Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Travels in Sweden (Actual and Literary)
My jaunt to Sweden began with five days in Uppsala and continues with five days in Stockholm. As far as reading in Sweden goes, in Uppsala, my mind turned primarily to biography thanks to some extraordinary tales I heard from a museum guide. Queen Kristina (1626-1689), for example, sounds like quite a character, a queen who consorted with philosophers and scientists, was very supportive of the university, and ultimately abdicated the throne to follow her religious convictions. I'd like to learn more about her. And then there was a pair of Uppsala professors who were highly accomplished and also extremely eccentric. First to capture my imagination was Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702), simultaneously professor of something like nine different subjects as disparate as medicine, music, mathematics, and history. He was the builder of the extraordinary Anatomical Theatre where public autopsies were conducted for the edification of medical students and the entertainment of tourists. I'd like to read a biography of him and also some of his own writing. I wonder if his final work in which he posited Sweden as the cradle of civilization has been translated into English? And also Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), father of modern botany, travel writer, and self-marketer extraordinaire. I'd like to learn something of his life, and also to read his account of his travels in Lapland. However, possibly the coolest thing that I saw in an Uppsala museum put me in mind of an English rather than a Swedish writer. I couldn't help wondering if the amazing Augsburg Art Cabinet served as the inspiration for Terry Pratchett's Cabinet of Curiosities. Click over to a virtual tour of it, and see for yourself.
In Stockholm, my literary preoccupation is fiction. I'm dashing about looking for English translations of Swedish crime writers whose books are difficult to come by in North America. And I'm also stocking up on translations of such Swedish classics as August Strindberg's The Red Room, Kerstin Ekman's Witches' Rings, and Hjalmar Soderberg's Martin Birck's Youth. Incidentally, the picture that heads this post is a portrait of August Strindberg painted by Edvard Munch which I had the pleasure of viewing in the Moderna Museet yesterday. And in keeping with the theme, today I'm planning a trip to Strindberg's house.
I'll post a fuller account of my travels when I get back home to Toronto. But in the meantime, I may post the odd quotation here from my new Swedish books.