Category Archives: Languages

When there was hope

What to blog about today? Yeah, well, that’s a hard one.

In the 1960s I didn’t think about politics. It was beyond my comprehension. In the 1970s I thought about it quite a lot. It was something that seemed to bring about change. The kind of change that was good for most of us.

It seemed as though things would become mostly all right, if only we waited long enough. Not everything could happen overnight. There was political music to listen to. There was political fiction to read.

Below are some of the books I read and enjoyed. I haven’t read them for over forty years, so don’t remember enough to tell you much of the actual plots. The two by Stig Malmberg were set in contemporary Sweden, and featured fairly ordinary Swedish teenagers. One is about doing your national service and how that might be right, or not.

Books by Sven Wernström and Stig Malmberg

The two novels by Sven Wernström are set in Latin America and deal with things like the Cuban revolution as experienced by ordinary teenagers there. It was thrilling to read for someone who grew up on Enid Blyton and then moved on to Agatha Christie, both of whom wrote books about characters unlike myself, during a time period that was already in the past, and which I couldn’t know.

The Retired Children’s Librarian was cautiously liberal, and didn’t really care for Malmberg, but grudgingly admitted there was merit in Wernström’s Latin American stories. I liked them all, and it didn’t matter that she didn’t always approve.

Because there was hope. Did I say? If we waited long enough, life would be fine and fair for everyone. If the ‘wrong’ party won an election, it was just their politics that was wrong. As people they were as normal and decent as the rest of us.

Until this week.

Pc

The King was here last week. Well, not right here visiting us, but in town. He’d been scheduled several months ago, but had to cancel when the Crown Princess gave birth to her second child. The re-scheduled date had to be re-scheduled when Prince Carl Philip became a father, and then luckily there were no more royal births and the King was finally able to come.

I’m only mentioning him here because I was thinking about author and cartoonist Jan Lööf, who has been accused of not being pc enough. There was talk about his publisher changing things in his books to pc them up a bit, or not to re-publish books, and other silly things.

Ville 1

He is 76 and wrote some of his books so long ago that we’d not started worrying about pc-ness, or at least, the boundaries were in a different place. Years ago I blogged about Jan’s cartoon Ville, when the King and Prime Minister Olof Palme featured, and were the heroes of the moment. Palme got angry but the King thought it was fun. Possibly there were aliens in the story, the portrayal of whom might have been un-pc. Or not.

It’s worrying when every so often people have to pause and look at what went before and then judge it by the standards of today. That’s never going to work. If it doesn’t offend the intended readers – in this case children – it’s fine. If it’s so dated in whatever way that the children avoid the books, then that’s all there is to it. No need to make changes; you just move on.

But at least I learned a new word. Pc in Swedish is pk. Obvious, really.

Dear Meg

It’s how they addressed her last night. Dear Meg Rosoff, they said, and then they said lots more nice things. It was time to actually let her receive the Astrid Lindgren award, after a week of hard, but lovely, graft, touring like some kind of rockstar.

Stockholm Concert Hall

As Meg’s sisters pointed out, the city is full of posters of their sister; the one who can write. They came over from America to celebrate this special moment in their family, along with a stepmother (who was truly lovely), as well as ‘Mr Rosoff’ and ‘Miss Rosoff.’ So it’s hardly surprising that the Bookwitch and the Resident IT Consultant had come to cry too. Because cry we all did, with happiness, but tears nevertheless. And I think Meg’s mother is quite correct in telling her friends it’s the Nobel. It very nearly is.

Stockholm Concert Hall

The Stockholm Concert Hall is a grand affair, on a nice scale. We’d got seats next to the Royal Box, and it looked rather like the King was going to film the whole shebang. Or maybe it wasn’t him, but a film crew, behind the red velvet curtain. There were some Excellences present, but I don’t know which ones.

Bo Kaspers Orkester

Malena Ernman

It was a compact one hour event, packed full with speeches and entertainment, with no one lingering or getting boring. Lots of music from Bo Kaspers Orkester and opera singer Malena Ernman giving us You’ll Never Walk Alone. Hamadi Khemiri read from What I Was, and there were presentations of some of Meg’s books.

