2015-02-28

The Careless

My last read but one (I´m a bit late on the blogging at the moment) was Margaret Drabble´s "The Gates of Ivory" (= Sw. "Elfenbensporten") from 1991, which has just been re-published by Modernista, in a series of modern classics. It was very favourably reviewed in one of the newspapers I read, so I suggested to my reading friend that we go for it in tandem, as I have always wanted to read Drabble, if only for the quote about sandwiches, which I can not find in English, so I don´t know if she actually said it like this:
"Det finns ingen anledning, till varför man inte skulle kunna njuta av smörgåsar och kärlek i evighet.Till skillnad från vissa andra tycks dessa nöjen inte ha någon inbyggd förslitning." (= There is no reason why one couldn´t enjoy sandwiches and love for all eternity. Unlike some others, these pleasures seem to have no natural tendency to wear. - Ok, probably all wrong; it´s weird and dangerous to translate back and forth.)
Anyway! It turned out that "The Gates of Ivory" is the last in a series of three novels, the first being "The Radiant Way" and the second "A Natural Curiosity". Not that I think it matters very much. I have checked out the reviews of all the novels in the New York Times (where they still write excellent and learned reviews - Swedish critics are not as sharp as we think they used to be, and it has been up for debate in the newspapers all winter), and they only confirm my decision not to read the other two. Not that this - or the others, I imagine - is a bad novel, on the contrary. It is very well written, and I never once felt inclined to put it down (it is 400 pages) even though the characters are a bunch of ridiculous people.

From the terracotta army - the only vaguely fitting illustration
 I coulf find in my photo collection.
The person who is the engine of the story is Stephen Cox, a middle-aged author famous for a Booker Award-winning novel about the Paris Commune. He is estranged from his mother and his brothers, and lives a rather quite single life in a small flat in London. Now - in 1985, that is - he decides to go looking for Pol Pot, to write a book or a play about him. It seems he is also looking for some meaning of life other than hoarding money, luxury items, and praise, which was the way of the 80´s, if you remember. So, he leaves his friends behind and disappear in the Far East. A couple of years later, his friend Liz Headleand, a divorced psychiatrist, recieves a package containing some of his notebooks and other papers, along with a human finger.

Now, what would you do if one of your friends, of whom you have heard nothing for years, suddenly sent you a package like that? A human finger, for Pete´s sake! Well, Liz Headleand does... not much. She phones another one of Stephen´s friends, Hattie (who also lives in Stephen´s flat while he is away), they get together, and do... pretty much nothing.

There are others - most left-leaning intellectuals who passed Cambridge or Oxford, most of them in important jobs with the government or BBC or something like that, all high-status people - at the fringes of this story, some of whom were probably more prominent in the earlier novels. They go in and out of the different scenes Drabble sets up and what strikes me most about all of them are their... carelessness. I mean both that they are careless as in negligent and reckless, but also indifferent and unconcerned. Marilynne Robinson writes, in her critique of "The Radiant Way", the first book in this series, and I think it applies to this one, too:
"The emotional withdrawal proposed to us in ''The Radiant Way'' is truly radical. Cast off familial and social bonds and what is left? Liz Headleand doing lunch, being brilliant, though somehow never in our hearing. This novel is a valuable specimen of a new consciousness. It has no other claim on the reader's attention."
Linda Simon, who reviewed "The Gates of Ivory", goes a bit farther:
""The Gates of Ivory" is intellectually stimulating and, as we might expect from Ms. Drabble, very smart. But ideas do not make a novel. Characters do. And we need to care about them, deeply."
What is the point of all these secondary characters? asked my friend in our discussion. My guess is that Drabble wants to show us how important Stephen Cox is to Liz - or, how unimportant, rather - and how little his fate concerns those who call themselves his friends. They don´t care much. In the end, Liz goes looking for Stephen, not because she starts caring all of a sudden, but because it is the right thing to do. I get the feeling it´s about being seen to do the right thing.

The only person in this story that I like is Miss Porntip, a Thai former beauty queen, born in a mountain village, grown up in the massage parlours of Bangkok, now a wealthy entrepreneur who collects gems and interesting and useful boyfriends. She takes a liking to Stephen and tries to convince him that there is no simple paradise in communism, rather that the only way to happiness is through capitalism, fashion, medical care, refrigerators, maple syrup, et cetera. Stephen is not convinced and instead seeks the company of two like-minded photographers and lets them guide him on his journey into the Cambodian countryside. Miss Porntip also has a heart, and later gives much help to Liz in her search. (I would have given you a nice quote here, if I hadn´t read the Swedish translation.)

