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The Swedish

John Cowper Powys Society

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About the society




John Cowper Powys
in Swedish


In Swedish

Newsletter no. 11 – The Modern Art of Living

by Oscar Wieselgren


The Swedish reception of John Cowper Powys may seem surprisingly early and intensive. This is partly due to coincidences, but there are also some very important figures that introduced Powys to the Swedes: Alf Ahlberg, Sven Erik Täckmark, Cedric Hentschel. Powys has also been treated by scholars like Harald Fawkner, Janina Nordius, Eivor Lindstedt. Swedish translations of Powys were early. In the later part of the translation history Sven Erik Täckmark is the most important individual. He was also the founding father of the Swedish John Cowper Powys Society, and he is absolutely vital for Powys in Sweden.

                      Later on, I will in a series of articles in our newsletter present the Swedish Powys reception. I will of course deal with Sven Erik Täckmark as well as the scholarly response to Powys in Sweden. In the first installment however – which is to be published in next issue of the newsletter – I will discuss the critical reception of the first translations into Swedish of Powys, the renditions of  The Meaning of Culture and The Art of Happiness . As a foretaste, I would like to give an example of how Powys was discussed in the Swedish Thirties, through a review on The meaning of Culture, written by Oscar Wiselgren in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, November 30th 1935, here reprinted in extenso.


Lars Gustaf Anderson




”Tell me, what’s Your opinion of the Soul?”, the character Oldfux asks in ”The Lying-In Room”, and Corfitz, confused, answers: ”Sir, that’s kind of hidden for me”. The questioner is not satisfied with the answer, and attacks Corfitz for his sceptical position. Today, Corfitz could have spoken more freely, because there are many who have expressed views on the subject in rather categorical ways. But most of these statements seem to fail, no one has stayed on as true not even for those twenty years that Ibsen, through his mouthpiece Dr. Stockmann, explained to be the average lifetime for an ordinary truth. The variation of values has been so impressive that we are all used to confront new psychological generalisations with some mistrust. At the end of the day, you rather hold on to classical psychology, well knowing that you know what you have got, but not what there is to come.

                      John Cowper Powys, however, is not an adventurous conquistador on the field of psychology. He may not be afraid of news, but he is in a liberating way free from the desire to seem original at all costs. He does not need to, because he has posture enough to be engaging in spite of his traditionalism. In the Anglo-Saxon world he is famous since long. Among the well-known Powys brothers - descending from a vicar’s family in Derbyshire and currently described in a book by Richard H. Ward – he is the foremost and the one most widely read. During 25 years he has been a public lecturer in America, and has as such been raised to immense popularity. Nowadays he lives in England, continuing to write, full of vigour and ideas. His work ”The meaning of culture”, now superbly translated into Swedish by Dr. Ahlberg, is one of his best books, and you have to rejoice that it is now accessible in our language. It is not a systematic psychology of personality that is developed here, rather a more general manual for the human culture of individuality. There are a lot of wise and fine observations concerning the individual and the forces that condition its development; social, literary, moral and artistic in diverse mixtures, and besides that keen-eyed general analyses, clever parallels, and well thought out valuations. The excellent Who’s Who tells us that the writer’s favourite hobby is long walks. That is easily understood, when you read him, since he seems to understand life and literature as a wide landscape, which he walks through with open eyes and an open mind. There is a lot to point out, for example the magnificent analysis of the value of intellectual training(p. 28), the superior treatment of the loud-mouthed apostles for the so called practical life (p. 168), and the truly personal rendering of the importance of the great experiences of art, obviously founded in his own life (p. 222). However, no summary can do justice to the noble and refined intellectualism that meets the reader through these pages. ”The meaning of culture” is a book that should be read more than once, it ought to be reflected and considered. In the helplessness and confusion of the present moment you will hope that it has a special mission to fulfil.


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This page updated 4 April 2012.