Michael Meyer (translator)

Michael Leverson Meyer (11 June 1921 – 3 August 2000) was an English translator, biographer, journalist and dramatist.


Meyer was born in London into a timber merchant family of Jewish origin,[1] and studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. His first translation of a Swedish book was the novel The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson,[2] published by Collins in 1954. He is best known for his translations of the works of two Scandinavian playwrights, Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg. Braham Murray wrote of Meyer in his obituary published by The Guardian that Meyer was "the greatest translator of Ibsen and Strindberg into English there has ever been" even superior to William Archer,[3] but Inga-Stina Ewbank and especially Jan Myrdal has criticized the mistranslations, where Myrdal tries to prove that they are made deliberately. Myrdal also strongly criticized Meyer's biography of Strindberg.[4]

Meyer's journalism appeared in the New York Review of Books.[5] He also wrote acclaimed biographies of both these playwrights; the three volume work on Ibsen (1967–71) won the 1971 Whitbread Award for Biography[3] and the work on Strindberg appeared in 1985.[1] His autobiography Not Prince Hamlet was published in 1989.


For his translations of Strindberg the Swedish Academy awarded him their Gold Medal, the first time it had been given to an Englishman.[6]

List of original worksEdit

  • The End Of The Corridor, 1951
    • A novel based on his unhappy days at Wellington College.
  • The Ortolan, 1951
    • His first play, produced by Wrede in 1953, with Maggie Smith in the lead, and again in 1965 by Braham Murray, with Helen Mirren.
  • Lunatic And Lover, 1982
    • A play about Strindberg's love life.
  • Summer In Gossensass
    • About Ibsen's late love.
  • Meeting In Rome
    • Starred Kenneth Haigh, an account of a fictional meeting between Strindberg and Ibsen.


  1. ^ a b Mel Gussow "Michael Meyer, 79, Dies; Ibsen and Strindberg Translator and Scholar", New York Times, 9 August 2000
  2. ^ Michael Meyer "Frans G. Bengtsson to his translator" in Frans G. Bengtsson-studier II ed. Frans G. Bengtsson-sällskapet, 1997, Lund (Sweden), ISBN 91-971239-5-1
  3. ^ a b Braham Murray "Obituary: Michael Meyer", The Guardian, 7 August 2000
  4. ^ Jan Myrdal, Ord & avsikt, pg. 145-175.
  5. ^ "Michael Meyer", New York Review of Books.
  6. ^ Strindberg: Plays Three, Methuen 1991 ISBN 978-0-413-64840-2