There are a couple of scenes that I really like, where I can relate all of a sudden. One is a lunch with Liz and her best friend Alix, where Drabble really nails how the balance in a friendship can shift when one of them does not do the required sharing but holds something back (in this case a very private matter concerning a husband´s health), and how icy it can become under the surface for reason that can hardly be acknowledged (being fundamentally unfair, after all).

My reading friend also pointed out how archetypal the characters all were (we both took part in a study circle on Jean Shinoda Bolen´s theories a few years ago), and we started discussing what archetypes - according to Bolen´s pantheon - fit whom - like how Stephen Cox is a Hades character, drawn to death; how one of the photographers he befriends is a Hermes archetype, a messenger who guides people back and forth from the Kingdom of Death (one of the refugee camps); how Miss Porntip is very Artemis-like, an independent force; and how some characters shift from one archetype to another, or inhabit several; for example, Liz, who is divorced, still carries the written offer of marriage that her ex-husband gave her, probably thirty years before, in a zipped-up compartment her handbag, which I think signals a Hera (wife) archetype in the past, no longer active, but not quite forgotten either. We agreed that the novel really is very suitable for this kind of discussion, and I suspect that it will linger in my mind for quite some time, and that we will perhaps discuss scenes later on.

Also, I googled "the ivory gates" and it seems this, originally from the Odyssey, refers to deceiving, false dreams. Which makes our discussion connecting the characters to the Greek pantheon even more relevant, I feel.

A week ago I thought it improbable that I would read anything more by Drabble, but now that some more time has passed, I think that with the kind of reading that my friend suggested, mythologically slanted, as it were, would be very rewarding. So, now I think it likely that I will pick up more Drabble in the future. She certainly is interesting.

2015-02-08

Lionhearts

Over the Christmas holidays, Swedish television broadcast a three-episode documentary about Astrid Lindgren, who is perhaps our most beloved author. She wrote several children´s books from the late 40´s until the 80´s, from "Pippi Longstocking", over "The Six Bullerby Children", "Karlsson-on-the-Roof", "Emil of Lönneberga", "Bill Bergson" ("Kalle Blomkvist" in Swedish), "Mio, my son", "The Brothers Lionheart", to "Ronia, the Robber´s Daughter". She also wrote the script to "Vi på Saltkråkan", a wonderful television series about a couple of families on an island in the Stockholm archipelago.

I didn´t know much about her life and it was really interesting to see what inspired all those stories. She said she remembered her childhood well, because she had been such a happy child, with happy parents, but that she had hardly any memories from her teens, when she was very unhappy. She was closest to her older brother, with whom she played the best, and he was the model for many of her characters, the older, kind brothers.

Little "Rusky" knows he is going to die and his older brother comforts him.
At eighteen, she became pregnant and involved in a great scandal, when the father of her child (with whom she was not in love, she said she was simply young and flattered that he was in love with her), a fifty-something newspaper man, was sued by his wife and mother of his seven children. Astrid fled to Denmark to have her son Lars and he was put in fostercare there for three years, until his fostermother became ill and Astrid, who was struggling to make a living as a typist in Stockholm, took him to her. After a few months of barely making it work, her parents decided to take the boy in, and when Astrid married soon after that, he could finally live permanently with her. This was her life trauma, and many of her books are about abandoned, lonely little boys, as well as about strong but equally alone little girls.

Happily re-united in the Cherry Valley.
She worked for Swedish intelligence during the Second World War, and spent a few years working for an internationally renowned criminologist. These experienced inspired her books about Bill Bergson, the master detective, and the Lionheart brothers, who fight in the resistance movement against the evil knight Tengil.

She had a daughter in her marriage, and was widowed in 1952. She never married again, but worked as an editor while also writing her books. She spoke English and German equally well, has readers in most countries in the world, and received sackfuls of letters every day. She even took the time to properly correspond with some of her readers, like one troubled little girl (interviewed in the documentary) to whom she wrote for almost 30 years (they never met).

