2009:2 Issue

Editorial2009:2 Issue

Some of us were lucky enough to be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August as the long-nurtured project to feature a cross-section of Swedish writers in its 2009 programme reached fruition (see page 60). The Swedish group was certainly a diverse one, containing everyone from essayists and poets to an internationally famous crime writer. Writing in The Guardian a few days later about the event as a whole, Alan Bissett reported that Scottish author James Kelman had lambasted his country’s literary establishment during the Festival for ‘the crime-ification of Scottish letters’ and for praising mediocre commercial fiction. Bissett saw this as ‘a manifestation of the old "genre v real literature" debate’, but urged writers such as Kelman to keep speaking out for new ways of expressing and thinking about ourselves. A similar literary debate is ruffling feathers in Sweden this autumn, following the publication by seven relatively young writers of a ‘Manifesto For a New Literary Decade', humorous in tone, but keen to promote discussion of, to take one example, the extent to which epic storytelling has been annexed by crime fiction and so-called chick-lit. The document prompted a counter-manifesto signed by no fewer than 32 other writers, and many column inches ensued from both sides of the debate. As author of this year’s edition of the annual literary round-up New Swedish Titles (shortly available in English on the Swedish Arts Council website), Annina Raabe sees the debate in positive terms: ‘Whatever else we may conclude from the manifesto and its aftermath, it certainly indicates one thing: young Swedish writers of today are not lacking in literary awareness, and are more than ready to get involved in heated debates about what is possible in literature.’ In this issue of SBR we are unashamedly helping ourselves from both sides of the arena. With the authors’ permission, we are pleased to bring you, as an SBR exclusive, an English translation of the manifesto. We also feature an extract from the work of one of the manifesto’s signatories: Sven Olov Karlsson’s The American House brings us traditional storytelling at its best. As the British bookselling community winds itself up for the imminent release of the third and final part of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, we give our own nod to the crime fiction genre with an extract from a new work by Anna Bovaller. Also to be sampled in this issue: the brittle despair of a woman acting out the roles of wife and mother in a disintegrating marriage in an extract from Kristina Sandberg’s latest novel; and the enduringly popular memoirs of a happy-go-lucky, young Swedish woman by the name of Birgitta Stenberg, abroad in the 1950s, socialising with Robert Graves and his circle in Majorca. To complete the cocktail we bring you quirky verses and wacky illustrations by the team of Stella Parland and Linda Bondestam, in the nonsense tradition of Edward Lear and Dr Seuss.

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from The American House

Translated by Neil Smith

Neil Smith presents his translation of the opening chapters from Sven Olov Karlsson's second novel The American House, which was published to great acclaim in 2008, with one critic writing that it offered the most compelling depiction of modern rural life in Sweden in generations.


'Manifesto for a New Literary Decade'

Translated by Neil Smith

On 22 August 2009 seven active and concerned young novelists published this literary manifesto in Dagens nyheter. The article sparked fierce debate in the Swedish media about the current state of Swedish literature, in all its forms.


from All the Wild Ones

Translated and introduced by Henning Koch

Birgitta Stenberg's suite of autobiographical novels, beginning in 1981 with Kärlek i Europa has won an enduring place for itself on the Swedish scene. The excerpt presented here by Henning Koch is from Alla vilda (All the Wild Ones), the penultimate novel in the sequence, published in 2004.


Catastrophes and Verses of Slumber and Noise

Translated by Silvester Mazzarella

This is Stella Parland and Linda Bondestam's first book collaboration, and was an immediate success with adults and children alike: Stella Parland's irreverent and playful texts found their ideal counterpart in Linda Bondestam's riotous and anarchic images. Silvester Mazzarella presents his translation of some of the text.


from The Boar Hunt

Translated by Rod Bradbury

Rod Bradbury presents his translation of an extract from The Boar Hunt, the first crime novel by company lawyer Anna Bovaller, featuring Stockholm company lawyer Petra Wester, who finds herself drawn into a police investigation because she is in possession of information that she is not at liberty to disclose. This is planned as the first part of a Petra Wester trilogy.


from Break

Translated and introduced by B J Epstein

Born in 1971, psychologist Kristina Sandberg has published three novels. The extract presented here is taken from near the start of her third novel, Break. In her writing, she explores women's experiences and situations and turns them into universal literary tales.


Borås Theatre Biennale 2009

BOOKSHELF: REVIEWS, edited by Henning Koch

Majgull Axelsson, Is och vatten, vatten och is (Ice and Water, Water and Ice)

Norstedts, 2008. ISBN: 9789113018362

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Staffan Bruun, Struggling Love

Schildts förlag, 2008. ISBN: 9789515017710

Reviewed by Martin Murrell ▸Read Review

Jonas Gardell, Om Jesus (Of Jesus)

Norstedts, 2009. ISBN: 9789113019604

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

Tove Jansson, Moomintroll and the End of the World

Tigertext AB/Ny Tid, 2007. ISBN: 9789519667591

Reviewed by Eric Dickens ▸Read Review

Marianne Jeffmar, En vass obändig längtan. En norrländsk roman (A Sharp Ferocious Longing. A Norrland Novel)

Bokförlaget Podium, 2009. ISBN: 9789163344077

Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson ▸Read Review

Ola Larsmo, Jag vill inte tjäna (I Do Not Wish to Serve)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2009. ISBN: 9789100120856

Reviewed by Stig Olsson ▸Read Review

Henning Mankell, Den orolige mannen (The Troubled Man)

Leopard förlag, 2009. ISBN: 9789173432658

Reviewed by Laurie Thompson ▸Read Review

Katarina Mazetti, Mitt liv som pingvin (My Life as a Penguin)

Alfabeta, 2008. ISBN: 9789150109436

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Henrik Nilsson, Den falske vännen (The False Friend)

Norstedts, 2009. ISBN: 9789113019635

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Viveca Sten, I den innersta kretsen (In the Innermost Circle)

Forum, 2009. ISBN: 9789137134727

Reviewed by Marlaine Delargy ▸Read Review

Lars Sund, En lycklig liten ö (A Happy Little Isle)

Norstedts, 2009. ISBN: 9789113021027

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

Mikaela Sundström, De vackra kusinerna (The Beautiful Cousins)

Söderströms, 2008. ISBN: 9789515225528

Reviewed by Željka Černok ▸Read Review

Per Wirtén, The Crazy Swede: en sann historia (The Crazy Swede: A True Story)

Norstedts, 2007. ISBN: 9789113016894

Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace ▸Read Review

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