Saturday 27 May 2023

Martinson, Harry "Aniara"

Martinson, Harry "Aniara - A Review of Man in Time and Space" (Swedish: Aniara: en revy om människan i tid och rum) - 1956

I have not read this book as I'm really not into poetry or sci-fi (of which we have read too much lately). The book was available online but I'm not into reading anything from the computer, so it was a double (or even triple) no-no.

So, this post is about the discussion in our book club. The comments are by other members but I thought they might be interesting for some of my blog readers.

The story really surprised me. It had many layers, about human psychology, power-dynamics and coping mechanisms in dystopias, very current themes about the passengers thinking back on how they got to where they are, the devastation of nature and thoughts about the life and death of humanity, while trying to somehow keep from sinking into despair.

The story was meant to portray far into the future, with the main character saying "those to blame for the destruction of humanity are long gone", which made me think that those are us, we who live now.

It was especially surprising in its verses and few different types of poetry rhymes and patterns, really beautiful at parts.

I had expected it to be a lot of action and rushing around in space, but it was the opposite, quiet contemplation, more about the mentality of the last people.

And Martinson had this great sensitive way of not saying much out loud, so we had to read between the lines, for example there must have been a few dozen ways how he described someone dying without actually saying it, or quite beautiful descriptions of how the last of humanity was floating away into space in the sarcophagus named Aniara.

Some normal quotes about it: "it is great, despite it being science fiction" or "the only science fiction worth reading".

Though it definitely took a lot more thinking to follow the story and what was really said, and that it definitely was out of my comfort zone and at moments I was not quite sure if this epic poem was genius or just weird, I would recommend it, it was a reading experience that again widened my reading world.

This was discussed in our international online book club in April 2023.

From the back cover:

"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."

Harry Martinson received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1974 "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


  1. I always wanted to try this one, although not a fan of SF. Let's see if I manage to read it. I do like Martinsson otherwise, although I guess this is quite different from his other books.

    1. I haven't read anything by him and the only reason I would have tackled this one is because he received the Nobel Prize. But even there, I usually draw the line at poetry. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think, about it, Lisbeth.

  2. I can recommend his Nässlorna blomma/Flowering Nettle. I think you would like that one. You can read more about it here: . Lisbeth

    1. Thanks, Lisbeth. That does sound a lot more interesting. I'Ve put it on my wishlist. Thank you.

  3. I like certain kinds of science fiction...and poetry in small doses. So I'm not sure this book would work for me. It does sound like your book club enjoyed it though.

    1. They did but there are quite a few huge science fiction lovers among them. I am not and have therefore said I will not read any of the sci-fi selections unless they seem interesting in any other way, this one wasn't. So, I would be surprised if you like it, Lark.

  4. Thanks for posting about this book - which I realize was already on my TBR! Sounds so fascinating.
    I enjoy more and more scifi, especially classic scifi.
    Ebooks are so convenient, for instance it's actually easier on my eyes, because I can use a big font, instead of some books that have small print. Plus if I read in a foreign language (Italian at the moment) and need to double check the meaning of a word of full sentence, I just click on Translate, and here you go.
    I no longer use any ereader, just my phone, and it's perfect for my use.
    I also highlight words or passages, that I go over after to write my reviews

    1. I'm glad you liked that I posted this, Emma, even though I didn't read it myself. I just can't get into scifi. I didn't completely dislike some of them but they usually had another aspect, like dystopia.
      A lot of people tell me that they now prefer e-books. I don't mind small print since I'm extremely short-sighted but I just seem to take in more in a real book, something scientists found in students. I "highlight" passages in my books with sticky tape.
      But, we are all different and I am glad you get to enjoy the books that way.