Tag Archives: August Strindberg

Handsome in Hemsöborna

Sven Wollter is dead. For anyone not in the know, this actor was the most handsome man in Sweden, or so the saying went. Back in the day, which was quite a while ago. 86 is a good age, but I’m sure Sven had plenty more life in him, had it not been for that bloody virus.

I was first aware of him in August Strindberg’s Hemsöborna, some time in the 1960s. The whole country watched. The young Witch thought he was very good looking, and it seems she wasn’t the only one.

I know. I shouldn’t go on about something as unimportant as looks. In Sven we had an excellent actor and a good communist. It always felt as though you could trust him.

Living in exile like I do, I have missed most of what he did in later years, but I do remember trying to tell Adéle Geras about his good looks, when she borrowed my Van Veeteren DVDs, about Håkan Nesser’s detective. And I was always pleased to discover he was still alive. Until today.

Moving tales #4

Where did I go wrong? We have so many possessions! With the odd exception for things not yet invented 25 years ago, I don’t believe there was anything I wanted for back then.

Which makes me wonder why we ended up with more than twice the belongings of the early years. We still don’t actually have that much furniture, and a lot of what we do have is inherited, or re-used/upcycled, or maybe from that large furniture shop we all know.

It was a lot harder shopping at IKEA before 1987. Not only do we have a vintage IKEA kitchen; it was imported all the way from Småland, with personal service (yes, indeed) from Jean. (He was probably named for the creep in Miss Julie.)

There was no freegle then, so we advertised everything we wanted to get rid of in Loot. The old kitchen ended up in four new homes (and all I can – still – think of is the man who had not even provided his poor wife with a cupboard in which to keep her pots and pans, for 35 years, while she gave birth to and fed five children), and I seem to recall the living room carpet went to warm the feet of the vicar in a draughty hillside vicarage. No money for anything new.

We even brought with us the furniture left behind by the vendors of our previous house, and most of it lived here for a good many years. We no longer have the Resident IT Consultant’s student pad bed; the one with the loose slats. But we have hung on to the armchairs he bought secondhand in Oxford. When he was teething, Son found the armrests perfect for some quiet gnawing. That, and the third kitchen drawer.

The Grandmother’s (and Grandfather’s) sofa and armchair, bought when they were newlyweds are here. They arrived by train, all by themselves. Favourite Aunt’s sofa and armchair also live with us. My desk is from my first – real – flat (and let me tell you, that was a long time ago), and has been joined by an identical one formerly belonging to the Retired Children’s Librarian. Vintage IKEA.

I could go on. Won’t, though.

But the main problem is not the furniture. It’s what’s stored in cupboards and on shelves. Just because you can put something away, doesn’t mean you should.

I’m stupid enough to believe that in the next place I won’t.

The literal link

As a small extra offering for today, you can find the ramblings of a proud mother here. (They never shut up.)

The Dance of Death

Tiresome, I know. But I can, so I did.

Bookwitch bites #92

Thank goodness for these bites where I can complain on a variety of subjects almost every week. Occasionally I have lovely news as well. Let’s see if I can find some.

I don’t often (like never, obviously) receive invitations from the Canadian High Commission in London, but this week I had to make myself say ‘no thanks’ to them. But as Disney’s Cinderella says, what could possibly be nice about a visit to Canada House? (Only all of it…)

Came across the programme for Book Week Scotland at the end of November. Can’t go, even though I can be found north of the border that very week. So no Frank Cottrell Boyce. No Debi Gliori and no Steve Cole. Nobody.

Offspring are my reasons for travelling, and Son had some news this week, relating to the literal translation he did earlier this year. We are finally able to say it was Strindberg, for the Donmar at Trafalgar Studios. The Dance of Death. Will get back to you on that.

Before leaving Scotland, let me just mention the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2013. Apart from Patrick Ness who is on every single shortlist these days, the shortlisted authors are Barry Hutchison, Cathy MacPhail, Mark Lowery, Dave Cousins and Annabel Pitcher. Tough competition.

South to Newcastle, where the good news is that Seven Stories can call themselves National Centre for Children’s Books, as the only ‘national’ place in the Northeast. Well done to a special place!

