1999 Supplement: New Writers

Peter Törnqvist: Fältstudier (Field Studies)
Born in Stenungsund, Bohuslän, and brought up in Småland and Västergötland, Peter Törnqvist has retained his fascination for peripheral places. Not for him the preoccupation with Stockholm that he notes in so many other writers. "I am absolutely saturated with the great stories, the classic epoch at the beginning of this century; and the ambitions of so many writers to 'take in everything'. I believe in story telling. But how to shape it in our time is something to be experimented with. I have only just started." In his time, Peter has worked as a carpenter, turf-cutter, market gardener, postman — as well as studying history at Gothenburg and Umeå universities. His debut Fältstudier was published in 1998, in the wake of a year spent at the Biskops-Arnö writing course. Törnqvist's short story collection depicts a gallery of characters struggling with "a leaking sense of reality". Peter, raised in the silence of the Swedish landscape, believes that he has been heavily marked by it. "In its desolation I see the promise of consolation," he summarizes.
Maria Larsson: Mimers Brunn (Mimer's Well)
As so many other Swedish prose writers, Maria began her writing career with poetry. When at the age of twenty she published Blå (Blue), the critics were gentle on her, perhaps on account of her youth. She was not yet convinced that writing should be her vocation. After a brief spell of academic life, she took off, travelled in the Iberian peninsula and ended up as a bartender in Lagos, south-west Portugal. While in Portugal she completed Honung (Honey), her second book of poetry. Then came the whole issue of novel-writing. "A novel has so much more text in it than poetry, and I’m not the kind that spouts. I like to polish my words. As for dialogue, it’s completely new to me, but I’m enjoying it." Mimers Brunn, in her own words, is "an apocalyptic vision." Currently living in Vancouver, Maria Larsson recently finished another novel. In spite of the commercial lure of the English language, she continues to write in Swedish.

Claes Holmström: Tredje stenen från solen (The Third Rock from the Sun)
The information on Claes Holmström provided by his publishers is highly Stockholm-centric. Born: Stockholm, December 1966. Grown up: in Stockholm. Lives: in Stockholm. Education: dropped out of a university course in cultural studies. In common with some of the other featured ‘new writers’ he has worked as a postman, to which he added a spell as a janitor in the 1980s. His debut came in 1994 with Tredje stenen från solen, followed two years later by Startpistolen (Starting Pistol). He cites his ambitions as "fulfilling my slacker ambitions, publishing a monotonous 500-page account every three years of countless visits to McDonald’s. Then, after twenty years, suddenly being recognized as an independent-minded member of the cultural elite…" Holmström describes his novel as an account of contemporary life that will either endure or quickly be forgotten, "in which case it wasn’t a good book." In the meantime he remains a therapy junkie, eating Cipramil and waiting for "something to happen…"

Alexander Ahndoril: Thaiboxaren (The Thai Boxer)
Alexander Ahndoril has been a presence in the cultural landscape for a while. Born in 1967, he is remarkable for his prolific output in very few years: six novels and ten plays written for the stage. Nevertheless, he remains an enigmatic figure, though one of the most accomplished writers of his generation. "What I want to give the reader is a suggestive world, a remarkable journey that enables a real displacement into ethical and aesthetic questioning…" He was recently commissioned to adapt his 1993 novel Den magiska disciplinen (The Magic Discipline) for the screen. "Some may conclude that sitting and dreaming of imagined worlds is a semi-autistic activity. On the other hand, the real world is also an imaginary creation", he adds. For more information on Ahndoril, access his homepage: http://home6.swipnet.se/w-995431.

Kjell Westö: Drakarna över Helsingfors (Kites over Helsingfors)
Born in Helsinki in 1961, Kjell Westö’s debut was in 1986 with Tango Orange, a book of poetry that combined imaginative thought with reflections on social responsibility. He spent the greater part of the 1980s working as a journalist. The experience seems to have been a formative one, at least politically; he once commented that he should like to write "an elegy for a lost generation." His view of the 1980s is that they created a political and cultural vacuum for its young: a world without any solid foundations. This preoccupation is very much reflected in his epic treatment of a huge gallery of characters in Drakarna över Helsingfors. In the children we see a Homeric nobility, but as they grow older they are shown in debased form, products of an intensely commercial era. Yet there is not sadness alone, but also a deep, almost sentimental love of Helsinki in all of its guises. Westö’s books have been published in Sweden as well as Finland. His short story collections – including Utslag (Rash), winner of the Finlandia Prize – are also published in Finnish.

Magnus Alkarp: De gyllene åren (The Golden Years)
This is his own account of himself: "Was born, went to school and performed dastardly deeds in libraries. Moved to Gothenburg in 1977, studied and worked after that as a composer and musician during the 80s. Started a family, studied (among other things) archaeology at Uppsala University, then worked as an archaeologist. Had another child (this time in the middle of Stone Age exam) and wrote my debut novel De Gyllene Åren (1996) in a bizarre provincial hotel whose guests included a couple of archaeologists and around thirty Chinese welders. Played the piano. After my debut, worked on film and TV scripts, as an editor on the culture pages of Upsala Nya Tidning, and continued my archaeological work. Meanwhile, worked on my second novel Mästaren vid vägens slut (Master at the End of the Road). Frequently I go to Rhodes to write. For some reason the climate on the island’s western coast is perfect for this kind of activity. Whenever people get it into to their heads to ask why I write, I always try to change the subject."

Johanna Nilsson: Hon går genom tavlan, ut ur bilden (She Walks Through the Painting, out of the Picture)
Like many of the writers publishing first novels in Swedish, Johanna Nilsson was shockingly young (just twenty-three) when she published Hon går genom tavlan, ut ur bilden (1996). Accordingly, her biographical details read more or less like any other undergraduate: likes sport, wants to travel, etc. However, the remarkable thing about Johanna Nilsson is the way she burst onto the scene – like a perfect butterfly from the pupa – with an assured and well-structured first novel. Potentially, it delivered a direct hit at the cherished cult of Scandinavian childhood celebrated in the works of writers like Astrid Lindgren; but Nilsson never resorted to the cynic’s easy path. Frustrated love and longing are always bubbling in her novel, never far beneath the surface. Reviewed in Arbetet, her debut was described as "the best novel of its kind of the decade". Nilsson recently published her second novel, Flickan som uppfann livet (The Girl Who Discovered Life), also this a story of the child. At the end of it all, one finds oneself asking a question: is it really possible for children to be as nasty as this?

Gabriella Håkansson: Operation B
"Novels start in different ways," Gabriella Håkansson writes. "This one began in March 1993. Somewhere beyond sleepy daydreams and a distant radio, there was a voice; a voice that spoke in clear, distinct phrases: ‘I weigh my every word, I attach value neither to destiny or coincidence; I am faithful to the laws of science’. It may seem strange, but my novel sprang out of this very phrase…" Håkansson’s debut, in 1997, was lauded by the critics, one of whom noted that "Operation B is a talented debut , both intellectually sharp and admirably controlled, in a tradition that reaches back to Poe, Hoffman, Borges and Calvino." Gabriella Håkansson lives in Stockholm, where she writes for a variety of publications. As yet she has not produced a second novel, citing the French writer Valery Larbaud who once suggested that producing too many books was as unpleasant as talking too much. She has, however, written an on-line sequel to Operation B which can be accessed via the Bonniers homepage: www.bok.bonnier.se/abforlag/BOCKER/operationb/Default.htm