After saying recently that I almost preferred older books as a child, I also had a certain fear of what I perceived as really old. Deep down I suspected that something written a Very Long Time Ago would be so strange as to be unreadable. Now, why I should see other old books as a problem when I felt Alexandre Dumas was just fine, I have no idea. Could it be the difference between old children’s/adventure and old serious/real?
At some point at university I had to read old books. I don’t think I counted the Odyssey, because you’d see it in so many more recent incarnations. And having had to read Austen and Gaskell in English and survived, I saved my reservations for old Swedish literature.
But the point came when I needed to read Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, and as you can see even the name is a mouthful. I had heard of his novel Det går an, but with my prejudice I had no wish for a closer acquaintance. Although when I got there, it was reassuring to find it’s a mere 100 pages or so. Written in 1838 it’s not even that old as classics go.
I was pleasantly surprised both by how readable it was and how good. More than good. I actively loved it. When you’re used to old novels along the line of Jane Eyre, with a governess or other poor female and a romantic but chaste meeting with ‘The Man’, then the ‘free love’ in Det går an is a wee bit unexpected. They are ‘normal’ people, neither aristocracy nor starving slaves. Albert and Sara meet on a journey and fall in love.
It ends with Sara asking if it’s OK to be together without getting married, and Albert saying ‘it’s OK’ (title of the book).
And that’s it.
Very modern, in other words. Nothing to be afraid of.
The other day Son was telling me he’d just read it. As with me it was for a university course, and like me, he too had enjoyed it. ‘Immigrant’ that he is, he could have more cause for wariness.
I went looking for it before writing this, but couldn’t find it. Maybe Son had helped himself to my copy?