Tag Archives: Bengt Ohlsson

Bengt Ohlsson?

Some years ago in a comment on someone’s [Swedish] blog I said I didn’t know who Bengt Ohlsson was. Another blog reader told me that since he’s a really great literary author and columnist, this was impossible. I [hope I] replied that I had no cause to lie. In the end I was allowed to not know Bengt because I was living abroad.

Anyway, yesterday I read a short story by Bengt. Vi magazine is celebrating their 20th Literature Boat (where authors and readers take to the high seas for book events and food) and have asked some of their former performers to write a short story for the magazine. The theme is literature at sea. The first story, last month, was about stalking an author.

The second one, by Bengt, was – seemingly – about boarding the Literature Boat for one more trip. It started in a fairly pedestrian way, but by the end it actually became something quite different.

It was interesting, and entertaining, but it didn’t necessarily make me want to join one of the sailings.

What I really appreciated, however, was the almost supernatural coincidence Vi provided me with. You see, there are more authors of some repute that I don’t know; not only poor Bengt. His story was in the December issue, and I’d saved it for ‘reading later.’

Yesterday morning, before reading the short story, I had glanced through the January edition of Vi. It very conveniently had an article about three shortlisted authors for the Vi book award; none of whom I’d heard of.

Within an hour, one of the three turned up as a character in Bengt’s story. And I wouldn’t have realised!

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Is the emperor really wearing clothes?

I believe I’ve found a Swedish Martin Amis. He seems to be called Bengt Ohlsson. He’s such a great author that he’s allowed to write ‘not so nice’ things about others in the name of culture and entertainment in a newspaper column. Unlike dear Mr Amis, Bengt didn’t suggest that children’s books are simple to write. He said (and here I get very nervous, because I saw what others didn’t see, and how can I be sure that what I saw is right, when it seems that most people whose opinions I normally value saw the exact opposite?) that nobody much likes the crime novels by Camilla Läckberg. He put her name in the same sentence as Auschwitz. I believe he meant (apparently) that her books are bad, but it’s fine to enjoy bad books. He does so himself, except obviously not the bad books by Camilla.

She got upset, which is so unreasonable because she makes a fortune on those books of hers, and she wrote a reply. That was proof that she’s unable to read (because he really didn’t say what she thought he said), and anyway when you are being bullied in the school playground it’s not the done thing to cry. Stiff upper lips are so much better.

I came across this spat on Annika Bryn’s blog, and immediately clicked on her link to see what witty column Bengt had written, seeing as Annika appreciated it. I read it over and over and at no time did it look like anything but an unpleasant comment. I swallowed my not inconsiderable pride and admitted that like Camilla herself, I had not grasped the ‘real’ meaning of the column either.

Now you see, I have heard of Camilla Läckberg, but have never felt the urge to read her books. But that’s not picking on her. I didn’t know Bengt Ohlsson, however, and admitted it. That was considered strange. He’s a great writer of literary works and he’s won prizes for them. I just feel that in that case his column, even if the topic was above my head and carried connotations unknown to me, should have been an example of good and interesting writing. And I don’t feel it was.

And he was rude. Had he managed the rudeness with flair and wit and intelligence I might have overlooked it. But he didn’t. And why not, if he’s the prize winning type?