this exact point: “The galaxy swings around like a wheel of lighted smoke, and the smoke is made of stars. It is sunsmoke. For lack of other words we call it sunsmoke, do you see. I don’t feel languages are equal to what that vision comprehends. The richest of the languages we know, Xinombric, has three million words, but then the galaxy you’re gazing into now has more than ninety billion suns. Has there ever been a brain that mastered all the words in the Xinombric language? Not a one. Now you see. And do not see.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    IsagelCharles

    Still always amazed by the simplicity and freshness of Martinsson’s poetry. I still find this work to have the same flaws and the same moments of transcendence as when I first read it. It remains an extraordinary portrayal of the vastness of space and the terrifying littleness of humanity within it, and of the destruction we bring upon ourselves and our planet. It’s such a dark book, but it has such perfect clarity of verse.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    I loved loved this book. There was something absolutely special about it. I couldn't really describe the content (which is kind of a plot written in a poetic way kind of just connected poems or something along those lines) if I was asked to but it made me feel. Even though it is hard to understand and paradoxal and slightly odd at times, I really got a feeling for it. It was relatable in an existential way and I was left with a feeling of wonder. Hard to explain but I definitely recommend it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Silvio Curtis

    Kind of disappointing. Stanza by stanza, most of it is really great poetry. But like some other modern literature, it's unnecessarily hard to understand and often doesn't make clear what is metaphor and what is literally happening. The book is organized as a succession of short poems about the people living on a spaceship that is drifting away from the solar system after being disabled by an accident. The main theme is to contrast their longing for Earth with the horror of their memories of the Kind of disappointing. Stanza by stanza, most of it is really great poetry. But like some other modern literature, it's unnecessarily hard to understand and often doesn't make clear what is metaphor and what is literally happening. The book is organized as a succession of short poems about the people living on a spaceship that is drifting away from the solar system after being disabled by an accident. The main theme is to contrast their longing for Earth with the horror of their memories of the nuclear wars and so forth that are going on there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Todor

    Oh, how I wish I could understand the original Swedish version! Hats off to the translators - I can imagine the amount of research and foreign language skills needed to achieve a decent version of this for international readers. What a grand idea, a science fiction poem! Poetry in and about space, the tragic flaw of the main character (our species) shut in a capsule and shot into cosmic dimensions. It's unbelievable this gem is out of print and I was lucky to find a second hand copy from some Oh, how I wish I could understand the original Swedish version! Hats off to the translators - I can imagine the amount of research and foreign language skills needed to achieve a decent version of this for international readers. What a grand idea, a science fiction poem! Poetry in and about space, the tragic flaw of the main character (our species) shut in a capsule and shot into cosmic dimensions. It's unbelievable this gem is out of print and I was lucky to find a second hand copy from some obscure internet seller.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    This is a cool thing: an epic science fiction poem. I still have my Avon SF Rediscovery edition from 1976, and have flipped through it many times over the years. It's always enjoyable, but always leaves me feeling that there's a little bit more hidden in the text that I'm missing. I always wonder how different it might be if I could read it in the original Swedish. It's a cool thing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    G

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pixelina

    One of my favorite books ever. A swedish poetic dystopian sci-fi :-D

  17. 5 out of 5

    Smerdyakov

    I think i should re-read it sometime, got confused from all made-up words and names and couldn't always keep track of what their real counterparts were supposed to be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Randolph

    It's a very odd piece of work, 103 poems set against a common background. The space "ferry" Aniara, carrying refugees from a war-torn, ecologically destroyed far-future Earth to Mars, suffers from disaster, and ends drifting towards the constellation of Lyra. The poems tell the stories of its passengers and crew. The book is narrated by the Mimarobe, the poet who tends the ship's computer, the Mima, which I suspect is a reference to Mimîr. There's a lot here: some classic 1950s reaction to the It's a very odd piece of work, 103 poems set against a common background. The space "ferry" Aniara, carrying refugees from a war-torn, ecologically destroyed far-future Earth to Mars, suffers from disaster, and ends drifting towards the constellation of Lyra. The poems tell the stories of its passengers and crew. The book is narrated by the Mimarobe, the poet who tends the ship's computer, the Mima, which I suspect is a reference to Mimîr. There's a lot here: some classic 1950s reaction to the horrors of the 20th century, some criticism of the society of its time, and some pure visionary poetry. My reactions to it were uneven. It is, overall, a very grim work – a huge tragedy, set against the backdrop of an enormous one. There are enormous insights and playfulness and poetry. There also are the sorts of failure-to-convince of early science fiction – the Aniara's disaster does not seem to make physical sense –, confusing construct words (these would perhaps make more sense to the Swedish reader), and dated social commentary. And here is poem number 85: The galaxy swings around   like a wheel of lighted smoke,   and the smoke is made of stars. It is sunsmoke. For lack of other words we call it sunsmoke,   do you see? I don't feel languages are equal   to what that vision comprehends. The richest of the languages we know,   Xinombric, has three million words,   but then the galaxy you're gazing into right now   has more than ninety billion suns. Has there ever been a brain that mastered all the words   in the Xinombric language? Not a one. Now you see. And do not see. (And a long loud raspberry to the Goodreads developers, who never thought that one might have a need to control indentation. If you do need it, a space can be included in preformatted text with ampersand-n-b-s-p-semicolon.) Aniara was Martinson's great work, and a part of the reason for his Nobel prize for literature. There have been multiple performance adaptations of it, as a well-thought of opera with music by Karl-Birger Blomdahl and libretto by Erik Lindegren, a planetarium show, and several stage versions. James Blish, a critic of music and poetry as well as an SF writer, reviewed the opera and commented that it was "a thoroughly eclectic work, with twelve-tone and electronic parts, all of it, well integrated." So far I haven't heard or seen any of them, and are no video recordings I was able to locate when I last looked, over a decade ago.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dinara Tengri

