Gunnar Ekelöf was one of Sweden’s most important 20th century poets, but also worked hard as a critic and essayist. He made his debut as a poet in 1932 with the surrealist-inspired collection of poetry Sent på jorden. Gunnar Ekelöf’s position in Swedish society was that of an outsider, and his production was characterised by a constantly experimenting widening of poetic expressions, identities and attitudes to life.
Diwan on the Prince of Emigon was to be the first part of a trilogy, which also comprises the collections of poems The Tale of Fatumeh and Guide to the Underworld, published in the following years. These collections are rooted in a mystical experience, Gunnar Ekelöf had in a Byzantine chapel in Istanbul on 28 March 1965. During his visit, a churchwarden spontaneously rinsed his hands with water from a silver scoop collected from a basin at an icon which he was perusing. In the frame of mind of this event, Gunnar Ekelöf wrote in a gigantic nocturnal bout of inspiration 17 of the panegyrically emotional poems of the collection. The Prince of Emgion is a hero of fiction whom Gunnar Ekelöf wraps into a context of Byzantine epic poetry. The imprisoned and blinded prince seeks solace from the “Virgin of Fire and of Nothing”. In her, he finds consolation in the form of the ultimate union of love.
After discussion the committee decided to award the Nordic Council Literature Prize 1966 to Gunnar Ekelöf for his book "Diwan on the Prince of Emigon", a cycle of poems, which in the guise of interpretations of Byzantine songs and myths, finds new and personal symbols for the experiences of the divine and of suffering and love as the basic human condition.