Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unfortunate encounters with Swedish literature.

For my speed reading experiment I finally got the opportunity to read some Swedish fiction. I actually never read any Swedish books anymore, I simply don't have the time what with keeping up with French, Russian and English literature. I was therefore very happy to finally pick up a Swedish book! I really don't think native speakers have any right to neglect their own language; I am not good at Swedish simply because I am Swedish, I should also work on my Swedish skills.

However, the two Swedish books that I have read in the last year have both disappointed me greatly. I must therefore un-recommend them. The first one was a book my mother gave me, a very new book from 2008 (and I'm really no good at all at modern literature, I'm too preoccupied with classics): Myrrha by Ulrika Kärnborg. It should really be a good, intriguing read, the story being that of a simple woman and her relationship with a Victorian gentleman, of her absolute love for dirty work (the dirtiest possible) and his love for women doing dirty work. Yes. And this is based on true events. I was greatly disappointed because this book bored me more than anything else, except for a couple of pages somewhere in the beginning.

The other book that I read, the one I have been using for my speed-reading experiment, is Livläkarens besök by Per Olov Enquist. It is also a historic novel treating the subject of Christian the seventh, the mentally ill 18th-century Danish king, his English wife and his doctor, the latter two of course having an affair while the said doctor tries to reform Denmark. It's also based on true events, but I really know nothing of them, just like I know practically nothing about Danish history. However, this book was written in far too pretentious Swedish and with too little elegance. I didn't like it.

Now however, I have decided to finally read a book that I bought in the metropole Glommersträsk quite a couple of years ago for a euro or less. The first time I encountered this story was in junior high school when I saw a play based on it. It was amazing, just one guy on a scene with no props, telling the story of how he ended up on death row, and all the 15 year olds were mesmerized. The book is Cell 2455 Death Row by Caryl Chessman. When I saw the book in the depths of Northern Sweden I immediately bought it, but since it has been collecting dust in various bookshelves. I started reading it yesterday and read a hundred pages before going to bed (I read it in bed however, and according to the author of the speed- reading book you read slower in bed), and another 60 pages today while doing exercises. This is an excellent book for an easy read, and on top of that they Swedish is rather lively and interesting (modern day literary Swedish is mostly just weird) - it's a translation from 1954. For a learner of Swedish, the dialogue would be hell, spoken Swedish from the 50s :-) I am however very happy with the book so far and look forward to continue working with it. The story is rather excellent, I really recommend it.

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