After having seen the documentary yesterday, I decided to re-read "The Brothers Lionheart". I probably haven´t read it since the early 80´s, late 70´s perhaps. It´s a well-read book though, it took me a while to find it since the back is missing. It´s a sad story about leaving home and having to do brave things even though one is scared, and I see how this would have appealed to me. Unlike Astrid, I was not a happy child and can remember very little about childhood. Thanks to women like her, I could grow up to be a free (relatively) adult, and that suited me better than being a child. She wrote this book for her brother, who had a heart disease and knew he was soon going to die. It was a "consolation book" for them both. It was also a book which was inspired by her work in the Second World War and how she experienced the struggle for freedom from Nazi rule. The wonderful illustrations are by Ilon Wikland, who came to Sweden as a fourteen year-old refugee from Estonia.

Jonathan, who is all good, even rescues one of Tengil´s soldiers, when he nearly drowns. 
The story is about little Karl Lejon (Lion), called Skorpan (Rusky in English translation) by his brother (after the little biscuits he loves), almost ten years old, who is dying from tuberculosis. His thirteen-year-old brother Jonathan comforts him and tells him that they will meet again in Nangijala, the land beyond the stars that is still in the age of fairytales. After the house catches fire, Jonathan bravely saves Rusky´s life, taking him on his back and jumping from the third floor, dying from the fall. In an obituary, Jonathan´s teacher writes that he deserves the name Lionheart.

Not long after, Rusky succumbs to his coughs and suddenly finds himself standing in front of a small farmhouse with a sign on the gate: "The Brothers Lionheart". The brothers are united in the Cherry Valley in Nangijala and Rusky - who is now healthy and strong - is deliriously happy for a while, but not all is well in Nangijala. Their neighbouring valley, the Thorn Rose Valley, is enslaved by the evil knight Tengil, who has a terrible weapon called Katla, which no one wants to talk about, but the name makes Rusky shudder. Jonathan is in league with the leader of the resistance, Sofia, and he leaves on a mission for Thorn Rose Valley.

The evil Tengil terrorizes the Thorn Rose Valley folk.

After a bad dream, in which he hears Jonathan call for help, Rusky goes after him, and I am not going to spoil the story by telling you about it any further. It is sad and dark, people die in it, and Lindgren was much criticized for having written such a dark and sad children´s book. Still, it is also a very hopeful story and good prevails, even though the price is high. It is one of the most loved and important books ever written, I think. It is often quoted in obituary notices for children, and adults too: "Don´t cry mummy, we´ll see each other again in Nangijala", which is on a note Rusky leaves for his mother the night he feels he is going to die.

I cried so much reading this book - I don´t remember crying so much when I read it as a child. I guess if you are happy, you´ll read it as a tragedy, but if you are unhappy, you´ll read it as hopeful and comforting. Yes, this is a truth: happy people have no idea what unhappy people need. Happy people can be cruel, with the best intentions. We should never forget that. Astrid Lindgren certainly never did.

2015-02-05

Posthumous Reputation

In "Svenska teckningar - 1800-talet" (= Swedish drawings from the 19th century) I found more than Carl Larsson. I already knew about Johan Tobias Sergel, who is perhaps most known as a sculptor. He was born in Stockholm by German parents, spent twelve years abroad (was elected member of the French Academy) and was then called back to Sweden by King Gustav III, whose statue he made, among many other things. (It´s on one of my best photos from last years outdoors art exhibition.) I know him mainly for his drawings, actually. This is one of his best known. He lived with Anna-Rella, a waitress, in a "Stockholm-marriage" and had several children by her.

By Sergel: from when the Prince Karl Johan visits his studio.






I had to laugh at this quote from the book (translated by me), concerning one of Sergel´s contemporaries.
In 1812 Sergel resigned [as professor at the Academy of Art]; his successor was the meek history and theatre painter Emanuel Limnell. In spite of a long life - he was almost a hundred years old - Limnell has not made any lasting impression in our history of art. As a drawing teacher his was weak to begin with, but managed during his half-century long career to become worse.
These are two of his drawings. You make up your own mind:

The unveiling of the Gustav III-statue by Sergel (see links above).

"The liberal arts", a burlesque allegory. 

2015-02-03

Carl Larsson - Family Comics


Lisbeth, my child, do not poke my paining, it is wet!



Lisbeth immediately stops and turns her back to the easel.



Lisbeth, if you touch my sketch, you will be spanked!



Lisbeth is a bit perplexed, still, she lifts her index-. 



Lisbeth, don´t you dare!



Lisbeth changes her mind, but can´t get the idea from her head.



Now mum and dad can´t take it any more (they burst out laughing) - Lisbeth had to poke!



As you can see from the above, Lisbeth is a real character!

