2014:1 Issue

Editorial2014:1 Issue

There is an interesting article by Kalle Laxgård in the digest of spring book catalogues published by Svensk bokhandel (the Swedish equivalent of The Bookseller). He looks at the hype with which some Swedish titles are sold to foreign territories these days and, by tracking the subsequent fates of the those titles, predictably discovers that not all of them go on to perform well in new markets. On the subject of past hype, there seem to be slightly fewer Scandinavian crime fiction titles in the reviews columns and bestseller lists these days. The crime wave may have peaked, but waves are powerful forces and can rearrange the scenery when they come crashing to shore. The landscape for translated fiction has undoubtedly opened up; English-language readers are now getting the chance to see a broader selection of work from Sweden and Swedish-speaking Finland. Recent years have brought everything from humorous novels to supernatural teen/crossover titles, from autobiography to investigative journalism and reportage. We can also detect a shift towards classic epic storytelling.

Hype is an overrated and overused tool, but the power of compelling narrative endures, hence the sprouting of new Swedish literary agencies with names like Partners in Stories and Storytellers. They have an eye to lucrative film rights, of course, but few would deny the seductiveness of a good plot. This issue of SBR, too, offers a selection of great stories: a visit from none other than the Devil takes Maria Ernestam’s protagonist by surprise; Jenny Åkervall’s political thriller is a must for those who enjoyed BBC4’s successful Danish acquisition Borgen; family relationship malfunction overlaps with social and political tensions in Åsa Foster’s story set in contemporary South Africa; and a melancholy and mysterious London mansion plays a starring role in Gabriella Håkansson’s new historical novel. Our Bookshelf is bulging at the seams with exciting, readable new titles in the fields of fiction, non-fiction and books for young adults.

Will Swedish crime fiction’s next trick be to tap into the current retro vogue? BBC4 has, for example, bought the series Crimes Of Passion, based on the popular 1950s crime novels of Maria Lang. Not to be outdone, SBR combines homage to arguably the greatest fictional detective of all time with a crime story set in early-twentieth century Helsinki. The charming amateur investigations of a thoughtful Finland-Swedish librarian and would-be Holmes deserve to be more widely known.

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from Caipirinha with Death

Translated and introduced by Alice Menzies

Hearing a knock at the door in the middle of the night, Erica is convinced that it must be her partner Tom, coming back to her with his tail between his legs. Her near-perfect life had been thrown into chaos the evening before, with the shock announcement that he was leaving her. Standing outside, however, is not Tom but Death. He has knocked on her door by mistake, looking for her neighbour Malkolm. Rather than feeling terror or shock, Erica allows Death into her life. He is an elegant, stylish man, one who cooks excellent food and who enjoys an espresso. He is tired and weary, and wants someone he can talk to, someone who understands him. Gradually, he starts to fill the void left by Tom, and as Erica grows increasingly bitter, she starts to help him in his work, ‘cleaning up’ the world around her, with devastating consequences.


from Aldermann's Heir

Translated and introduced by Sarah Death

Insatiably curious, intellectually sophisticated author Gabriella Håkansson says she found the main inspiration for her new trilogy, one part of which has already been published in Sweden to critical acclaim, at the Royal Cast Collection in Copenhagen, which displays some 2,000 plaster casts of famous sculptures spanning 4,000 years of western culture. In her epic tale she vividly evokes an age in which old beliefs and a new industrial age are locked in battle. November 1800 sees the birth of William Fitch-Aldermann, who is soon orphaned and inherits The Temple, his father’s imposing, neoclassical mansion in Harley Street in London. William grows up alone in the mysterious house, surrounded by an army of domestic staff, a profusion of antiques and an array of adult advisers. Who can he trust? His father was the leader of a group called the Dilettanti, a fictional version of an actual society devoted to the worship of the classical deity Priapus in a fervent spirit of enlightenment. The richly textured plot entangles William with libertine fanatics and political traitors, eventually taking him on adventures all over Europe.

A destructive fire, a dramatic birth and sudden death set the story in motion. The extract below is from Chapter IV, entitled ‘Obol’ after a type of silver coin used in Ancient Greece.


Holiday by the Sea

Translated by Janet Cole

Åsa Foster has divided her time in the past few years between Sweden and South Africa. She now lives in Skåne, the quiet countryside around her home contrasting sharply with the sense of threat and danger that pervades her stories of life in South Africa. It is a country that began opening up to her when she went there in 1997 to study Political Science in Kwa Zulu-Natal, fascinated by the huge political changes affecting the nation.

The stories reflect the strongly hierarchical and conservative nature of South African society even today. Underlying them all is Foster’s awareness of the balance of power – between men and women, black and white, rich and poor – and what can happen when it is disturbed. The stories are also linked, says the author, by the common theme of the moment when one thing becomes another.

Foster hopes that the award of the most recent Nobel Prize in Literature to Alice Munro will encourage more readers to dip into the short-story genre. Man måste inte alltid tala om det is her first published collection; the story from it featured here, ‘Semester vid kusten’, was selected for the first Swedish edition of Granta magazine. It is also earmarked to appear in the Brazilian Granta later in 2014.

In ‘Semester vid kusten’, a married couple is trying to piece together a disintegrating relationship by that well-tried but so often futile expedient: a family holiday. The whole story can be found here on the SBR website.


from The Adventure of Thomas Melon. A story from: Mr Corpwieth: Gentleman Detective

Excerpts translated and linked by Anna-Lisa and Martin Murrell

In this charming collection of six stories of mystery and detection, the principal character is a university library assistant named Corpwieth, who also happens to be a highly successful amateur sleuth. The stories are set in 1913, in Helsingfors, where Corpwieth has built up a reputation as a local Sherlock Holmes, to whom he is likened, and is even referred to as a colleague of Holmes’ – tongue in cheek, of course, as the crimes are largely small-time in comparison with those that take place in London.

