Archive for the ‘All the rest’ Category

Midsummer in deserted Stockholm

Friday, June 24th, 2011

I have always loved Stockholm as it is in the summer, abandoned by most of its inhabitants. It is difficult to understand why others seem to prefer an existence in a country cottage or a sailing boat, while the parks and gardens of the city are left to lavish their abundance on nobody. Swedes entertain at their most intense in the summer, cooking on primitive stoves and making do with outdoor dishwashing, while their verandas and balconies back home rest in solitary silence and the plants go to seed.
Personally, I love wandering the quiet streets, for once enjoying the luxury of deliberately chosing the shady side, away from the sun. Sitting reading on a bench under the leafy canopy of the chestnut trees at Katarina Kyrka cemetary. Wandering along the quays … It’s all mine now for a month or so.

The end of summer

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Provence July 2010
Lavender, Provençe

It was supposed to be so very long and so very creative, this summer, and I expected to come out of it wiser, contented and with a clear perspective on my life. It hasn’t quite happened, but there have been wonderful moments. Interesting new places, beautiful scenery and unexpected kindness and generosity. The rest is up to me, I suppose. And it’s time to attack work again. Try to introduce a measure of discipline. In every way.

Both my novels keep travelling the world and copies of the beautiful Korean edition of ‘Astrid and Veronika’ recently landed on my desk. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to an article about ‘Astrid and Veronika’ in the Arab newspaper Dar Al Hayat:

The article is illustrated with an image of the Norwegian cover. Interesting how international the world has become. And sad that although we can read, understand and enjoy each other’s literature, we still find so many reasons not to understand each other.

Stockholm has turned autumnal while I was in Provençe and the people here have shelved their frivolous summer selves and returned to reality. The outcome of yesterday’s election added to the sense of sobriety. The country is facing four years of complex politics with the conservative/liberal government dependent on either the Greens or the nationalistic Sverigedemokraterna. An unenviable task.

But I will again flee to the other side of the world where my other reality awaits me. In my absence my grandchild in New Zealand has become a developed little person who can walk and talk and I urgently need to renew our relationship. Back there, I will have to retrieve a completely different set of passwords, codes, phone numbers and addresses from the murky depths of my brain where they sleep while I live here in Sweden. But before then, some hard work needs to be done. The novel that fills my thoughts and dreams needs to take on a format that makes it accessable to others, too. Simple, one would think. But it doesn’t feel that way.

Leaves, Stockholm

New beginnings

Saturday, March 6th, 2010


A friend recently reminded me of a quote by French author and philosopher Albert Camus:

Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai dĂ©couvert en moi un invincible Ă©tĂ© – In the midst of winter, I have discovered that I carry inside me an invincible summer.

I have often felt the opposite, perhaps especially so this long, hot and humid summer. But it is drawing to it’s end. There is a sharp crispness in the air in the morning and the sun rises with me. It feels like a relief. That invincible innner summer is all I need.

It’s not that easy

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

I just read a very nice article. It was all about ethics. How to be a good person. But at the end it said something like ‘we can ignore that which is too hard’. I absolutely do not think we can. It’s exactly that which we need to stare in the face. Confront. We cannot say ‘Ah, but basically he/she is a nice person. ‘ We cannot. We must not. We have to fight bigotry and stupidity wherever we find it. We must. For our survival.

New beginning

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Auckl_Raglan_Taupo 2008 029_resized

All white. Nothing. It’s humid hot summer here, but my mind is elsewhere. Or nowhere.


Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Visby2 010

Just a week to go. And then a leap across the earth to my other life. This morning I read interviews with two Croatian authors, Slavenka Drakulic and Dubravka Ugresic. Both live in excile, Drakulic divides her time between Vienna and Stockholm and a new home in Istria, Ugresic lives in Amsterdam. I admire these two women immensely. Not for their writing – I don’t know it – but for their ability to make a full life out of their imposed excile. I have chosen mine and still struggle to make it a coherent whole. Or perhaps this is why. I have a choice, so I constantly consider my situation instead of immersing myself in my life, such as it is. Drakulic says in the interview that she doesn’t mind the fact that she is not properly assimilated in any of the communities where she lives. ‘I like being on the fringe,’ she says. ‘Everything is more clearly observed from there.’ And Ugresic says: At this stage in my life (she is sixty) I am often content with being like an island. There is much that I escape. I don’t understand what people talk about on the bus, in shops, at the cafe, and I don’t need to respond, or take any responsbility. It is actually rather nice.’

I wish I could learn to apply such a perspective. Some days I believe I can. Yesterday was such a day. I spent hours wandering the streets in the rain, watching the city and the people who live here. It didn’t matter that I was on my own. I thought I saw it more clearly than ever. But then today, again I am overcome by a sense of dislodgement and loneliness. A longing to belong. To be inside.


Katarina Kyrka, Stockholm


Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

When do things decide to leave our lives? And where do they go? Things that were once central to us that we suddenly realise are not there anymore. Where are they?

When I was a small child I kept all my treasures in a square box. Just as I don’t know when it left my life, I have no idea where it came from, and exactly when. I don’t think it was a gift, more like something handed down to me from someone else. It was approximately ten by ten centimetres and five centimetres high. The outside was covered in a rather unattractive olive coloured material with little specks of a darker colour. If I let my hand run over the lid I could feel the rough texture of the surface. It lived in the small wardrobe in the room that I shared with my brother. The narrow space was mine only. A true luxury and I think a privilege allowed me as the older sister.

The box had no lock and no proper hinges. It looked a little like a sewing box – which it might have been in a previous life. It was an unsafe place for treasures. But at that time I lived in a safe world and my treasures were safe in the box. It contained my collection of film star pictures. My favourites were Pier Angeli (whatever was she famous for I never knew), Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida and Brigitte Bardot. And then there were the gifts that Klaus, my first boyfriend, had presented me: a set of four minute dices that felt warm to the touch – I only discovered much later that they were made from ivory – and large book marks with pictures of Jesus and pink roses. My golden bracelet with little charms. My milk teeth… Important treasures.

It bothers me that it is only recently that I have thought about my box and wondered when it left my life. When did I lose it? What happened to it? I have no memory of it breaking. Or being consciously discarded. Why did I not take it with me when I left home? One day it just wasn’t there. And of the contents only the dices remain. Three of them.

The Impac Dublin Award

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

NZ cover compressed

Sonata for Miriam has been nominated for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Award. My sincere gratitude to the New Zealand libraries who chose my novel! See the complete list here: IMPAC Dublin Award

I love Norway

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

A miracle has happened in Norway. ‘La meg synge deg stille sanger’ (Let me sing you gentle songs), my first novel, topped the national charts for months and for a time after the release of the second novel, ‘Taushetens konsekvenser’ (The consequence of silence) both books featured among the top ten.
It seems my novels have landed in the very best hands in Norway: a wonderful publisher, Vigmostad & Björke, wonderful book sellers and equally perceptive and wonderful readers.
The reviews have been extraordinary. One of the latest is by Finn Stenstad for Tönsberg Blad:
In this way is revealed step by step a tale that has connections with the nazis’ exterminationa of the Jews, a family chronicle related to the grand war novels with the inherent themes, while at the same time the pregnant meaning of the title develops into an existential central theme that concerns all aspects of the novel: the terrible consequences of silence. To sum up, a powerful, yes unforgettable novel.

Doors in Visby

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Doors are pregnant with meaning. We use them to shut out, and to shut in. They represent security. And oppression.
On this little island in the Baltic I think they are also a means of expression.

One afternoon wandering the streets: