Gunnar Harding

Gunnar Harding

Gunnar Harding

Portrætfoto af: Thomas Wågström
Gunnar Harding: Minnen från glömskans städer. Poetry collection, Wahlström & Widstrand, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Literature Prize.



The first-person narrator in Gunnar Harding’s seemingly small book Minnen från glömskans städer (in English: “Memories from the cities of forgetfulness”) is called a ghost writer. He continues to roam a city where everyone once was and life unfolded. Now it’s late in his life and his memory will soon contain only forgetfulness:  


Time is running out. 

Yet the pursuit is slowing down  

for the sidestepped, which is becoming increasingly inaccessible.  


“Sidestepped” it says, not “passed”, as one might expect from a poet who has most of his career behind him. But these are poems that look curiously in several ways – nostalgia doesn’t get in the way. Harding writes about a life that has been, but also, to a large extent, about the life that is going on with war in Ukraine, a new virus – and about the darkness that will inevitably come: “The surrender itself, / the inwardness of fear / waiting for / the darkness also to go out”. In clear and simple poetry, an existence is sketched precisely and with nuance, where meetings with people and art remain while so much else is forgotten, up until even the television detective Wallander has grown old and solved his last case. 


Minnen från glömskans städer is Harding’s twenty-first collection of poems and contains poems that, without angst or an iota of performance, deal with the biggest questions. What did love turn out to be? What was most important? And how are we going to manage to walk the last bit of the way “down towards the boat” for the last journey?  


Harding proves to be a safe companion for life’s questions. In carefully drawn, often mundane scenes, and in simple lines that languish, calmly and rhythmically, we catch a sudden glimpse of the experience of total presence. The poetic expression is obvious and self-assured, and has a completely unique tone. Harding knows how far he can go without losing his reader or himself. Sometimes there are no answers, only:  


The darkness said: What did you know then 

that you don’t know 

on the day that today is? 

Not many know 

why insects are drawn to the light, 

to the truth,  

to be obliterated there. 

Do you know? 


In Minnen från glömskans städer, Harding draws on his collective experience of a life lived in and with poetry. This collection of poems is elegant, written with impressive linguistic and lyrical precision. It is an obvious and worthy candidate for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. 


Gunnar Harding, born in 1940, has written, translated, introduced, and discussed poetry and literature for more than a generation. His contribution to Swedish literature as a poet, essayist, critic, and editor, including for Lyrikvännen, has been significant. He made his debut in 1967 with Lokomotivet som frös fast, and his later work has used American beat and French modernism, primarily Apollinaire, as its basis.