The fourth story,‘The Adventure of Thomas Melon’, begins with Corpwieth setting off from his home in one of the better-class districts of the city for his office in the library.


from I Will Not Serve

Translated by Marlaine Delargy

Jenny Åkervall was born in 1972. She grew up in Borås, but has also lived and studied in London. She now lives with her husband and three children outside Stockholm. She has worked as a journalist, and also as a political speechwriter for, among others, the former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. She currently works at the Swedish Parliament.

Jag tjänar inte (I Will Not Serve) is her debut novel, and successfully combines political intrigue with human relationships. Given the popularity of all three series of the Danish political thriller Borgen on BBC4, perhaps the British public has an appetite for Swedish politics too!

BOOKSHELF: REVIEWS, edited by Anna Paterson

Tre VägarKatarina Frostenson, Tre Vägar (Three Routes)

Wahlström & Widstrand, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Tebelius ▸Read Review

? [Frågetecken]Ulf Karol Olov Nilsson, ? [Frågetecken] (? [Question Mark])

OEI Editör, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Tebelius ▸Read Review

VitsvitAthena Farrokzhad, Vitsvit (White Suite)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Nichola Smalley ▸Read Review

Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoriaBea Uusma, Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoria (The Expedition: My Love Story)

Norstedts, 2013.

Reviewed by Kristina Sjögren ▸Read Review

438 DagarMartin Schibbye and Johan Persson, 438 Dagar (438 Days)

Offside Press AB/Filter, 2013.

Reviewed by Jan Teeland ▸Read Review

Kaos: Ett grekiskt krislexikonAlexandra Pascalidou, Kaos: Ett grekiskt krislexikon (Chaos: A Greek Crisis Lexicon)

Atlas, 2013.

Reviewed by Darcy Hurford ▸Read Review

När Finland var SverigeHerman Lindqvist, När Finland var Sverige (When Finland Was Sweden)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by John Gilmour ▸Read Review

Rocky fejsar demonernaMartin Kellerman, Rocky fejsar demonerna (Rocky Faces Up to the Demons)

Kartago förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Željka Černok ▸Read Review

PopulistenThomas Bodström, Populisten (The Populist)

Norstedts, 2013.

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

Marionetternas döttrarMaria Ernestam, Marionetternas döttrar (Daughters of the Marionettes)

Forum, 2012.

Reviewed by Deborah Bragan-Turner ▸Read Review

Läsarna i Broken Wheel rekommenderarKatarina Bivald, Läsarna i Broken Wheel rekommenderar (Readers in Broken Wheel Recommend)

Forum, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Analfabeten som kunde räknaJonas Jonasson, Analfabeten som kunde räkna (The Illiterate Who Could Count)

Pirat, 2013.

Reviewed by Kevin Halliwell ▸Read Review

Blekingegatan 32Lena Einhorn, Blekingegatan 32 (32, Blekinge Street)

Norstedts, 2013.

Reviewed by Tuva Tod ▸Read Review

Och ett skepp med sju segel och femti kanoner ska försvinna med migBodil Malmsten, Och ett skepp med sju segel och femti kanoner ska försvinna med mig (And a Ship with Seven Sails and Fifty Cannons Will Disappear with Me)

Finistère/Modernista, 2013.

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Bär den som en kronaSanna Tahvanainen, Bär den som en krona (Wear It Like a Crown)

Schildts & Söderströms, 2013.

Reviewed by Eric Dickens ▸Read Review

Det vita huset i SimpangHanna Nordenhök, Det vita huset i Simpang (The White House in Simpang)

Norstedts, 2013.

Reviewed by Janny Middelbeek-Oortgiesen ▸Read Review

Vi ses igen i nästra drömCarl-Henning Wijkmark, Vi ses igen i nästra dröm (We'll Meet Again in the Next Dream)

Norstedts, 2013.

Reviewed by Tom Geddes ▸Read Review

BokenNiklas Rådström, Boken (The Book)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Aldermanns arvingeGabriella Håkansson, Aldermanns arvinge (Aldermann's Heir)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Fiona Graham ▸Read Review

Den röda drömmenJoakim Pirinen, Den röda drömmen (The Red Dream)

Ordfront, 2013.

Reviewed by Dominic Hinde ▸Read Review

Sista resanEwa Christina Johansson and Kristina Sjögren, Sista resan (The Last Journey)

Rabén & Sjögren, 2009.

Reviewed by Helena Forsås-Scott ▸Read Review

Svag isEwa Christina Johansson and Kristina Sjögren, Svag is (Thin Ice)

Rabén & Sjögren, 2011.

Reviewed by Helena Forsås-Scott ▸Read Review

Mörkt svekEwa Christina Johansson and Kristina Sjögren, Mörkt svek (Dark Betrayal)

Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.

Reviewed by Helena Forsås-Scott ▸Read Review

Lex bokSara Kadefors, Lex bok (Lex's Book)

Lilla Piratförlaget, 2013.

Reviewed by Mia Österlund ▸Read Review

Du & jagKatarina von Bredow, Du & jag (You and Me)

Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.

Reviewed by Mia Österlund ▸Read Review

Fulast i världenIngrid Olsson, Fulast i världen (Ugliest in the World)

Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.

Reviewed by Mia Österlund ▸Read Review

Nordiska väsenJohan Egerkrans, Nordiska väsen (Nordic Wraiths)

B Wahlströms Förlag, 2013.

Reviewed by Agnes Broome ▸Read Review

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