Born: 6 May 1904, Jämshög, Sweden
Died: 11 February 1978, Stockholm, Sweden
Residence at the time of the award: Sweden
Prize motivation: "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos"
Field: poetry, prose
Prize share: 1/2
Harry Martinson was born in Blekinge, Sweden, into a family of seven children. After his father, a merchant, died of tuberculosis, his mother immigrated to the US leaving her seven children with foster families in the countryside. Harry had an unstable childhood and ran away from home and school several times. As a 16-year-old he became a sailor, but later left the sea to become an author after contracting tuberculosis in 1927. He was first married to author Moa Martinson, and later to Ingrid Martinson, with whom he had two children.
Harry Martinson's works include poetry and prose, characterized by expressive and original language. Themes include his experiences during a harsh and unloving childhood and during his youth spent as a seaman and hobo. His philosophical reflections and descriptions of the natural world reflect both his affection and concern for nature and his interest in science. Harry Martinson's most famous work, the Aniara poetry collection from 1956, is about a space ship that leaves Earth after a devastating nuclear war, but then goes off course.