This charming and loving little comic was drawn by Swedish artist Carl Larsson for his book "De Mina" (= my family) from 1895. I found it when I was browsing "Svenska teckningar - 1800-talet" (= Swedish drawings from the 19th century).  He is most famous for his paintings of his home in Sundborn, which was created by his wife, Karin (who was a very talented artist and gave up a promising career when she married), in a style very much inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement. Thanks to the Swedish Academy, you can enjoy his book "Ett Hem" (= a home) on their website. Perhaps not so much the introductory text, but the paintings that start on page ten (X). This was the first of the books that established the Larsson home as one to be admired and copied. You can also read "De Mina", "Larssons", and "Åt solsidan" (= on the sunny side). These books make even me want to re-paint my furniture in warm red shades!

If Larsson´s style of painting sometimes reminds you of comic books it´s no wonder - some are more or less coloured drawings with very bold linework. These images in particular are perennially popular in the form of postcards, wallhangings (prints or embroidery), trays, cups, plates - anything! In the 70´s those little girl´s dresses and ladies aprons were so popular; I remember them on my cousins. Also, Rörstrand porcelain factory has a service called "Sundborn", its design inspired by the Larsson home. (They also do Ostindia, a classic Swedish pattern that I grew up with and still use.)

This is very much how the Swedes see themselves. Larsson´s images define a typically Swedish aesthetic that probably includes you whether you grew up in a suburb of Stockholm or in a red house with white trimmings in the country.

Funnily enough, one of Karin Larsson´s paintings from her time at artschool pokes a nice big hole in the idea of a blond, blue-eyed and homogenous and (therefore, if you listen to the Sweden Democrats) happy past. This is "The negro Pettersson", a very popular model who also worked at the Stockholm harbour, was married twice to Swedish women and raised several children with them. He lived his life in Stockholm in the 19th century, without as many raised eyebrows as one might have thought, although I think he would have been a fairly exotic character at the time. I have seen several paintings of him, and Karin Larsson´s is one of the very best. It was featured not long ago on the "Antiques Roadshow" (on Swedish television).

2015-01-18

The Ehrenmark Christmas Tradition

This charming cover is drawn by
 Gunnar Brusewitz.
"Gatan steg som en Afrodite ur Svartåns skum, förde en tynande tillvaro utan trottoarer men desto mera trästaket och höga kardborrstånd och gick självutplåningen till mötes på ett solstekt gärde där den snart bara var en söndersprucken gångstig. Men gångstigen tog inte slut. Det var det väsentliga. Den gick till Vladivostok. Man kunde se det på den enklaste skolatlas, för gångstigen ledde så småningom via många andra stigar och skumma prång ut på Adolfsbergsvägen som visserligen gick åt söder men tog man sen lite andra vägar åt väster och norr så kom man över Haparanda ända bort till Sibiriens östkust."
"The street rose like an Afrodite from the foam of the Black River, lead a languishing life without sidewalks but wooden fences and high burdock plants, going self-effacing towards a sunbaked field where it soon turned into a cracked footpath.
But the footpath did not end. That was the essential insight. It went to Vladivostok. This could be seen on the simplest school atlas, that the footpath led, by way of many other paths and obscure passages, to the Adolfsberg road - which went south, that is true, but - if you then took some other roads west and north, you came over Haparanda all the way to the Sibirian east coast."

One of the books I brought home from the library for the Christmas holidays and had no time to read was Torsten Ehrenmark´s "Resor till ingenstans" (= travels to nowhere) from 1967. When I was a kid it was a Christmas tradition to read the annual Ehrenmark causerie collection, which was sold along with so called "Christmas magazines" by children going from house to house, thus earning some pocket money. Everyone had their favourite reads, for example, my grandfather bought Swedish comics like "Kronblom" about a lazy but innovative old farmer and I had a period when I read an annual collection of horror short stories. I pretty soon started reading my mother´s causerie collections, like Ehrenmark´s (there were others, like Gits Olsson), because they would make her giggle and even laugh out loud.

Ehrenmark is still good. I´m not the only one to think so, this particular collection was recommended by Dagens Nyheter´s journalist Jonas Thente, who recently wrote about how he would queue up to get his yearly copy signed (he lived in Stockholm where authors would do that kind of thing, I did not) and he would demand that Ehrenmark write "to my friend Thente", which he did. Actually, I wrote for Ehrenmark´s autograph myself, which he sent me from London - it is one of my finest treasures.

