Friday, May 15, 2009
Library Loot 5: A Decidedly Swedish Flavour
This summer, I'll be visiting Sweden for the first time and, as I like to make at least a preliminary acquaintance with the literature of a new destination before embarking, Swedish titles are beginning to dominate my reading list.
I'm already quite well versed in Swedish crime fiction, and on the children's literature front, Astrid Lindgren is an old friend. But I want to venture into other literary realms as well and I thought that Literature in Sweden, a slim paperback reference volume, would give me some ideas. Here's the back cover description: "What's going on in contemporary Swedish literature? Are there any clearly marked trends or tendencies? What themes interest Swedish authors? This book presents a selection of contemporary authors with the emphasis on the 1980s and 1990s. In separate sections, three writers give their view of contemporary poetry, prose and drama."
I also consulted an online survey of Swedish literature that delves further back, and the name that jumped out at me was Hjalmar Söderberg. He's described as "one of Scandinavia's most prominent modernist authors" and the back covers of his novels are peppered with such words as stark, brooding, bitter, and tragic. How could I resist? I've chosen The Serious Game ("Set against the bustling cafés, newspaper offices, parks and hotels of Sweden’s capital city at the turn of the last century, The Serious Game tells a compelling story of love and delusion, passion and despair.") and Doctor Glas ("A masterpiece of enduring power, Doctor Glas confronts a chilling moral quandary with gripping intensity.") as my entry points into Söderberg’s oeuvre.
Back in the realm of crime fiction, I also picked up Kerstin Ekman's Blackwater ("On Midsummer's Eve, 1974, Annie Raft arrives with her daughter Mia in the remote Swedish village of Blackwater to join her lover Dan on a nearby commune. On her journey through the deep forest, she stumbles upon the site of a grisly double murder—a crime that will remain unsolved for nearly twenty years, until the day Annie sees her grown daughter in the arms of one man she glimpsed in the forest that eerie midsummer night."). This was the first of Ekman's novels to be translated into English (in 1995) but by then she had already been well known and her books much lauded in Sweden for decades, and I'm curious to check out some of her earlier books as well.
And finally, another crime novel: Camilla Läckberg's The Ice Princess, and I've ordered a copy of the follow-up, The Preacher, as well. Läckberg was already on my radar, but it was Dorte H. who rocketed her books back to the top of my TBR list when she mentioned that Läckberg is another Swedish writer who has referenced an Astrid Lindgren character (Ronia this time) in a contemporary crime novel.
I've got plenty to work with for the moment, but I would be very happy to receive recommendations of other Swedish writers whose work I ought to include in my admittedly sketchy and idiosyncratic crash course in Swedish literature in the months leading up to my trip.