2013:1 Issue

Editorial2013:1 Issue

The lively cover picture, ‘Camping Tent’ by Helena Wahlman, sets the tone for three of our translated extracts. They all deal in one way or other with people travelling from one culture to another, be they Europeans relocating to distant countries or other nationalities coming to work in Sweden. Lotta Lundberg’s The Island is based on true events on Pitcairn Island in 2004, highlighting tensions between Polynesian tradition and British values. Gunnar Ardelius’s The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here, set in Liberia in the 1960s, gives a postcolonial view of what it meant for Swedes to live and work in Africa.

Fredrik Lindström’s tongue-in-cheek story of the Polish builders employed in Swedish suburbia is told from the jaundiced viewpoint of their hosts: ‘Since we had progressed so far in Sweden, we worked on more advanced things: the media, web solutions, communications, advertising and so on; and as a result we could hire in others to do the harder manual jobs, others who were a couple of steps below us on the ladder.’

These various culture clashes shed light not only on other ways of life but also on the Swedish – and wider European – psyche, and what truly constitutes success, while our non-fiction piece, from Nina Björk’s Happily Ever After, turns the spotlight on western consumer society as a whole, which professes to value equality while surrounding itself with fairytales of success.

The success enjoyed by Swedish crime fiction can scarcely have escaped anyone’s notice, and our article on bestselling children’s writer Martin Widmark turns to the equally buoyant junior variety of the genre. We preview the convergence of Swedish children’s publishers, writers and illustrators on the Bologna Book Fair this spring, where their country is guest of honour. 

Poetry features in this issue in two different guises. Hjalmar Gullberg  (1898-1961) wrote his poem Död amazon, one of the best-known and most haunting Swedish literary texts of the Second World War, in memory of fellow-poet Karin Boye. Ingela Strandberg is a poet of our own days, and her new anthology draws on dogs, dog stars, starships, human hearts and the natural world to weave its tale. We sample it in the printed version of SBR, and the full English translation appears here on the website.

Bookshelf looks at crossovers: fact and fiction, ‘true crime’ and crime fiction. As our reviews editor writes, we are keen to support what Swedish publishers are keen to sell, but with our own twist.

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from The Island

Translated by Susan Beard and introduced by the translator with the author

Lotta Lundberg's latest novel Ön (The Island, 2012) is based on a true event which took place on the island of Pitcairn in the Pacific Ocean, home of the Bounty mutineers and one of the last remaining colonies of the British Empire.  In 2004, following reports made by tourists of underage sexual abuse on the island, charges were brought against most of the adult male population of Pitcairn, and three British social workers were sent to investigate. Lundberg's novel highlights tensions between Polynesian tradition and British values.



from The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here

Translated and introduced by B J Epstein

The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here is about a Swedish family that moves to Liberia at the end of the 1960s. Hektor, the father of the family, has to deal with strikes and problems with the workers at the mining company where he is in charge of personnel. Margaret, his wife, tries to fit in with the other bored wives in town, but longs for the lover she left behind in Sweden.  And Mårten, their son, is a teenage idealist, supported by capitalism while he believes in and hopes for the proletarian uprising. Mårten develops something of a relationship with the family’s black servant, known as Snake Boy because of his apparently diseased skin.

In a sense, the novel is a postcolonial look at what it meant for Swedes to live and work in Africa, and to ‘help’ the native population. While exploring this aspect of Swedish history, Ardelius also writes about family ties and about what gets communicated – or not – within a family.


The Poles

Translated and introduced by Steve Dawson

‘When does real life start?’ is the question Fredrik Lindström explores in his recent volume of short stories. Each of them takes a moment in the life of a character we almost recognise, their existence effectively on hold because they are trying to solve that one problem which prevents life from being just right.

Martin, his relationship destroyed by not dealing with his ever-growing pile of unmatched socks, Emma, with a packed suitcase ready to set off on a life-changing journey she will never take, Estelle and Fredrik, vainly seeking the sofa that will suit their stylish home; problems that may be utterly trivial, yet stop the characters getting on with their ‘real’ lives. 

Lindström is known as a stand-up comedian and as the presenter of entertaining TV programmes about the Swedish language and national identity. As a writer he has reflected on the modern human conflict between our high ideals and our inbuilt genetic impulse to survive, reproduce and look after ourselves, in Evolutionen och jag kommer inte överens (Evolution and I Do Not Agree). In the stories of his collection När börjar det riktiga livet Lindström allows us to glimpse, with his characteristic perceptiveness, the humorously fatal flaw in our fellow human beings, and to muse on where our own flaw may lie.


Dead Amazon: Remembering Karin Boye

Translated and introduced by Bruce Phenix

In May 1941 Bonniers’ Literary Magazine published Hjalmar Gullberg’s poem Död amazon, written in memory of his friend and fellow-poet Karin Boye, who had committed suicide the month before. One of the best-known Swedish literary texts from the Second World War, it has shaped the image of Boye as a tragic, idealistic heroine.

Gullberg’s poem provoked debate from early on. When it appeared in his 1942 collection Fem kornbröd och två fiskar (Five Loaves and Two Fishes), a reviewer aroused indignation by suggesting it would outlast Boye’s own poetry.

Bruce Phenix introduces Hjalmar Gullberg's poem and presents his translation of it.




Martin Widmark: The Swedish Children’s Crime Writer

Surprising as it may sound, it is not just adult crime fiction that has flourished in Sweden in the last few years – detective stories have been largely responsible for record publishing figures in children’s books, too. One of the most popular authors is Martin Widmark, who has been the most borrowed children’s author in Swedish public libraries for the last three years. 