I love what he writes about the Slavonic languages, because I have experienced exactly the same thing:

"Det är något mystiskt med slaviska språk. Och turkiska också för den delen. Både i Jugoslavien, Bulgarien och Turkiet har jag blivit offer för hörselhallucinationer som är mycket besvärande. Jag tycker plötsligt att folk talar svenska. Jag stod och hängde i korridoren utanför kupén mellan Belgrad och Dimitrovgrad. Plötsligt hörde jag någon säga alldeles tydligt:- Jag tycker att hon ser slafsig ut.Jag vände mig om och tittade förvånad in i kupén. Där satt samma människor som förut och talade jugoslaviska. En herre betraktade mig begrundande och vände sig sedan till en dam och sa och jag hörde det alldeles tydligt:- Nej förresten, då tycker jag inte att det blir bra. Det var rätt skrämmande. Satsaccenten stämde precis. Han yttrade sig med ett naturligt svenskt tonfall och jag kunde ha svurit på att det var dessa ord han sa. I fortsättningen blev jag allt oftare offer för dessa inbillade yttranden. Ibland lät det som svenska ord som inte finns, om ni förstår hur jag menar. - Jag ben inte förstärad över och så, sa en jugoslav allvarligt. Jag hade på tungan att säga: Förlåt, men vad menar ni?Ett par gånger trodde jag mig tilltalad och vände mig om. - Bylån knackar väl inte huvet, sa nån bakom mig. Det var på vippen att jag svarade: Nej visst inte. I Turkiet var det nästan ännu mer påtagligt. - Göd dig gubbe, nu spinglar det, sa portieren på Pera Palace till en av springpojkarna. Han försvann omedelbart. Och på tåget ner stod jag bredvid några studenter och tittade ut geom fönstret. I tågkorridoren kom då en annan ung man med en tjugodollarsedel i handen och sa nånting på turkiska till den ene studenten, som då vände sig till sin kamrat och sa på klar och tydlig svenska: - Jag sålde en klocka till honom för tretti bagis.  - Det var billigt, sa jag automatiskt. De båda turkarna stirrade på mig och sa: I beg your pardon. - Å förlåt, sa jag på engelska, jag står visst och pratar för mig själv. Och då förstod jag att det var dags att åka hemåt. Om man är obildad så kan man inte gå för länge bland slaviska språk och turkiskan. Då blir man lite underlig."
"There is something mysterious about Slavonic languages. And Turkish too. In Jugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey, I have been the victim of embarrasing hearing hallucinations. I suddenly think people are talking Swedish.
I was hanging about outside the compartment on a train going from Belgrad to Dimitrograd. Suddenly I heard someone say, perfectly clearly:
- I think she looks sloppy.
Surprised, I turned around and looked into the compartment. There sat the same people as before, speaking Jugoslav. A gentleman looked at me pondering and then turned to a lady and said - and I heard this perfectly clearly:
- Oh no, I don´t think that will be good.
It was rather frightening. The sentence stress was exactly the same. He uttered his words with a natural Swedish intonation and I could have sworn he said those words.
This happened again and I heard these imagined remarks more often. Sometimes it sounded like Swedish words that don´t exist, if you know what I mean.
- I wid note bothren and such, said a Jugoslav seriously.
I almost said: Sorry, but what do you mean?
A couple of times I thought someone was adressing me and turned around.
- Byloans don´t knock one´s head, said someone behind me.
I almost said: Of course not.
In Turkey it became worse.
- Fatten you man, it´s tinklageing, said the hotel clerk at the Pera Palace to one of the bellboys.
He immediately disappeared.
On the train south I stood beside a couple of students and looked out the window. In the train corridor came another young man with a twenty dollar bill in his hand and said something in Turkish to one of the students, who then turned to his friend and said in crystal clear Swedish:
- I sold him a watch for thirty bucks.
- That was cheap, I said automatically.
Both Turks stared at me and said: I beg your pardon.
- Oh, I´m sorry, I said in English, I seem to be talking to myself. That´s when I realized that it was time to go home. If one is uneducated it is not good to spend too much time among the Slavonic and Turkish languages. It makes one a bit odd."
(All my own translations.)

2015-01-11

The Thin Man

I have had Dashiell Hammett in mind for a long time. He is a fictional character in one of Laurie R King´s novels, "Locked Rooms", which I recently re-read. When blogger Divers and Sundry blogged about suitable reading for Christmas, I decided to try and find "The Thin Man" by Hammett and this rather well-read copy was waiting for me at the library in Kalix.

