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Åke Hodell, The Marathon Poet

Iconic poet-artist of the Swedish post-war avant-garde, Åke Hodell tells the story of his artistic journey through the absurd, satirical, tour-de-force that is The Marathon Poet, originally published in 1981 and now available for the first time in a facsimile-style English translation.

Hodell’s book is centered around a fictional race between poets, in which our author-protagonist becomes the sole qualifier after some fitness and alcohol tests. The narrative of the race is intersected by apocryphal origin stories of Hodell’s earlier works that freely blur fact and fiction, taking us even as far as Hell to find a publisher for one of his books. Through para-fictional devices, repetitive language techniques, phonetic writing, and satirical humor he continuously mocks authority. Hodell’s tall tales unmask and satirize oppression’s many guises—from disciplinary speed reading in elementary school to the forced repetition of a military command. In one chapter, Hodell relates the history of capitalism by way of a multi-vocal sound-poem featuring the voices of European and American automobiles. Through all the tribulations experienced by the marathon poet, Hodell’s pacifist and anarchist politics are always present, always in solidarity, always in resistance.[publisher’s information]

Edited by Kira Josefsson
Translated by Fia Backström
Published by Ugly Duckling Press
ISBN: 978-1-946433-47-3
152 pages

20 Eur

I am grateful to translator and artist Fia Backstom for making Åke Hodell accessible to me. Hodell is a singular voice, a type of composer known in all languages. He is the anachronistic resistor—a much-needed addition to the library of non-conformity. We need such word conjurers as examples guiding and inspiring our own poetry to skewer society’s “rational organization toward irrational ends” (Marcuse). Our world calls for ridicule. We need Hodell’s ridiculous analogies, allegories, and para-fictional retorts that take a stand for sanity amidst mind-numbing capitalist metrics; the soulless multiplications, rationalizations, and quantifications, the statistical erasures that render death acceptable. Poets like Hodell hold the bean-counters accountable. Read this as a form of apostasy that reaffirms the soul. Read this to laugh, or cry, or both at the same time.
– Gregg Bordowitz

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