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Jag har letat efter dig Sara Razai, Jag har letat efter dig (I've Searched For You)

Schildts & Söderströms,  2012.

Reviewed by Nichola Smalley in SBR 2013:S

Review Section: Fiction

Jag har letat efter dig is Sara Razai’s
first novel. It focuses on the ill-fated
relationship between Annika, a shy
accountant from a small town on the
west coast of Finland, and Samim, a
distracted young man fleeing a war-torn
Middle Eastern country. They meet and
fall in love in the southern Finnish city
of Åbo, two outsiders finding solace and escape in each other.

Through Annika’s narration, the 
author explores the enchantments
and the difficulties of communicating
across boundaries – boundaries of
gender, cultural understanding and
of expectation. As Annika discovers,
these exist not only within the couple’s
relationship, but also between them
and the outside world: friends, family
and institutions - no one seems to
understand Annika’s and Samim’s

In this way, Razai explores issues
familiar in many multicultural societies,
such as racism, prejudice and apparently
incompatible customs. Certainly,
literature is a valid and valuable way
of exploring these complex questions. 
Fiction can bring freedom and richness 
to the debate precisely because it is
an imaginative and personal medium.
However, I didn’t feel enriched after
sharing Annika’s take on the world
around her, nor did it seem that Razai had liberated herself from the clichés
common to debates on cultural
encounters and multiculturalism. Her
novel trades in the same tropes as many
tales dealing with relationships with
the ‘Other’, especially the male Other. 
Samim is as mysterious and unpredictable
as Annika is naïve. Communication
between them is poor and hampered
by the language barrier. While their
lack of verbal communication is initially
smoothed over by their attraction to
one another, an insurmountable wall
of incomprehension is all too soon
revealed. In the end I couldn’t help
thinking this was a ‘new’ location for
the same concerns – as though the
issues raised in ‘multicultural literature’ elsewhere had simply been imported
into a Finland-Swedish context.

However, while the novel could have
been both more incisive and better
crafted, many things about it were
enjoyable. The insights into Annika’s
world-view and way of thinking are at
times touchingly personal. Furthermore,
the mixing of Swedish, English and
Finnish, for instance, is a distinctive
feature of the Finnish-Swedish fringes of
Finland, and is deployed effectively here
to create a real sense of place. If you’re
looking for a book discussing love and
multiculturalism in Finland in the early
twenty-first century, you could do
worse than to read Sara Razai’s book.    

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