Tuesday, June 30, 2009

specimens of the literature of Sweden


"It's just about seven o'clock, let's go down and meet Fredrik!"

We went to the jetty. The usual people were there. The young artist with a red cap and cautious way of walking. Also the French lady who believed anything that you told her. She offered up her soul to me through big light-blue eyes and I said:

"This morning a revolution broke out in Paris. The whole town is in a state of siege. They're shooting in the streets so you can't hear what anyone says and you have to go indoors if you want to talk to someone."

"My mother! My mother!" said the French lady, because her mother lived in Paris.

"All the women and children have gone to a meadow out of town," I said soothingly.

Just then the boat arrived. It emerged from behind the promontory, and I whispered to my wife:

"Do be nice to Fredrik!"

(Hasse Z (1877-1946), "Fredrik")


"Ah, dear sir," said the princess, "your poor heart lies buried down there in the earth under the threshold, so to put you in a happier state of mind I've scattered the threshold with all the finest and loveliest rose-petals that grow in your garden."

"My heart won't be happy," said the giant, "until you promise to be my wife, but if what this is about is your needing to know where my heart is, then you may as well know that it isn't buried under the threshold, but is in a particular hiding-place where neither you nor anyone else can get at it. And anyway, I'm not going to tell you where the hiding-place is, not unless you promise to step forth at once as my bride."

Naturally the princess didn't want to do that, she just wanted to find out where the giant's heart was, because she knew that once she got her hands on it she could force the giant to do anything she asked.

So she went on at the giant the whole time, to see if she could discover where his heart's real hiding-place was, and in the end the giant said, if only to get away from her incessant questions:

"You'll never find my heart. But if you made a journey one mil east of the sun and one mil west of the moon, you would come to a great lake. And in the middle of the lake there lies an island, and if you could get across to the island, there you would see a mighty castle. And within the castle wall is a big pool. And in the pool a duck swims, and the duck holds an egg in its beak. Inside the egg is my heart."

When the prince (who was lying underneath the giant's bed) heard this, he was so happy that he gave a delighted start.

"What's that under my bed?" exclaimed the giant.

"Oh, that's just a little rat," said the princess.

"Oh, OK," said the giant, and then he fell asleep.

As soon as the giant began to snore, the prince crept out of his hiding-place, said farewell to the princess and called for his wolf-horse.

At once the wolf stepped out of the wood, and the prince leapt on his back.

"Where are we going?" asked the wolf.

"One mil east of the sun and one mil west of the moon," said the prince.

[1 mil = 10 kilometers, or 6 English miles.]

(Svenska Folksagor, i urval av Jan-Öjvind Swahn, 1959)


Now he lay and thought about the first time he'd had a dream of the ground opening up and swallowing him. It had happened the night after the Discovery.

How old would he have been? Four, five?

He was having a kitten from some cousins who lived in the country. They were already acquainted, the cat and him. She was fine and rather uncommon, white with blue eyes the cousins said, when he was meeting her in the garden.

That Saturday morning an aunt who worked at the check-out in Konsum was unwell. Mamma had to go instead. Pappa was away from home so Anders also had to go. He sat on a stool next to Mamma. It was nice there, among the voices talking of butter and coffee, how dear it all was, the clink of money and the till that hummed and jingled.

It smelt good in Konsum too, money and sweat and sweeties and buns.

Afterwards they came home and they were standing in the hall, at the entrance to the long, long living-room, which had a sofa at the far end. And Mamma said:

"Oh look, they've been here with the cat."

"Where?" said the boy, breathless with excitement.

"It's lying there on the sofa and sleeping," said Mamma.

Then she fetched the cat and laid it on Anders' knee, he stroked its back but he was so perplexed that he couldn't feel happy. He never really became attached to that cat, and this was all down to the Discovery.

How did Mamma know that the cat lay on the sofa?

And at long last, an insight: The others knew something at a distance.

He tested the Discovery and got proof. He could put his coat on back to front, and position himself in the kitchen doorway while Mamma was at the sink. And each time, unfailingly:

"But Anders sweetheart, what a funny way to wear your coat."

She knew. At long range!

It was after the Discovery that he started to poke himself in the eyes, to squeeze them tight and to roll them around, all the time wondering how the others could know something with them.

He couldn't find the answer. That was when the nightmares began.

(Marianne Fredriksson, Blindgång (1992))

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