2018:1 Issue

Editorial2018:1 Issue

In spring 2017 SELTA organised a programme of literary and translation events around the theme of nature in Swedish writing. Sweden is renowned for its natural landscapes and in a land of long coastlines and dense forests, the countryside is filled with thousands of lakes and rivers, mountains and wide open spaces. Seasons vary enormously according to which part of the country you are in and both the weather and the light influence much of Swedish life. Sweden is also a world leader in sustainability and environmental protection; and with a long history in conservation it was one of the first countries to address the loss of natural resources. In many diverse ways Swedish literature reflects the beauty and raw magnitude of nature as well as the damage caused to the natural environment by industrial progress. 

Our spring issue is brimming with prose and poetry on these themes. Göran Bergengren’s Tree Sparrow, beautifully illustrated by Gebbe Björkman, demonstrates the author’s affinity with the natural world and especially his native Östergötland. Therése Söderlind’s novel The Road to Fire Mountain, while specifically drawing on the Torsåker witch trials, powerfully depicts rural life in northern Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries. Rural life is also an important element in Elin Olofsson’s new novel Entangled, a gripping account of the experiences of two women in the small town of Krokom in rural Jämtland in the post-war years. Jonas Gren’s ecopoetry contains a strong ecological message and engages with the imperative for social change, presented in striking fashion here by the typography in The Land Survey. Concluding our nature-themed extracts, Ann-Helén Laestadius’s young adult novel Ten Past One vividly portrays the fear and anxiety of a teenage girl living in the mining town of Kiruna in northern Sweden and highlights the effect exploitation of natural resources has had on a community that owes its existence to the vast iron-ore mine on which it sits – a town that has been undermined quite literally and has to be moved, with its 23,000 inhabitants, three kilometres to the east. 

On tour in the UK in October 2017 following the publication of her book 1947: When Now Begins, author and journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink met her translator Fiona Graham. She generously agreed to make time in her busy schedule for an interview, in which we learn more about the writing and translation of this fascinating work.

In September 2017 Literature Across Frontiers presented an update to its 2015 report on translated literature and Ian Giles again summarises the findings from a Swedish perspective for us. The Swedish Arts Council in its annual news round-up for 2017 has reported that international interest for Swedish books and the Swedish book market remains strong. The book reviews in Bookshelf reflect the strength of this market, offering a glimpse of the wide variety and excellent quality of books being published in Swedish.  A selection this time rich in nature writing too.


The Tree Sparrow: Reflections and Facts About a Familiar Bird

Introduced and translated by Fiona Graham

Göran Bergengren, nature writer par excellence, combines the expertise of a naturalist with the sensibility of a poet. Pilfink (The Tree Sparrow) shows a deep affinity with the natural world, particularly the countryside of Bergengren’s native Östergötland. This affectionate portrait of a little bird which, though often seen, is rarely the focus of attention, reflects half a century of meticulous observation and shared life. The book is enriched by Gebbe Björkman’s beautifully detailed monochrome drawings.


from The Road to Fire Mountain

Introduced and translated by Alex Fleming

Therése Söderlind’s second novel, Vägen mot Bålberget (The Road to Fire Mountain) is an ambitious, expansive and evocative novel imbued with a strong sense of place. Set in a small village on the Ångerman River in northern Sweden, in a narrative that extends over four centuries, the novel draws on the Torsåker witch trials of 1674 and 1675 – the largest witch trials in Swedish history – to interrogate ideas of memory and history, rootedness and rootlessness. Alex Fleming presents an extract taken from the final section of the book, which picks up on many of the novel’s key themes and hints at the sorts of beliefs and suspicions that fuelled the hysteria of the trials.



from The Land Survey

Introduced and translated by Ian Giles

Jonas Gren, born in Stockholm in 1981, is a writer who engages with many different forms. Here Ian Giles introduces a selection of Gren's poems chosen to showcase the breadth of his work and highlights Gren's use of typography as an important part of the experience. Presented here is a poem that is car-shaped, while another looks like a nuclear power station. Gren's exciting approach to layout is the result of working with pen and paper, rather than on screen. Spanning a range of themes and eras, 'The Land Survey' is remarkably accessible to all.


from Entangled

Introduced and translated by Claire Dickenson

Released in Sweden in September 2017, Krokas is Elin Olofsson's fourth novel. Rural Swedish landscapes and the women who call and have called them home are a recurring theme in her writing. Krokas is set primarily in post-war Sweden, alternating between Swedish shop assistant Elsa Petersson and young German woman Uli Hartmann, following the unexpected friendship that develops between them. Claire Dickenson presents her translation of an extract from the novel in which Elsa is battling with her conscience over an as yet unrevealed secret.


from Ten Past One

Introduced and translated by Annie Prime

Maja is a typical teenage girl with typical teenage problems - plus the constant fear that the earth is going to collapse beneath her feet. She lives in Kiruna, Sweden's northernmost mining town. Excavations have made the ground unstable, and now the town is being moved and rebuilt. While others accept this as inevitable, Maja cannot let go of the home she grew up in. Terrified at the prospect of losing everything she has ever known, she becomes unable to maintain her friendships and schoolwork, and slides into panic and despair. Teenage mental health issues are treated intelligently and sensitively in this bittersweet young adult novel.


