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2007:1 Issue

Swedish Book Review 2007:1 issueEditorial by Sarah Death

Carl Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish naturalist, is said to have claimed he would really like to have been famous for creating the world’s first truly spherical cultured pearl. He apparently hoped his experiments with pearl culture in the River Fyris in Uppsala might prove a spectacular success. Instead, in his tercentenary year, it is as a botanist and taxonomist that he is celebrated worldwide. But sideways looks can help us discover surprising new angles, and that is what this issue of SBR provides: not so much the man himself, more the way he is reflected in others’ texts: from literature, in the novels of Ann Granhammer and Magnus Florin, to popular science, in the writing of Sven-Eric Liedman. The extracts from, and commentary on, the diary of Pehr Kalm, a Linnaeus “apostle” who came to study England in 1748, combine social and scientific observation, and highlight interesting contrasts with Sweden: in climate, agriculture and pollution, for example. We hope this issue of SBR will whet readers’ appetites and encourage them to follow some of our suggestions for further reading. The many tercentenary events will make Linnaeus even better known here, especially the creation of a garden in the Linnaean spirit in May 2007 for the Chelsea Flower Show, which will be visited by their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden.

Like Linnaeus’s apostles we, too, range far and wide: to Croatia, for the latest in our series on how translated Swedish literature fares in other European countries; to New York and Vienna for Lotta Lundberg’s powerful fictional exploration of “normality” and what constitutes a worthwhile human life; and to Uppsala in Sweden in the early twentieth century, to glimpse the tough life of a midwife described in Kerstin Ekman’s novel God’s Mercy. As for our cover picture of the Linnea borealis, this flower was the subject of an article Kerstin Ekman wrote jointly with Gunnar Eriksson in Dagens nyheter in January 2007. “With becoming modesty,” they wrote, “Linnaeus linked the qualities of the plant to those he attributed to himself: ‘My flower. Low growing, blooming briefly, easily overlooked.’ But it was undoubtedly his love of the plant that made him adopt it as his trademark. In his Flora Suecica he writes that it smells like a sweetmeat and that at night its scent carries over long distances.”

“May you live in interesting times” runs a traditional Chinese curse, and these are certainly interesting times for those concerned about the future of Swedish state support for translation. One very heartening consequence of recent developments has been the international clamour in the Swedish press and on the Internet from people who usually work relatively unseen: literary translators from Swedish have resolutely stood up to be counted and to make their feelings known.

Ann Granhammerfrom The Look of the Nasturtium
Ann Granhammer
Translated by Julie Martin
In 1762 Elisabeth Christina Linné, daughter of Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) saw a flash of light from the nasturtiums in the garden. According to the Linnean Society of London, the intriguing title of this haunting little novel refers to a phenomenon caused by fluorescence in the petals of the nasturtium. Ann Granhammar has previously published several children's books. Julie Martin introduces and presents her translation of an extract from the novel.
[Ann Granhammer, Den indianska krassens blickande: en berättelse. Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2006. 127pp. ISBN 9789100106171]
Sven-Eric Liedmanfrom An Endless Adventure: On Human Knowledge
Sven-Eric Liedman
Translated by Linda Schenck
Linda Schenck introduces and presents her translation of an extract from Sven-Eric Liedman's non-fiction book on the subject of man’s search for and relationship to knowledge, which opens with a discussion of Linnaeus's journey to southern Sweden in 1749. Linda Schenck's article from the 2002 Supplement discusses the dialogue she had with the author while she was translating this extract from the book.
[Sven-Eric Liedman, Ett oändligt äventyr: Om människans kunskaper. Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2001. 441pp. ISBN 9789100576776
]
Magnus Florinfrom The Garden
Magnus Florin
Translated by Neil Smith
Linnaeus does not believe that anything new can be created. Nor that anything can simply disappear. But new things continue to happen, and he manages to lose various things - be they people, plants, thoughts, or even time itself. The Garden is a lyrical fantasy that offers glimpses of episodes in Linnaeus's life. Magnus Florin's short novel could scarcely be further from documentary realism: instead, the author takes known facts about Linnaeus as his basis and embroiders a thought-provoking, funny, and inventive patchwork of scenes around them. Neil Smith's extract is taken from the start of the book.
[Magnus Florin, Trädgården. Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1995. 117pp. ISBN 9789100570712]

Pehr Kalm
W. R. Mead
W. R. Mead is the author of Pehr Kalm: A Finnish Visitor to the Chilterns in 1748. He presents his account of Pehr Kalm, student and colleague of Linnaeus, concentrating on his English Diary of 1748.
[W. R. Mead, Pehr Kalm: A Finnish Visitor to the Chilterns in 1748. Published by the author, Aston Clinton, 2003. ISBN-10: 1850657297]

from Travel Diary of the Journey to Britain and North America
Pehr Kalm
Translated by Peter Hogg with an afterword by Lars Hansen
Pehr Kalm spent some time in England on his way to North America. The passages translated here come from part 1 (of 4) of his travel journey. Peter Hogg's translation will be published in late summer 2007 by the IK Foundation and Company, Whitby, as part of its eight-volume work The Linnaeus Apostles - Global Science & Adventure.
[More information: www.ikfoundation.org or www.linnaeus.info]

Events in the UK Commemorating Linnaeus in 2007
A list of UK-based events commemorating Linnaeus in 2007.

Further Reading about Linnaeus
Some further bibliography on Linnaeus in Swedish and English.

Kerstin Ekmanfrom God's Mercy
Kerstin Ekman
Translated by Linda Schenck
In 1916, Hillevi Klarin from Uppsala takes a post as a midwife in the northerly parish of Robäck. In Linda Schenk's extract from Kerstin Ekman's novel God's Mercy Hillevi remembers the most traumatic event of her midwifery training, before contraception was generally accepted or abortion legal. God's Mercy is the first volume of Kerstin Ekman's "Wolfskin" (Vargskinnet) trilogy.
[The Vargskinnet trilogy is published by Albert Bonniers Förlag. God's Mercy, in Linda Schenck's translation, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2008.]

Lotta Lundbergfrom Roll Up! Roll Up!
Lotta Lundberg
With a synopsis by the author. Translated by Sarah Death.
It is 1932 and an educated dwarf named Glauer is part of the "Lilliput" freak show on Coney Island, but dreams of becoming a playwright. His colleague Ka, a midget hermaphrodite, is to be exhibited outside the famous "incubator show" of deformed unborn babies. But she persuades Glauer to excape with her to Europe. This is the story of a dream of achieving remarkable things. Of daring to believe in your dream and to seek restitution. It explores human worth and Sweden's wartime stance, and asks who we feel obliged to exclude when we try to construct utopias.
[Lotta Lundberg, Skynda, kom och se, Albert Bonniers Förlag 2006. 397pp. ISBN 9789100109646]

Swedish Literature in Croatia
Željka Černok
Continuing our ongoing occasional series on Swedish publishing in other European countries, we present translator Željka Černok's outline of the situation in Croatia.


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