Julie Martin introduces Widmark's work and presents her translation of an extract from ?The Mummy Mystery.


Sweden’s Neighbours, Sweden’s Children: Gothenburg and Bologna

Sarah Death and Helen Sigeland present a report on the Gothenburg Book Fair 2012, and look forward to the Bologna Children's Book Fair, held from 25-28 March 2013, at which Sweden became the first Nordic country to be welcomed as the guest of honour.


from Happily Ever After: On the Worth of People and Money

Translated and introduced by Dominic Hinde

Nina Björk is one of Sweden’s best-known feminist writers and cultural commentators. She first came to prominence in the mid 1990s with Under the Pink Duvet, a seminal and razor-sharp analysis of how society constructs femininity. In Happily Ever After – On the Worth of People and Money she turns her pen on contemporary Sweden and Europe, highlighting the contradiction in a society which professes to value equality but which surrounds itself with fairytales of success and self-worth in order to escape the truth of its own precarious existence.

Dominic Hinde introduces Nina Björk's work and presents his translation of an extract from Happily Ever After – On the Worth of People and Money.


The Great Silence by Sirius’ Nose

Translated and introduced by Göran Malmqvist

In her poetry, Ingela Strandberg relentlessly pursues memories of the past, which intrigue and fascinate the reader. Scott Minar, American poet and critic, has in private correspondence characterised Ingela Strandberg as ‘a fusion of Sylvia Plath and Elisabeth Bishop, but with a Swedish sensibility transported half a century forward’.

Göran Malmqvist presents his translation of Ingela Strandberg's The Great Silence by Sirius' Nose.

BOOKSHELF: REVIEWS, edited by Anna Paterson

VERKLIGHETEN NEDTECKNAS, ges ord, förvanskas och blir del av en ny omformad verklighet – dokument kring mordet på Robert Risberg i Uddevalla 960513Pär Thorn, VERKLIGHETEN NEDTECKNAS, ges ord, förvanskas och blir del av en ny omformad verklighet – dokument kring mordet på Robert Risberg i Uddevalla 960513 (REALITY IS TRANSCRIBED, Put into Words, Becomes Distorted and Part of a New Transformed Reality – Documents Pertaining to the Murder of Robert Risberg in Uddevalla 13/05/96)

Orosdi-Back, 2012.

Reviewed by Anna Tebelius ▸Read Review

Fallet Thomas Quick - Att skapa en seriemördarareHannes Råstam, Fallet Thomas Quick - Att skapa en seriemördarare (Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer)

Ordfront, 2012.

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

Mördaren i folkhemmetLena Ebervall and Per E. Samuelson, Mördaren i folkhemmet (Murderer in the ‘Home of the People’)

Pirat, 2012.

Reviewed by John Gilmour ▸Read Review

Förbannelsen. Hans Holmérs ödeAnn-Marie Åsheden, Förbannelsen. Hans Holmérs öde (The Curse. Hans Holmér’s Fate)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Irene Scobbie ▸Read Review

Kajas resa. En roman om ett brottCarin Hjulström, Kajas resa. En roman om ett brott (Kaja’s Journey. A Novel About a Crime)

Forum, 2012.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

SpringflodenCilla Börjlind and Rolf Börjlind, Springfloden (The Spring Tide)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

En rasande eldAndreas Norman, En rasande eld (Into a Raging Blaze)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Kautokeino, en blodig kniv Lars Pettersson, Kautokeino, en blodig kniv (Kautokeino, A Bloodied Knife)

Ordfront, 2012.

Reviewed by James Walker ▸Read Review

En storm kom från paradisetJohannes Anyuru, En storm kom från paradiset (A Storm Blew in from Paradise)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Nichola Smalley ▸Read Review

Mitt grymma ödeCarl-Michael Edenborg, Mitt grymma öde (My Cruel Fate)

Natur och Kultur, 2012.

Reviewed by Janny Middelbeek-Oortgiesen ▸Read Review

Sång till den storm som ska kommaPeter Fröberg Idling, Sång till den storm som ska komma (Song to the Impending Storm)

Natur och Kultur, 2012.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar, I: KärlekenJonas Gardell, Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar, I: Kärleken (Never Wipe Away Tears Without Gloves, I: Love)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Agnes Broome ▸Read Review

Brev till min dotterTheodor Kallifatides, Brev till min dotter (Letters to My Daughter)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2012.

Reviewed by Kevin Halliwell ▸Read Review

VinterträdetEllen Mattson, Vinterträdet (The Winter Tree)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2012.

Reviewed by Rick McGregor ▸Read Review

SvindlarprästenAleksander Motturi, Svindlarprästen (The Swindler Priest)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Željka Černok ▸Read Review

FörsmåddHans Gunnarsson, Försmådd (Rejected)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2012.

Reviewed by Tom Geddes ▸Read Review

HindenburgSusanna Lundin, Hindenburg

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2012.

Reviewed by Tuva Tod ▸Read Review

FallvattenMikael Niemi, Fallvatten (Fallwater)

Pirat, 2012.

Reviewed by Darcy Hurford ▸Read Review

vit vitMarie Norin, vit vit (white white)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Alltings börjanKarolina Ramqvist, Alltings början (The Beginning of Everything)

Norstedts, 2012.

Reviewed by B.J. Epstein ▸Read Review

Väldigt Sällan FinSami Said, Väldigt Sällan Fin (Very Rarely Fine)

Natur och Kultur, 2012.

Reviewed by B.J. Epstein ▸Read Review

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