The well

Lasse Söderberg
Translated from the Swedish by Lars Gustaf Andersson & Carolyn Forché

He who wants to remember, and is full of darkness himself, must stand by the brim of himself as by a well,

he must lean over the well with a stone in his hand and ask himself what the well hides, how deep it is, how distant the light that reaches him,

and he must, to be able to know the depth and the darkness of the well, throw the stone and see it slowly fall, as if thoughtfully, as if hanging in empty nothingness, until it is no longer seen

and he remains standing and waits by the brim of himself, leaning forward, until the stone hits the hitherto invisible water's surface

and he who wants to remember can see how the deep suddenly sparks, attracts the light, becomes living as when an eye opens, and he is recognized by another eye below.

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Headshot of Lasse Soderberg

Lasse Söderberg was born in 1931 in Stockholm, Sweden. He is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, and he is the foremost translator of post-war contemporary poets into Swedish from French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, German, English, and Italian. He founded International Poetry Days, a festival in Malmö, Sweden, and continues to arrange events in Malmö with his wife, Colombian poet Ángela García. This is his first substantial volume in English.

photo of Lars Gustaf Anderrson and Carolyn Forche

Lars Gustaf Andersson is a poet and critic. He has translated works of British and American poets into Swedish, among them a selection of the poetry of Carolyn Forché, Mot slutet (Rámus 2020) and Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky, De dövas republik (Rámus 2021). He is Professor of Film Studies at Lund University, Sweden, co-author of among others Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema (Scarecrow Press, 2012) and The Cultural Practice of Immigrant Filmmaking (Intellect Books, 2019).

Carolyn Forché is a poet, memoirist, anthologist and translator. She is the author of the memoir What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press, 2019), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent poetry book, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin, 2020) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is University Professor at Georgetown University and lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband, the photographer Harry Mattison.

Sweden’s foremost living poet, Lasse Söderberg appears here in the first comprehensive selection of his poetry in English, masterfully translated by one of America’s leading poets, Carolyn Forche, in collaboration with celebrated Swedish writer and translator Lars Gustaf Andersson.

The Forbidden Door invites readers to encounter a singularly emancipated sensibility for whom language serves as an instrument of transformation: “The air is like gold leaf,” he writes. “I take a deep breath/and become gilded inside.”

Inspired by both French and Spanish surrealists, Söderberg’s work reflects his singular synthesis of different cultures and political moments, gliding effortlessly from one reality to another: “When I got up from the park bench/I let my melancholy stay there.” As the translators note in a brief but illuminating introduction, “to be within poetry to is to be attentive toward everything that happens, including political life.”

Readers passing through his doors will quickly see why Ilya Kaminsky calls this “one of the most important and moving collections of poetry in translation that I have read this decade.”

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