Apr. 10th, 2017

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They manipulate and threaten/With terror as a weapon/Scare you till you're stupefied/Wear you down until you're on their side

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My father is a very private man, not very much for big gestures of affections. But I’ve never doubted his love and care for me, and one of his ways to show it, is to gift you with books. All through my childhood he would randomly give me a book he thought I might like. Most of them became books I loved. When I was about thirteen, he gave me Collected Poems by Karin Boye.

Karin Boye was a Swedish author, born in 1900 and died 1941. She worked as a translator and she wrote several novels, only one which is still read, Kallocain (1940). It’s a dystopian SF novel about a future where people live in a totalitarian world state where Kallocain is a truth drug, used to suppress and root out any thought on rebellion. It was an inspired by a visit to germany and the uprising of the Nazists in the early 1930’s. She also met her lifelong partner there, Margot Hanel, who was Jewish. But Boye is also famous for her poems, publishing four collections during her life, and a fifth one came after her death. She killed herself in 1941 after visiting a friend, who Boye seems to have had an unsided crush on, who was dying in cancer. It’s likely the friend's illness may have contributed to her decision, but also WWII, which she was very pessimistic over. Margot killed herself a month later.

I think the most famous lines of her poems is these;

Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?

For the teenage me, her poems were wonderful. The themes of growing, struggling and one-sided love suited my own feelings, and I used my paperback as a kind of diary. It’s filled with underlined lines, and notes explaining I felt exactly like that on a particular date. Poems are difficult to translate, but all Boye’s poems have rather good translations, and all are available here. And below is a few of my favourites.

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