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Norstedts, 2004. ISBN: 9113009338
Reviewed by Sarah Death in SBR 2004:2
Central to this collection of poems is the impulse to narrate and perform, to tell new stories or to retell old ones in novel ways. It is perhaps no surprise to learn from a recent magazine interview that Edelfeldt, an accomplished stand-up comedienne who lists madrigal-singing among her hobbies, intends these poems to be recited, almost like musical items. The tone is set by the opening poem Intro, which refers to a head that is like a flute, a memory like an open mouth, a wakeful eye, a longing for the carnival. But then we are brought up short by one of those unexpected gear-changes that are another hallmark of Efter angelus, and the poem concludes: “The whole/ long drawn out/ landing/ mankind made/ on the moon”. Perhaps the astronauts, too, are telling or becoming a story as we watch them?
This intriguing, sometimes baffling set of poems is open to a multiplicity of interpretations, and that is certainly deliberate on Edelfeldt’s part. Or, as she said to one interviewer, “Whenever a poem gets discussed, people want to know what it means. One of the points of writing poems is to avoid the need to explain.”
Efter angelus has a less unified feel and linear development than Edelfeldt’s debut anthology Salt (1999, reviewed in SBR 1999:1), which was an account of the emotional turmoil of a love affair flaring up and dying. The new collection explores in tantalizing glimpses the act of storytelling itself, perhaps most strikingly in the poems where Edelfeldt subverts familiar tales. Her Medusa, for example, in the two suites of poems The Snake Princess, now has a benign gaze that will turn nothing to stone. Her cast-off snake skins and lizard tails hang fluttering on a clothes line in the sunshine, while she is turning into a tree and reaching out her branches to her beloved, with young female vipers raining down from her foliage. A Hans Christian Andersen tale gets a similarly feminist reworking in The Mermaid’s Song as the plot goes into reverse and the mermaid is reeled back into the depths, regains her lost voice and calls to her prince from her underwater garden. But this storytelling can be a perilous venture; there are shades of Icarus in the recurrent kite-flying images and Medusa’s lament: “Too close to/ THE SUN/ no tale/ can become clear”.
The poems teem with the traditional language of fairytale and mythology: mother-of-pearl beds, gingerbread houses, emperors and nightingales, princesses and mirrors, poisoned chalices, snakes. But the vocabulary also has a highly innovative aspect, as in “portable astonishment”; “hot blood/ a steaming cup of it”; and “grief/ as dry and folded/ as a serviette/ for a guest/ who never came”. My own favourite poem is an atmospheric description of an abandoned school – or perhaps it has merely closed for the holidays – where the soporific sounds and scents of the natural world in high summer settle over the trappings of education like pollen on blackboards, and bees drone through empty classrooms.
Also by Inger Edelfeldt
Other reviews by Sarah Death
- Ellen Mattson, Tornet och fåglarna (The Tower and the Birds). Reviewed in SBR 2018:1.
- Therese Bohman, Aftonland (Eventide). Reviewed in SBR 2017:1.
- Ellen Mattson, Sommarleken (The Summer Game). Reviewed in SBR 2016:2.
- Jerker Virdborg, Skyddsrummet Luxgatan (The Lux Street Bunker). Reviewed in SBR 2016:1.
- Agneta Pleijel, Spådomen: en flickas memoarer (The Prophecy: Memoirs of a Girl). Reviewed in SBR 2015:2.
- Aino Trosell, Min grav är din. Krimineller II (My Grave is Yours. Criminelles II). Reviewed in SBR 2015:1.
- Mats Kempe, Det jag redan minns. En roman i 16 noveller (What I Already Remember. A Novel in 16 Short Stories). Reviewed in SBR 2014:2.
- Bodil 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). Reviewed in SBR 2014:1.
- Ulla-Lena Lundberg, Is (Ice). Reviewed in SBR 2013:S.
- Karin Alvtegen, Fjärilseffekten (The Butterfly Effect). Reviewed in SBR 2013:2.
- Marie Norin, vit vit (white white). Reviewed in SBR 2013:1.
- Peter Handberg, Skuggor (Shadows). Reviewed in SBR 2012:2.
- Håkan Nesser, Himmel över London (Skies over London). Reviewed in SBR 2012:1.
- Liselott Willén, Ingenstans under himlen (No Other Name Under Heaven). Reviewed in SBR 2011:2.
- Harriet Löwenhjelm, Samlade dikter. Med forörd och kommentarer av Boel Hackman (Collected Poems. With Foreword and Commentaries by Boel Hackman). Reviewed in SBR 2011:2.
- Therese Bohman, Den drunknade (Drowned). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Carola Sandbacka, Under kriget (During the War). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Susanne Ringell, Vattnen (The Waters). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Anne Swärd, Till sista andetaget (Breathless). Reviewed in SBR 2010:2.
- Käbi Laretei, Vart tog all denna kärlek vägen? (Where Did All That Love Go?). Reviewed in SBR 2010:2.
- Aris Fioretos, Den siste greken (The Last Greek). Reviewed in SBR 2010:1.
- Jerker Virdborg, Kall feber (Cold Fever). Reviewed in SBR 2010:1.
- Henrik Nilsson, Den falske vännen (The False Friend). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Majgull Axelsson, Is och vatten, vatten och is (Ice and Water, Water and Ice). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Katarina Mazetti, Mitt liv som pingvin (My Life as a Penguin). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Ellen Mattson, Glädjestranden (The Joyous Shore). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- Carina Burman, Hästen från porten: ett österländskt ävertyr (The Ottoman Horse: An Eastern Adventure). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- Peter Kihlgård, Kicki & Lasse. Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Göran Sahlberg, När tiden tog slut (When Time Was No More). Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Hemligt ansikte (Secret Face). Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Åsa Linderborg, Mig äger ingen (Nobody Owns Me). Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Jessica Kolterjahn, Ut ur skuggan (Out of the Shadow). Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Niklas Rådström, Gästen (The Guest). Reviewed in SBR 2007:2.