    Harry Martinson’s cult classic is a surreal, melancholy nightmare. Aniara is a 1956 poem about a spaceship that is bound to Mars but that gets set off course, and proceeds to drift aimlessly through space. As the thousands of passengers aboard Aniara witness their vessel leave our solar system, they’re trying to give their lives meaning, and not lose their minds. The first thing I can say about Aniara is that it was very difficult to get through. Not the poetry itself, but because there is so much Harry Martinson’s cult classic is a surreal, melancholy nightmare. Aniara is a 1956 poem about a spaceship that is bound to Mars but that gets set off course, and proceeds to drift aimlessly through space. As the thousands of passengers aboard Aniara witness their vessel leave our solar system, they’re trying to give their lives meaning, and not lose their minds. The first thing I can say about Aniara is that it was very difficult to get through. Not the poetry itself, but because there is so much in-world jargon, it almost becomes its own language, and I had a difficult time trying to decode it. The second thing about Aniara is that it’s not at all what I expected. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I guess it was more science fiction and less mythology. And this poem does feel like an ancient epos set in the future. I guess that is the point. Finally, the thing I do like about Aniara is the sense of loneliness and utter despair that Martinson conveys in his poetry. You can feel the desperation of these people as they turn to sex, violence, and religion in an attempt to fill the void, and to give their lives some meaning. It’s a waking nightmare. And it’s very surreal, as if you’re watching the whole thing through a prism. Aniara is one of those pieces that you need to read several times to fully grasp its meaning, its hidden symbolism, and to truly appreciate its poetry. Will I be picking it up again? Maybe.

  20. 5 out of 5

    H. Dalloway

    I still can’t understand that after all this time, all these years of reading books, studying books at the university, being in love with the science fiction genre, I hadn’t read Aniara. I only hope that there was some purpose to this, that it was fate of some kind. That I was supposed to develop more intellectually, get more experiences to be able to truly understand it, feel it, take it in. Because right now I can’t see my life without it. The text still flows through me like water, in the same I still can’t understand that after all this time, all these years of reading books, studying books at the university, being in love with the science fiction genre, I hadn’t read Aniara. I only hope that there was some purpose to this, that it was fate of some kind. That I was supposed to develop more intellectually, get more experiences to be able to truly understand it, feel it, take it in. Because right now I can’t see my life without it. The text still flows through me like water, in the same way as when I read it. It feels like a part of my movement when I walk. A part of the threes, the flowers, the bees and the ocean. And if you are a Swede like me and can read it in it’s original language, the bliss is... And though the book is as dark as the space that surrounds the earth we live on, and our lives seem as empty as hollow threes, it doesn’t get more beautiful then this. And makes me want to swim in that darkness and light up that emptiness like a star. D.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nickrs

    A nuclear-era myth with new resonance amid climate change anxiety, a story of despair and mediation, in mournful flight from the ruins of earth. Lost pastorals—memories of Earth, glimpses of inaccessible worlds—stream into the ship as it heads for outer galaxies through a kind of immaculate computer/transmitter, the Mima. And then they don't: the bleakness of the future breaks the machine, leaving the people onboard to older coping mechanisms, until all is winnowed by space to a single flame, A nuclear-era myth with new resonance amid climate change anxiety, a story of despair and mediation, in mournful flight from the ruins of earth. Lost pastorals—memories of Earth, glimpses of inaccessible worlds—stream into the ship as it heads for outer galaxies through a kind of immaculate computer/transmitter, the Mima. And then they don't: the bleakness of the future breaks the machine, leaving the people onboard to older coping mechanisms, until all is winnowed by space to a single flame, and then nothing, just flows of energy through ash. As myth it's vital, a book that has what we need. As poetry, Klass & Sjöberg's translation doesn't always achieve liftoff, but maybe that's more than we can expect for a work with such a complex narrative and an idiosyncratic style (between all the technobabble, the fictional slang, and the cultic terminology).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I have strong opinions about poetry. Mostly negative. I have strong opinions about translated books. Mostly negative. Combine those, and you have a lot of negative opinions. However, the story told within Aniara was quite good. And even though it made it a difficult read, I liked all of the made up words. All in all, and interesting book that I would recommend to almost no one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fernando Guerra

    this has easily been the toughest piece of literature I’ve read. the narrative is unconventional from the start, and the whole tale is a story of the human race against itself. it’s an unique experience.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Winterdragon

    This is verse that makes the hair on my skin stand on end, both due to its linguistic beauty and its message. I am often sad about missing out on poetry in its original language, but wow, I am glad to be able to read Aniara in my native tongue. It's always a mighty experience.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric Knowlson

    Unbelievably beautiful. A mournful odd to the earth we lost.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    Exceptional genius. I was amazed at some of the concepts and turns of phrase. The story was engaging and the idea fascinating.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Micke Hindsberg

    More important today than ever. Read it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Björn Rudberg

    Epic... read the Swedish version... amazing how poetry can be a real page-turner.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Extremely existential

  30. 4 out of 5

    M.Ars

    Just don't get it. Stopped on 30th chapter. Maybe one day I come back to this poem.

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