Järntorget, Göteborg, Sweden
It was September, 1920. Dan Andersson had checked into the Hotel Hellman in Stockholm for the night. The next morning, he was dead. The day before, the hotel’s staff had treated the room for bed bugs. Using cyanide. But once the bedbugs had been cleared, they hadn’t aired the room sufficiently. Dan Andersson had been poisoned. By accident. He was 32. Until his death, Dan Andersson’s life had been pretty unremarkable. He’d been born in 1888, in a quiet town in a quiet part of central Sweden. From a young age, he’d been a wanderer. First came a trip to the USA to scout for work when he was 14. And then, back in Sweden eight months on, he travelled from town to town, looking for work. Any work would do. Charcoal burner, woodsman, factory worker, salesman. But by the time he was 25, in 1913, he’d found what he’d been put here to do. Write. In 1914, he published his first stories and poems. But the critics weren’t keen, and Dan Andersson’s work went mostly unnoticed by the public. Which was a problem. Dan was struggling to make ends meet. So he took up writing for newspapers and magazines, before taking a staff job at the Göteborg daily, Ny Tid. Which is why he is remembered here on Järntorget. Dan carried on writing novels and short stories, carried on composing poems. But those novels, stories and poems carried on not providing him with an income. In September 1920, he decided to go for a new job. Writer for the Stockholm-based paper, Social-Demokraten. He checked into his hotel ahead of his meeting with the editor. And the next morning, he was dead. And, as if to prove how no one knows what they’ve got until it’s gone, once he was dead the public in Sweden suddenly found an appetite for Dan Andersson’s work. Novels, stories and poems that had been unpublished at the time of his death now found their way to the shelves of Sweden’s libraries and bookshops. At last, Dan Andersson had what he’d always wanted. Acclaim. Although, sadly, he hadn’t lived to see it. To this day, his work is celebrated and enjoyed in Sweden. A museum with exhibitions about his life and work was opened in his hometown, he’s featured on postage stamps, and in 2005, singer Sofia Karlsson won a Swedish Grammy award for her album inspired by his songs. Dan Andersson died too young. But his voice can still be heard loud and clear.