Tag Archives: Karin Altenberg

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

A House Without Mirrors

I needn’t have worried. Both the book and the translation were absolutely fine. More than fine.

I promised I’d let you know what I thought of Mårten Sandén’s book as soon as I received my copy, which in the end was the day after publication day in Britain. And I think you’ll enjoy reading A House Without Mirrors.

Mårten Sandén, A House Without Mirrors

I had worried about the translation, on the grounds that not all books travel well, but also because Karin Altenberg is Swedish, and has translated the ‘other’ way round. But it is all good.

Somewhat reminiscent of Tom’s Midnight Garden, this is a story about a family and an old house and its ancient owner Henrietta, who is dying. Told by Thomasine, her 11-year-old great-niece, we meet a dysfunctional group of relatives.

While Thomasine’s father Thomas seems to be merely grieving for Henrietta’s imminent death, his brother Daniel and his two children, and sister Kajsa and her daughter, are angry and argue all the time. They appear to be waiting to split the inheritance, the moment it becomes theirs. Thomasine’s cousins are all troubled in one way or another.

Henrietta has no mirrors in the house. Except, one night the children find a wardrobe full of them, and they discover that once you step out of the wardrobe again, there is another – mirror image – side to the old house. What’s more, you are not the same again.

This old-fashioned tale, illustrated rather nicely by Moa Schulman, could easily be mistaken for a much younger book (look out for the swearing, though!) than it really is. I find it refreshing that a story like this, about death and relationship issues, can be both sweet and loving, and above all, short.

Right from the beginning, it made me feel all calm and happy, and I can see it would work well to read to a younger child as well.

It’s part of a new list of translated children’s fiction by Pushkin Children’s Books, and I hope we will have more of this kind of thing. There is a whole other world out there, if only you look. Mårten Sandén is a popular and prolific children’s author in Sweden, well known for his twin detectives. (Nordic crime for a younger age group.) And he’s not alone.