Meg Rosoff and the ALMA award, with Alice Bah Kuhnke and Katti Hoflin

There were talks from Staffan Forssell from the Swedish Arts Council, the Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, ALMA jury chairman Boel Westin, and finally from Meg herself. Meg’s was a good speech, where she managed to fit in her gratitude and a neat comparison between books in Sweden and the British Government’s treatment of the country’s young and the closure of libraries. She received a standing ovation.

Meg Rosoff

Astrid Lindgren was keen on children’s rights, and on them playing and reading. Even daydreaming. So not quite how it’s done at our end.

Compere Katti Hoflin was excellent, and had a nice way with the sheep on stage. You can never go wrong with sheep, I feel. Baah.

Meg Rosoff, Alice Bah Kuhnke and Boel Westin

It was all done extremely well, and we finished off with drinks and top quality nibbles in the Grünewald Hall next door, which is where I eventually found both Meg and her whole family for a chat. And as I squeezed my way through (never was a witch more determined) after checking with the Resident IT Consultant that he knew what I look like, in case we got separated, I ended up speaking to Astrid’s daughter Karin, for the first time in my life. And that was only minutes after I’d admitted to the Resident IT Consultant that I’d never met her…

Meg and family had another grand dinner to go to, while we called in at the nearby 7-Eleven.

And did I mention there were party bags?

Meg Rosoff ALMA party bag

Well, we’re here, anyway

Have safely arrived at Holiday Bookwitch Towers, and it is still standing. Every time I have this irrational thought that maybe we shouldn’t buy food on the way, in case the house, and thereby the fridge, has somehow perished while we weren’t looking. But then I tell myself it’s better to have the food, regardless. With or without a house with a fridge.

Our airline wanted us to accept payment not to fly. We said that while we could see why they were asking, we had so many commitments that we really couldn’t agree. I suppose they got someone else to sacrifice themselves.

I spent the flight reading a new book, which I’ll be telling you about soon. I always travel with at least two in my hand luggage, in case one is a dud. This one wasn’t the slightest dud-like.

We drove over The Bridge. Not a corpse in sight, but then I had my eyes closed, which might be why. The Resident IT Consultant asked if I’d never driven across in that direction before, and if I could manage. I pointed out that I was perfectly capable of shutting my eyes in either direction, and that I’d be fine.

Then we stopped and had pizza at Bjärreds Pizzeria. It was lovely! Both the place and the pizza. Just the right blend of Swedish corner/village pizzeria feel. We’d decided we needed to stop for a feed soon after The Bridge, and I had instructed the Resident IT Consultant in advance to search online for a small village just off the motorway; one that was bound to have a traditional takeaway pizza place with a few tables outside.

And when they gave me my change back on paying, they pointed out I was getting one of the lovely new twenties, featuring none other than Astrid Lindgren. So that was pretty topical too. As Son said earlier, it’s a shame Astrid gave the boot to Selma Lagerlöf, but I suppose one token female is all you get on bank notes.

Since the fridge was still operational when we turned up with milk and Turkish yoghurt (I’m investigating how it differs from Greek), all was well.

(And, erm, it’s Mother’s Day. The Resident IT Consultant pointed out I’m not his mother, so I’m guessing there will be no secret walk in the woods to pick lilies of the valley. Or a cake decorated with Turkish yoghurt and strawberries… I don’t really do Mother’s Day, and this way I get to not do it twice; once for each country I’m in.)

Into Swedish

Stephen Booth, Bron

I read in the paper that Swedish is one of the biggest sources for books translated into English. That’s good, but I also like for books to travel the other way. And generally I feel it’s not that unusual, as Swedes like their Anglo-Saxon fiction, and authors like Stephen Booth find that their first translation is into Swedish.

But then there are the books by people I love who don’t get to make the move and it irritates me. I’m quite good at griping about it. Sometimes it helps, but generally not. The one I go on about the most is Adrian McKinty. Not only are his books terrific, but I reckon that his Sean Duffy series especially would appeal greatly to Swedes.

