NB; I wrote a long post about these three books but when I pressed “publish” is just disappeared. I made a sour face, got on with life for a bit and then sat down to try to recreate it. Hence the somewhat short post and dispirited tone.
Over the years I have kept a reading journal and the sum of books read has stayed much the same over time until I made the decision to stop carrying around big books as they were literally breaking my back. So for the last two year I have read more books but the number of pages has probably stayed roughly the same.
In terms of language though there was a big shift when I created my Instagram account devoted to books; as I use English in my posts and I want to partake in a bigger discussion about those I chose to read it felt more natural. However it came to a point where I started to long for the elevated prose in my first language, Swedish, and also all of a sudden there where so many good books on the literary scene up here.
I was talking about this with someone I know just the other day, when did so many books on the best-seller list and that are being talked about become so interesting?
I’ve already written about Århundradets kärlekskrig by Ebba Witt-Brattström and will probably bring it up again. Today I noticed that one of my fave podcast, Februari-podden, had released a new episode( they are very sporadic but always worth listening to) and it was also on the subject of contemporary relations and what can happen when the woman is the breadwinner, and how it is impossible to be both the one that takes care of house and home whilst being the one that is responsible for paying the bills, at least in the long-term. A discussion by two Swedish male comedians might not sound like the place for great insight but they are men who leave no stone unturned in their talk and are not afraid of uncomfortable topics.
The book by Liv Ullman was a wonderful read. Where I was tickled in the beginning by the fact that she wrote about her famous parents, her mother is actor Linn Ullman and her father was director Ingmar Bergman, it soon became much more. It’s about a child trying to find her place in the world when both her parents are larger than life, and when she does finally find her own footing it starts slipping away again with her fathers aging. Well-written in an airy way as part of the book is transcripts of the recorded conversations they had towards the end of his life, in the hope of a joint project.
Both Witt-Brattström and Ullman call their books “novels” although it is safe to assume that much is based on a true story. The expression roman à clef could probably be used but rarely is anymore. And labeling it as a memoir is tricky as libel-suits can follow and as I recall at least two scandals from the last few years about books label as memoirs that had the percentage of truth questioned (James Frey and that book called “Running with scissors”) I imagine people are shy of that too. And as Bergman has passed away and cannot comment it wouldn’t be fair I guess. But fiction can be a place to explore ideas and say things that are true though not necessarily facts if that makes any sense (not a new insight that last bit admittedly).
The third book in this stack is De polyglotta älskarna by Lina Wolff that got the August-prize last year, and even though I’m only halfway through I understand why. Such characters and great writing. It’s mad up of three short stories that together form an arc on the theme of love and relationships. I’m very much enjoying it.