- Anne Swärd, Kvicksand (Quicksand). Reviewed in SBR 2007:2.
- Susanna Alakoski, Svinalängorna (The Pigsties). Reviewed in SBR 2007:2.
- Ann Granhammer, Den indianska krassens blickande (The Look of the Nasturtium). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Liza Marklund, Nobels testamente (Nobel's Last Will and Testament). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Alexander Ahndoril, Regissören (The Director). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Lotta Lundberg, Skynda, kom och se (Roll up, Roll up). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Finns det liv på Mars? (Is There Life on Mars?). Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Solja Krapu, Mogen för skrubben (Ready for the Cupboard). Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Jerker Virdborg, Försvinnarna: en efterforskning (The Disappearers: An Investigation). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Anna-Karin Palm, Herrgården (The Manor House). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Sven Lindqvist, Terra Nullius: En resa genom ingens land (Terra Nullius: A Journey through No-One's Land). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Carina Burman, Babylons gatar: Ett Londonmysterium (The Streets of Babylon: A London Mystery). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Ellen Mattson, Splendorville. Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Jacqueline Karp, Sudden Maraschinos. Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Svarta lådan (Black Box). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Marie Peterson, Du tror du vet allting (You Think You Know It All). Reviewed in SBR 2004:2.
- Katarina Mazetti, Tarzans tårar (Tarzan's Tears). Reviewed in SBR 2004:2.
- Fredrika Runeberg, Receptbok (Recipe Book). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Kerstin Ekman, Skraplotter (Scratchcards). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Various Authors, .DOC (.DOC). Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Sven Olov Karlsson, Italienaren (The Italian). Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Johanna Nilsson, Konsten att vara Ela (The Art of Being Ela). Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Unni Drougge, Lutherska badet (The Lutheran Baths). Reviewed in SBR 2003:2.
- Gerda Antti, Livet skriver kapitel (Life Writes its Chapters). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Anna Ehn, Man ska vara tyst när man önskar (Make a Silent Wish). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Johanna Nilsson, Rebell med frusna fötter (Rebel With Frozen Feet). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Jerker Virdborg, Landhöjning två centimeter per natt (Land levels rising, two centimetres a night). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Riktig kärlek (Real Love). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Kerstin Ekman, Sista rompan (The Last String). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Åke Edwardson, Himlen är en plats på jorden (Heaven is a Place on Earth). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Torbjörn Flygt, Underdog. Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Thomas Kanger, Första stenen (The First Stone). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Carina Burman, Islandet (The Ice Land). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Barbara Voors, Sömnlös (Sleepless). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Elsie Johansson, Nancy (Nancy). Reviewed in SBR 2001:1.
- Eva Claeson (ed), Metamorphoses, Journal of the Five Colleges for Literary Translation: Special Issue on Swedish Literature, Spring 2000, vol. 8 no. 1. Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Anna Lindegren, Orola. Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Kerstin Ekman, Urminnes tecken (Signs of Time Immemorial). Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Det hemliga namnet (The Secret Name). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Kerstin Ekman, Guds barmhärtighet (God's Mercy). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Anna-Karin Palm, Lekplats (Playground). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Oline Stig, Ryggen fri (Open Line of Retreat). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Carina Burman, Cromwells huvud: antropologisk komedi (Cromwell's Head: an Anthropological Comedy). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Inger Edelfeldt, Salt (Salt). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Agneta Pleijel, En vinter i Stockholm (One Winter in Stockholm). Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Christina Doctare, När man väntar sig en man: Ansikte mot ansikte med kriget (When You Were Expecting a Man). Reviewed in SBR 1997:2.
- Kerstin Ekman, Gör mig levande igen (Make Me Live Again). Reviewed in SBR 1996:2.
- Heidi van Born, En sida av himlen (One Side of Heaven). Reviewed in SBR 1996:1.
Other reviews in SBR 2004:2
- Judith Black and Jim Potts (eds.), Swedish Reflections. From Beowulf to Bergman.. Reviewed by Karin Petherick.
- Ulf Danielsson, Stjärnor och äppelen som faller: en bok om upptäcker och märkvärdigheter i universum (Stars and Falling Apples: a book of discoveries and remarkable facts about the Universe). Reviewed by Peter Hogg.
- Alexander Deriev (ed.), Ars-Interpres. An Internation Annual Journal of Poetry, Translation & Art, No.1. Reviewed by Ardis Grosjean Dreisbach.
- Peter Englund, Tystnadens historia och andra essäer (A History of Silence and Other Essays). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Lars Magnar Enoksen, Vikingarnas stridskonst (The Fighting Art of the Vikings). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- Maria Gustafsson, Den vidunderliga utsikten (The Amazing View). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Ninni Holmqvist, Biroller (Supporting Roles). Reviewed by Martin Murrell.
- Åsa Larsson, Det blod som spillts (The Blood That Was Shed). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Katarina Mazetti, Tarzans tårar (Tarzan's Tears). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Lotta Olsson, Den mörka stigen (The Dismal Path). Reviewed by Anne Born.
- Anders Paulrud, Ett ögonblicks verk (In the Twinkling of an Eye). Reviewed by Tuva Tod.
- Gunilla Linn Persson, Vännen (The Friend). Reviewed by Marie Allen.
- Marie Peterson, Du tror du vet allting (You Think You Know It All). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
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