I enjoyed this read; Hammett has a fast-paced writing style, he doesn´t linger at anything that doesn´t drive the story forward. I confess some of the slang was a bit hard to get, and sometimes I just didn´t get the banter. Likely, I missed the best jokes, but what can you do? I enjoyed it well enough, but not so much that I will be looking for the rest of them; I understand Hammett also wrote some short stories about the main characters, Nick and Nora Charles.

However, I checked out some of the films that was made in the 30´s and 40´s with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and became so infatuated with them that I ordered a four-film-box. A good detective story with a bit of humour is never wrong on a Friday night.

2014-12-12

Kallocain

Have I whined yet about the new order of the e-book library? Because of the expense of it - the libraries and the publishers seem unable to reach a sensible decision about this - the libraries have had to severely limit the number of e-books one is allowed to borrow, and the new limit is, unbelievably, two books per month! It used to be five or seven a week, more than one could read, really, but this is ridiculous! My reading friend and I lamented this but decided that perhaps it was time to turn towards the classics. The Swedish Academy has a good, open library with literature they consider part of the Swedish cultural heritage, Litteraturbanken (= the literature bank). I had been considering Karin Boye´s "Kallocain" for years, and my friend was up for it.

From Wikipedia.
Karin Boye was born in 1900, and is mostly known for her poetry, but also wrote novels and worked as a journalist. She also painted, and you can see some of her watercolours here, at the website of the Karin Boye Society. Several of them have been exhibited at Waldemarsudde, the art museum founded by Prince Eugen, who was not just a royal, but one of Sweden´s most prominent painters. After her death, by suicide in 1941, her friends published a book in remembrance of her, and for it Hjalmar Gullberg (who wrote the poem "God in Disguise") wrote a poem called "Död amazon" (= dead amazon), which is still quite well known: "for the Thermopyle of our hearts, some must still give their lives" (my translation).

"Kallocain", from 1940, is probably her best known work internationally, and can be viewed as a precursor to Orwell´s "1984", which was published about a decade later. The narrator of the novel is Leo Kall, inventor of the truth-drug Kallocain. He is a citizen of the World-state, lives in Chemistry City Number 4, which is more or less an underground factory, with his wife Linda and their two youngest children. Their oldest, at eight years old, has already been moved into a reformatory of sorts, where all children go to be shaped into good "fellow-soldiers". The World-state is a severely supervised society, where every home has an "eye" and an "ear" on the wall, behind which supervisors may at any time look in on family life (such as it is: most of their spare time, family members are assigned some kind of policing/supervising duty), and informing on anyone, even family members, not seemingly devoted to the state, is a proud duty, not a dirty secret.

Leo Kall is a fanatic, but about to crack. His supervisor is Edo Rissen, an introverted, thoughtful man and Kall projects all his insecurities on him; he even imagines that Rissen has an affair with Linda. As they start to test the Kallocain drug, Rissen sceptically says that every man over 40 has a guilty conscience, which Kall takes as admission of crimes against the state. The confessions they get from their volunteers are not about crimes as such, but rather "emotional infidelity" to the state, a disturbing longing for human affection and trust, a natural faith in one´s fellow. The police authorities order Kall and Rissen to start training Kallocain interrogators, but it turns out that now, anyone can be convicted. As is Rissen, when Kall finally turns him in. He also steals some of the drug and uses it on his wife, with surprising results.

I found it a captivating read, and fast, at only 130 or so pages. I got quite spooked for a while, as I think anyone with some degree of maturity - as Rissen says, with reasons for a guilty conscience - will recognize that state of awakening from truths earlier taken for granted. I think most teenagers feel what Kall does, as they realize that all families and societies are not alikel, but that there are several ways of doing things and looking at the world, not necessarily on a scale from good to bad, just different. I suspect being a lesbian at the beginning of the century, coming from a middle-class family, would have given Boye a profound insight into being at odds with ideas of what is normal and natural.

You can read "Kallocain" for free on-line, at the University of Wisconsin digital collections, but it is also available through amazon, as is her "Complete Poems". Her most famous poem goes "Javisst gör det ont när knoppar brister, varför skulle annars våren tveka?" (= of course it hurts when buds burst, otherwise, why would spring hesitate? the entire poem can be read in English here) and I think most Swedes with an interest in literature recognize it, even if they are not poetry readers; references abound. The Karin Boye Society even have short recordings of her voice, reading her own poems. (Although, for them to work I had to download them first, could be my browser acting funnily.) She has that very clear enounciation they had in those days.

All in all, a good read. I am quite keen on reading more of her in the future.