Adrian McKinty, Kall, Kall Jord

So I was pleased to get a comment on Swedish Bookwitch a week or so ago, on an old post about my interview with Adrian. It was from Nils Larsson, a translator, who told me he was about to start work on the first Duffy book. I looked him up, and he has translated a lot of crime, lots of big names, for thirty years or so. That sounds like recommendation enough.

The publisher is Modernista, and I looked them up too, as I’d never heard of them. That was more interesting than I’d expected. The first links you come to are all about how they annoy everyone else in the business by buying the translation rights to books they don’t have the publication rights for.

That sounded odd, and I don’t lay claim to understanding it, except it seems strange, bordering on the dodgy. They say it’s perfectly all right and that they are very helpful, while their opponents say the opposite. As they would.

James Oswald, Bödelns Sång

Hopefully they are nice and normal most of the time, and simply publish books like anyone else. I had a look at their list and found another favourite of mine; James Oswald. They have three of his books out now, and by sheer coincidence James posted a photo of his latest Swedish translation on Facebook just as I had discovered this new-to-me publisher. James told me that he’d had some contact with his Swedish translator about various timeline inconsistencies that no one else had noticed. He says we are very literal-minded… Bödelns Sång is published this week.

Adrian McKinty’s Kall, Kall Jord won’t be out until October, but anything that good is worth waiting for.

Sven Nordqvist is 70 today

And so is ‘his’ King. But never mind that little coincidence.

Do you remember Sven Nordqvist? Creator of Pettson and Findus, the cranky old man with the cunning – but kind – cat. I’m a bit surprised he is that old, to be honest, but like many Swedes he has aged well.

I like Pettson. And, all right, I like Findus, too. And Sven has a past in my old home town, so I feel sort of at home with him as well, and that crankiness is something I can sympathise with.

His famous characters first appeared 33 years ago, well before I required any picture books with lots of words for any Offspring, and had we not been given a copy by someone who knew what we were missing, we might never have been introduced. After all, who does not like pancake cake? (And when I make it, if I do, I don’t have to deal with hens and other complications first.)

Sven Nordqvist, photo by Leif R Jansson, for TT

Somewhat surprisingly he lives in a flat in the middle of Stockholm. You’d think he’d be hiding out in the wilderness, behind those clucking hens and other creatures.

And it seems that while Sven likes praise as much as the next illustrator of opinionated cats, he gets so much of it from people like me (that’s old and keen bookish females), that it no longer registers. He prefers to hear it from young readers.

According to an article in Hallandsposten the other day, these days Sven mainly works on what pleases him; drawing for himself.

I suppose today he could always pop over to the Palace with some freshly made pancakes.

Stirling goings-on

The Bookbug Week‘s flagship event will this year take place only a mile or so away from Bookwitch Towers. Scottish Book Trust’s annual book week for young readers runs from May 16th for a week, kicking off at Bannockburn with a day of, I think, poetry and stuff.

Bookbug

The rest of the programme happens all over Scotland, and the theme this year is international. Songs and rhymes from around the world.

This tallies with what you find in the programme for Stirling’s own Off the Page where, surprisingly, they offer both a German Bookbug session, as well as a bilingual event or two.

You can also do colouring in and design your own coat of arms, along with attending a teddy bear’s picnic. At the other end of the age scale (or so I imagine) is a vintage reminiscence tea party, which sounds really very nice. Except I hope I am not old enough for that sort of thing yet.

Somewhere there are dragons.

In schools (they have all the luck!) you might find Chae Strathie, Janis Mackay, Kirkland Ciccone, Alex Nye, Ross MacKenzie and Mairi Hedderwick.

But despair not, Mairi Hedderwick is also doing a public event. Maybe even two. This ten-day long festival starts on May 6th, and other public children’s events offer Lari Don and Nick Sharratt.

Helen MacKinven, whom I met at Yay!YA+ last week is also doing an event. As are several of the big names in Scottish crime, such as Lin Anderson, Helen Fitzgerald, Denise Mina and Caro Ramsay.

There are many more events and many more authors. And much upset on my part because I will not be going to any of these… The more attractive the event, the less convenient the date (for me).