compass-bearing   COMPASS BEARING

by Per Wästberg

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Per Wästberg

Translated by Hildred Crill

Publication Date: Fall 2013
70 Pages
ISBN13:  13:978-1-934851-46-3
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Per Wästberg’s poems move through landscape and memory recreating neighborhoods, houses and docks in sharp detail while at the same time contemplating invisible forces:

Time’s bones are brittle and the cold bath house in a deplorable state. Insurance for longhorn beetle not paid. The cuckoo calls from a large saucepan. Under a thinned sky we dip into sweetness of overripe fruit. The self-analytical shadows pass over the spirit level’s blind eye.

The poems track the interior of the self as well as imagined lives of others through time, through childhood, youth, love and death. Yet they give no easy determination of place, no simplistic discovery of direction. Even the process of dying is closely and slowly observed in advance, both the physicality (“Like when you let go of a load of wood and pull off an icy glove”) and the ineffable (“But the alphabet still glows, like asteroids over the expanses of snow”). Compass Bearing presents twenty of Wästberg’s poems in translation selected from his 2004 collection, Tillbaka i tid (“back in time”), poems that span more than five decades. .

About the Author, Per Wästberg  

Per Wästberg is the chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature. He founded the Swedish Section of Amnesty International in 1963, and was deeply involved in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. From 1976 to 1982 he was the editor of Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. He was president of International PEN from 1979 to 1986. He is the author of fifty publications, including novels, poetry, essays and works on African politics and literature.

About the Translator, Hildred Crill  

Hildred Crill’s poems have been published in many journals, most recently in Poetry Ireland Review, Greensboro Review and Field. Her translations and reviews have appeared in Ars Interpres. She holds a BA in Classics from Georgetown and an MFA in poetry from New England College. She currently teaches scientific writing at Stockholm University.


“Wästberg writes touchingly on the subject’s childhood, and also with particular assurance and transcendence about Sparrman’s African journeys – as readers would expect after the acclaim greeting the second part of Wästberg’s memoirs, Vägarna till Afrika (The Ways to Africa) published in 2007.”
-Swedish book review

"What can one say about a work of literature unlike any one has read before? In a long life of reading I have never encountered anything quite like this sweepingly original symbiosis of scientific knowledge and curiosity, sensuality, narrative of human ethos and personality, research into form and significance of nature, written with thrilling grace."
—Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize in Literature recipient.

"A subtle, breathtaking achievement. As historical fiction it effortlessly and magisterially prises open worlds unknown. As prose it achieves a luminosity and precision that is the true domain of poetry."

"In this absorbing fusion of biography and imagination, Per Wästberg has movingly taken us inside the head of a remarkable man . . . As a reader I'm grateful for his discovery of Anders Sparrman; as a writer, I envy it."
—Adam Hochschild, author, King Leopold's Ghost

"Fellow Swede Wästberg (chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature) has done [Sparrman] (and us) a service by freeing this serious, lonely, conscientious, humane man from the trap of history."
—Publishers Weekly

"The novel is fascinating both in detail and insight on the life and times, the science and discoveries of an important Swedish naturalist and explorer."
—The Historical Novels Review








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