Göran Schildt’s creative production comprises works on cultural history and art history, essays, journalism, travel books, biographies and fiction. His works range over a variety of fields, the most prominent of which are sailing and the Mediterranean.
Göran Schildt was born in 1917 in Helsinki. Since childhood, he had dreamed of becoming a writer like his father Runar Schildt. In his memoirs, Göran Schildt writes that he had a crate outside his father’s study where he wrote his first stories. Runar Schildt committed suicide when Göran Schildt was only 8 years old.
Göran Schildt was privately tutored and graduated as a student one year ahead of his classmates. He then travelled to France to learn the language. In the autumn of 1934, he boarded with a family in the Pyrenees and during the following spring studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris. It was at Christmas 1934, that he travelled to Mallorca and came in contact with the Mediterranean for the first time in his life. In 1937, Göran Schildt made another important trip to Italy with his friend Georg Henrik von Wright.
From the Winterwar to the Wake of a Wish
Göran Schildt participated in the Winter War of 1939-40 and was severely injured by an explosive bullet that hit him in the stomach. During the long healing process he decided that if he survived, he would sail to the Mediterranean with his own boat. That dream came true in 1948 when he sailed the ketch Daphne from the North via the French rivers and canals down to Lavagna. The book In the Wake of a Wish (1949) recounting the journey became a great success.
As a writer, Göran Schildt is best known for his books about sailing with Daphne. Schildt’s writing is diverse and includes works on cultural history and art history, as well as essays, journalism, travel writing, biographies and fiction. His doctoral thesis in art history was about the artist Paul Cézanne. His book about André Gide apparently also contributed to Gide receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. Göran Schildt applied for a professorship in art history at the University of Helsinki in 1947. At the last moment, however, he had second thoughts and withdrew the application. Instead, he chose sailing and the free life of a writer.
A new home on Leros island
In 1965, Göran Schildt acquired a second home on the Greek island of Leros. There he came in direct contact with the Greek culture and his sailing boat Daphne got a new home harbour. Today, the restored Daphne is at display in the Forum Marinum in Turku.
The friendship with Alvar Aalto
The friendship between Alvar Aalto and Göran Schildt Schildt began in 1952 when Schildt together with his friend Roberto Sambonet visited Aalto’s architectural office in Helsinki. The meeting resulted in a close friendship that lasted until Aalto’s death in 1976. Schildt published articles on Aalto’s new buildings and after Aalto’s death he wrote a biography in three volumes about him. As a token of friendship Alvar Aalto offered to design a house for Göran and Christine Schildt in Ekenäs. The house was completed in the 1970. It was in this house that Göran Schildt drew his last breath in 24 March 2009. The house is now owned by the Christine and Göran Schildt Foundation.