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Actually, I am coping with the happy business, after all. We’ll finish with a decisive jump across the water to Ireland, where they have The Irish Book Awards. You can vote, but you might want to follow my example and only vote in categories (they have so many!) where you have read the books. Luckily I didn’t have to choose between Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty. Not quite so lucky with Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, though.

A witch can always flip a coin.

‘I can’t wait to hear myself speak’

I must have told you about..? It seems not.

Last week the translating Son had a short piece on Strindberg, written by Inga-Stina Ewbank, to translate in the wrong direction. It would appear that translating from your native language also has its merits. (You know of course that I would like to call it Son’s mother tongue, but that’s where we get complicated. So I won’t.) What made it all the more odd as far as direction is concerned is that the piece was written in English by a Swede about a Swede.

I had grumbled the week before that if I am to proof read stuff, it would help to see the original, so this time he emailed it to me. He has had so many outlandish texts to work from that it was a pleasure to see one that was a pleasure to read.

Being one of those people who love to repeat themselves (well, I don’t love it, but I have tendencies in that direction, and I’m working hard to give it up), I have developed this way of asking ‘I must have told you this loads of times already?’ and that’s what I did when I emailed Son back.

When Professor Ewbank came ‘home’ to Gothenburg to give a talk at the English department in 1978, we students of average mediocrity were excited by the idea of ‘one of our own’ having made it to Professor of English in London. A specialist on the Brontës, even. It was her glowing introduction which caused Inga-Stina to look forward to hearing herself speak.

It wasn’t until this week, however, that I found out that she only learned English at the age of 19. And her name, it’s just so Swedish!

What the Strindberg are we celebrating?

2012. The year of Dickens. Or perhaps Strindberg. Possibly the year of many different people, famous or otherwise.

But what do we celebrate? Death? Birth? Or anything, as long as we can celebrate?

I always used to think it was one or the other, but could never decide which made the most sense. Birth is a more positive thing to remember, but when you’re born you have yet to become a great playwright or a president. At least the sad occasion of someone’s death happens when they’ve become that something for which we admire them.

This year we are remembering Charles Dickens’s birth date, 200 years ago. But we are also making a fuss over the fact that it’s 100 years since Strindberg died. Less fuss than over Dickens, at least in Britain, but even so.

I got so tired of the Dickens expectations before 2012 had even begun that I decided to ignore him. (Obviously not 100%, or I wouldn’t be writing this.) When I need to ‘do’ Dickens, it will be because I’m in a Dickensy mood, and not over some new peculiar Dickens related modern book.

The most interesting recent Dickens fact for me, was the connection between him and Sally Gardner, which I discovered when I interviewed her. And that’s good enough for me. I’ve read a few of his books. I may well read some more. But not now.

And Strindberg. Well. He was a miserable old thing, wasn’t he? Not even the television dramatisation of Hemsöborna did much for me. I enjoyed the early appearance by Sven Wollter, who went on to earn the epithet Most Beautiful Man in Sweden. But this was in the 1960s and the whole country watched. We had nothing better to do.

When I saw Miss Julie the first time I felt so depressed I could have joined them in doing away with myself. I’m sure it’s all very brilliant, but how depressing!

While in the middle of his translation course, Son has ended up translating another depressing Strindberg drama. Good for him. And rather him than me.

So, what else could we celebrate? I was a struck by the poor Queen having to celebrate her accession to the throne. Yes, it’s nice. Possibly. But not only was it because of the death of her father, but it meant the end to any normal family life she might have had.

Another slice of cake?

The translating Son also ended up with a piece on Raoul Wallenberg the other day. It’s 100 years since he was born. For Raoul Wallenberg we can’t ever do the death date thing, because we are not sure when ‘they finished him off.’ But at least the man’s been made an honorary citizen of the US, and has roads named after him.

However you celebrate, I personally want to draw the line at doing it prematurely. I think it’s next year that the University of St Andrews will be 600. They already have a shop selling stuff. Also read recently about some Scottish battle (I think), which we are talking about two years in advance.

I can only think that we are jinxing ourselves.