Preface by Björn Julén

After all, Karin Boye´s poetry is about quite simple things - how to live and how life should be lived. It is about the pain of imperfection when perfection is desired. "Yes, of course it hurts", she says in one of her most often quoted poems. It does hurt as no person alive can ever be the one he or she really wants to be. But it was just in this pain of imperfection that her poems came into life. Many of them are love poems in which her aspirations are so much stronger than what she attains with her words. In a similar way other poems are about openness, justice and clarity. "Afflicted by Purity" is a formula for her constant efforts to understand the mystery that the contradictory life had given her insight into. There is no purity in life. It might exist in art, in poetry where she wanted "to paint a wooden spoon in such a way, that people had an inkling of God". To meet Karin Boye´s poems the first time is therefore to understand the duality between dreams and reality. Her words are often very beautiful, her poems vibrate of intrinsic music. But behind these beautiful words and this music, her anxiety and her split personality can be felt. Life is never what it ought to be. Reality escapes our dreams and walks its low paths, far from the clouds she wrote about in her first collections of poems. It is exactly this contrast that gives her poetry timeless life. Those of us who read her today, recognize ourselves through good and ill. She reaches us all the way and comes into us with her beautiful and bitter insight. Is that why we can so openly accept her words today, half a century after the end of her own life? Perhaps it is the duality in our own lives which makes her our companion, a Swedish classic.

Björn Julén is an associate professor in literature and head of the Karin Boye Society 1989-1999.

Copyright © (1996)
Text: Björn Julén.
Picture: Parnass.
Translation into English: Rune Tideholm
Layout and presentation: May and Hans Mehlin

Publication with the permission of:
Björn Julén, author and publisher of Parnass.
Rune Tideholm, translation into English