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2021:2

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Issue number: 2021:2

2021:2

Featuring works by Susanna Alakoski, Eija Hetekivi Olsson, Kjell Johansson, Mats Jonsson, Anneli Jordahl, Jenny Wrangborg and more.

Editor: Alex Fleming
Reviews Editor: Fiona Graham
Advisory Editors: Deborah Bragan-Turner, Sarah Death, Peter Graves, Paul Norlen, Linda Schenck
Social Media: Sophie Ruthven
New Books: Alice E Olsson

Photo credit: Natalia Y on Unsplash

One of Sweden’s great contributions to world writing is its tradition of arbetarlitteratur, or working-class literature. The emergence of this tradition is closely associated with the strong labour movements of the 1920s and 1930s, when writers like Moa Martinson, Ivar-Lo Johansson, Harry Martinson and Vilhelm Moberg brought working-class lives to the forefront of Swedish cultural consciousness. Fusing literary flair with lived experience, their hugely popular works not only captured the public’s imagination and enriched the literary landscape; they also played an active role in informing and shaping public and political discourse.

As the works presented in this issue show, Sweden’s arbetarlitteratur is every bit a living, breathing literary tradition – one that embraces countless genres, styles and themes. In this issue, Susanna Alakoski explores women’s lives, work and aspirations in twentieth-century Stockholm, while Eija Hetekivi Olsson tackles bullying and exclusion within the school system, in her striking The Young Ones We Kill.

In his latest graphic novel, Mats Jonsson writes the Sámi people back into Sweden both past and present, and Anneli Jordahl’s Like the Dogs in Lafayette Park depicts how a quest for social justice brings a grieving widow back into the world.

In poetry, Jenny Wrangborg takes to task the exploitative conditions rife within the food services industry, while Kjell Johansson’s novel Bad People presents a child’s perspective of a life lived on the margins, and the lasting effects of social insecurity.

Our reviews section is packed with new Swedish-language books in an array of genres for all ages and tastes - including a number of new titles within our arbetarlitteratur theme - and we are also pleased to present an up-to-date list of Swedish and Finland-Swedish books published in English translation in 2021. Finally, we report on Gothenburg’s first ever hybrid book fair.

Readers in the UK may be interested in two events involving four of this issue's authors this October. Susanna Alakoski, Eija Hetekivi Olsson, Mats Jonsson and Anneli Jordahl will be taking part in a panel discussion chaired by translator Ruth Urbom at Bristol Ideas’ Working-Class Writers’ Festival, and a full-day literary translation workshop in London organised by SELTA.

We would like to extend our thanks to Swedish Literature Exchange and Ruth Urbom for their support in producing this issue.

Translations

Reviews

curated and edited by Fiona Graham

Fiction

Book cover of Singulariteten

LATEST REVIEW

Singulariteten

The Swedish word sorgearbete (mourning) evokes the work we do to process our sorrow. The Singularity, the latest novel from Kurdish-Swedish author Balsam Karam, is the embodiment of such work, and can only be described as lyrical, stirring, and immensely powerful.

book cover of Stöld

LATEST REVIEW

Stöld

In Ann-Helén Laestadius' Stolen, a nine-year-old Sámi girl in Arctic Sweden witnesses a hate crime. The trauma will remain with her into young adulthood, when she will battle for the rights of her people – and herself as a future reindeer herder.

Book cover of Brinn!

LATEST REVIEW

Brinn!

The year is 1676, and men and women stand accused of witchcraft and leading others into Satan’s clutches. In Sisela Lindblom's Burn!, one nasty little girl just wants to watch them burn.

Book cover of Svart Sol

LATEST REVIEW

Svart sol

A woman is admitted to a secure psychiatric ward claiming she needs to prevent a terrorist attack. In the suspenseful thriller Black sun, Andreas Norman unpicks a white supremacist conspiracy to assassinate the Swedish prime minister.

Book cover of Fjäril i koppel

LATEST REVIEW

Fjäril i koppel

In Zinat Pirzadeh's gripping true story Butterfly on a leash, over the course of one night in Teheran, a young woman has to make the most important decision of her life. As she waits for dawn to arrive, she thinks about the girl she was.

Book cover of Gränsmark

LATEST REVIEW

Gränsmark

Borderland is a new outing for Aino Trosell’s working-class heroine Siv Dahlin, who is now a postwoman in the remote region of Finnmark, where cuts in services are piling on the pressure and local sensibilities are stirred by both wolf attacks and refugee problems.

Book cover of Dåligt folk

LATEST REVIEW

Dåligt folk

Kjell Johansson has been writing insightful stories about people in insecure jobs since long before the lot of the precariat became the trendiest of socio-political topics. Bad People offers gripping insights into the different ways humanity is undermined by social insecurity.

Book cover of De unga vi dödar

LATEST REVIEW

De unga vi dödar

Eija Hetekivi Olsson's The Young Ones We Kill is an at times harrowing mother-daughter story about the consequences of bullying in schools, segregation in the suburbs of Gothenburg, and the love and fear of a mother fighting for her daughter.

Book cover of Bomullsängeln

LATEST REVIEW

Bomullsängeln

Cotton Angel, the first in Susanna Alakoski's epic quartet of novels covering the lives of four generations of working women, vividly depicts a Finnish cotton mill community during the years from Finland’s Civil War to the aftermath of World War II.

Graphic novels

Book cover of När vi var samer

LATEST REVIEW

När vi var samer

Mats Jonsson tried to avoid thinking about his Sámi heritage for decades. In When We Were Sámi he realises that he has no choice but to face it and to try to understand where Sámi people fit in Sweden’s history.

Book cover of Homo Line

LATEST REVIEW

Homo Line

Travelling between Dimension Homesickness and Dimension Viking Line, Edith Hammar's Homo Line is a graphic novel about dislocation, gentrification, and a lesser-known aspect of wartime Helsinki.

Children's & YA literature

Nattkorpen book cover

LATEST REVIEW

Nattkorpen

In Johan Rundberg's The Night Raven, the merciless winter of 1880, an abandoned newborn and a murder all coincide to push eleven-year-old Mika, an orphan, into exploring her past and solving a mystery in the city of Stockholm.

LATEST REVIEW

Glömdagen

In Sara Lundberg's The Day of Forgetting, we see that some days are just like that. You forget what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go. You might even embarrass yourself by getting things wrong. But don’t worry: we all know what it feels like, and we know it does get better.

Poetry

Book cover of Undergången

LATEST REVIEW

Undergången

In an expansive collection of poetry dealing explicitly with climate change and COVID-19, Malte Persson explores the meaning of time of and beyond humanity. Annihilation, ranging in scope from single poems to a 60-page epic, uses rhyme to impose a sense of order in an increasingly disordered world.

Non-fiction

book cover of Bellman. Biografin

LATEST REVIEW

Bellman. Biografin

After more than two hundred years, Sweden’s national poet finally has a literary biography. In Bellman. The Biography, Carina Burman sketches the life of Carl Michael Bellman in a lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched work.

Features