Chair no. 12 - Per Wästberg

Admitted: 1997

Per Wästberg was born in  Stockholm in 1933. In high school at Stockholm’s Östra Real, Wästberg was precociously interested in writing and as early as 1949 debuted with a short story collection, Pojke med såpbubblor (Boy with soap bubbles). He took a Bachelor of Arts at Harvard in 1955 and a Lic. Phil. at Uppsala University in 1962. Wästberg began contributing literary criticism to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in 1953, later becoming editor-in-chief and editor for the culture pages from 1976 until 1982.

Wästberg’s authorship is extensive and manifests his breadth. Travel has been central, eliciting a geographical and genre fluidity. Special interest has been focused on the literature and politics of the African continent, and Wästberg has been crucial for the introduction of African literature in Sweden, not least through a ground-breaking anthology in 1961, Afrika berättar (Africa Talks), republished and extended in 1970. A summary came in 1995 with I Sydafrika. Resan mot friheten (In South Africa: journey to freedom). Add to this a lengthy connection to Amnesty and PEN, where he was Swedish and subsequently international chair.

In addition to novels and poetry collections, Wästberg has been a prominent Stockholm chronicler. A selection was published as Per Wästbergs Stockholm in 2013. He has also written monographs on figures such as journalist and poet Bo Grandien, politician/philanthropist Axel Hirsch and Stockholm rhapsodist Gustaf Adolf Lysholm, as well as biographical novels rich in contemporaneous colour, among them Anders Sparrmans resa (Anders Sparrman’s journey) from 2008. A suite of autobiographical books described as memoirs was published in five parts between 2006 and 2016.

Wästberg became a genre master of appreciations. Among several collections: two volumes of Lovtal (Eulogies) from 1996 and 2009 as well as Hyllningar. Essäer och krönikor (Accolades: essays and columns), 2021. He has also cultivated the small format and fragments in collections such as Övergångsställen (Pedestrian crossings) 2003, Mellanblad (Leaves) 2015 and Förlupna ord (‘Slips of the tongue’) 2020. Läsebok (Reader) from 2019 is a small-format memoir of experiences from a life in the service of reading and reflective writing.

Wästberg has been a member of the Nobel Committee since 1999 and its chair between 2005 and 2019. His book Utsikt från stol 12 (View from chair no. 12) published in 2020 is a retrospective of the Swedish Academy reflected through the academicians assigned to the Chair he has occupied since 1997. He is a regular contributor to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper and other press outlets.

Per Wästberg was admitted to the Swedish Academy in 1997, succeeding author Werner Aspenström on Chair No. 12.