Elisabeth Åsbrink on 1947: When Now Begins

On tour in the UK in October 1947 following the publication of her book 1947: When Now Begins, author and journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink met her translator Fiona Graham. She generously agreed to make time in her busy schedule for an interview in which we learn more about the writing and translation of this fascinating work, which weaves together the disparate lives, public and private, of Åsbrink's chosen protagonists, creating a portrait of the year 1947 that combines the broad sweep of history with the highly personal.


More Than Three Per Cent: A New Look at the Statistics

In September 2017, the Literature Across Frontiers project released Publishing Translated Literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland 1990-2015, an update to its 2015 report, previously discussed from a Swedish and Scandinavian perspective in SBR 2015:2. This updated report analyses publication data for translated literary publications in the period 2013 – 2015, drawing on data provided by the British National Biography and subsequently filtered by Dewey category. Ian Giles summarises the findings of the new report for us.

BOOKSHELF: REVIEWS, edited by Fiona Graham

Naturbarn. Dikter i urval 1986 - 2016Eva-Stina Byggmästar, Naturbarn. Dikter i urval 1986 - 2016 (Nature Child: Selected Poems, 1986 - 2016)

Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2017.

Reviewed by Martin Murrell ▸Read Review

Rassel Prassel PromenadHanna Lundström and Maija Hurme, Rassel Prassel Promenad (Rattle Rustle Walk)

Schildts & Söderströms (Finland), 2017.

Reviewed by B J Epstein ▸Read Review

VildsvinHannah Lutz, Vildsvin (Wild Boar)

Förlaget, Finland, 2017.

Reviewed by Janet Cole ▸Read Review

Koka björnMikael Niemi, Koka björn (To Cook a Bear)

Piratförlaget, 2017.

Reviewed by Andy Turner ▸Read Review

ÖlandssångenTove Folkesson, Ölandssången (Song of Öland)

Weyler förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Hannah Charlton ▸Read Review

Själarnas öJohanna Holmström, Själarnas ö (Island of Souls)

Förlaget, Finland, 2017.

Reviewed by Emma Naismith ▸Read Review

Välkommen till AmerikaLinda Boström Knausgård, Välkommen till Amerika (Welcome to America)

Modernista, 2016.

Reviewed by Joanna Flower ▸Read Review

Jorden vaknarMadeleine Bäck, Jorden vaknar (Awakening Earth)

Natur & Kultur, 2017.

Reviewed by Annie Prime ▸Read Review

Tornet och fåglarnaEllen Mattson, Tornet och fåglarna (The Tower and the Birds)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Sarah Death ▸Read Review

Resan till ThuleKjell Espmark, Resan till Thule (Journey to Thule)

Norstedts, 2017.

Reviewed by Fiona Graham ▸Read Review

VeraAnne Swärd, Vera (Vera)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Deborah Bragan-Turner ▸Read Review

Antropocen. En essä om människans tidsålderSverker Sörlin, Antropocen. En essä om människans tidsålder (Anthropocene: An Essay Concerning the Human Epoch)

Weyler förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Anna Paterson ▸Read Review

Andrum. Om stölden av en flyktingkris och om de bestulnaViktor Banke, Andrum. Om stölden av en flyktingkris och om de bestulna (Breathing Space: About a Refugee Crisis that was Stolen and the People it was Stolen From)

Norstedts, 2017.

Reviewed by Darcy Hurford ▸Read Review

Mannerheim - Marsken, Masken, MytenHerman Lindqvist, Mannerheim - Marsken, Masken, Myten (Mannerheim - The Marshal, The Mask, The Myth)

Albert Bonniers förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Kate Lambert ▸Read Review

Fåglar i stadenRoger Gyllin and Ingvar Svanberg, Fåglar i staden (Birds in the City)

Dialogos förlag, 2017.

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

I starens tidTomas Bannerhed, I starens tid (The Time of the Starling)

Weyler bokförlag, 2015.

Reviewed by Henning Koch ▸Read Review

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