In the south of Sweden, the port town of Trelleborg is the largest working harbour in Scandinavia. From here, passenger ferries take you to Germany, Poland and Lithuania.
Each of the ferries is named after a character from a children’s book, for example Peter Pan, Huckleberry Finn and Robin Hood. The ferry I travelled a few days ago to Germany was called Nils Holgersson.
Who, you might wonder, is Nils Holgersson? The character comes from a book called ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’. It was published in 1906 by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.
In the story, Nils Holgersson is a naughty boy who is shrunk to a tiny size, and who tours the counties of Sweden in the back of a goose. It is an educational book about Sweden’s geography but also full of drama, intrigue and adventure. I recommend reading it.
On the ferry there was actually a statue of Nils. Looking a little freaky, and without any explanation, I am certain it confused many of the non-Swedish passengers.
Today is UNESCO World Book Day, to celebrate books and promote reading. The 23 April is a significant day as it commemorates the death of many famous writers such as William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.
Every year a World Book Capital is nominated. The first one, in 2001, was Madrid, Spain. This year it is Guadalajara in Mexico.
So today is a good day to buy a book, or to gift one. If you know anybody who is interested in learning about Sweden, or planning on visiting Sweden, then my guide book is a good match! I published it in 2021.
You can buy it on Amazon, Bokus, Akademibokhandeln and Adlibris amongst other online stores. Sweden, by Neil Shipley, published by Kuperard 2021. You can also buy it straight from the publisher at http://www.culturesmartbooks.co.uk
I still have a few copies left, so if you’d like to buy a signed copy, just let me know!
A new book is being released tomorrow. Villa, Volvo, Vovve is the Local newspaper’s word guide to Swedish life. The book looks at Swedish culture through Swedish vocabulary and is interesting and entertaining in equal measure. I learned a lot and laughed out loud quite a few times!
Organised alphabetically, the book takes you on a journey from ‘A’, meaning ‘yes, I agree’ to ‘Ö’ meaning ‘island’. Along the way it stops off at Swenglish, False Friends, grammar, pronunciation and a variety of crosswords and quizzes to test the reader. It is not a text book but is a great book for dipping into and learning more about Swedish culture and tradition via its language.
The book is edited by Catherine Edwards and Emma Löfgren and published by Lys Förlag. If you are interested in discovering more about Swedish words and sayings then I suggest you grab a copy from tomorrow at reputable book shops, physical and on-line.
I have just finished reading Mustafa Panshiri’s 2021 book ‘7 Råd Till Mustafa’. If you understand Swedish, I strongly recommend you read it.
Mustafa Panshiri came to Sweden as a child from Afghanistan. In his book, he cleverly weaves his own experience of integration with seven pieces of advice he wishes he would have been given. This makes the book not only interesting to read, but very practical and useful. He has an non ‘Western-centric’ perspective which I found fascinating to read about and reflect over.
Aimed at readers who want to understand Swedish culture, and integrate into society, the book is also relevant to Swedes. Panshiri includes sections with advice to ‘Svenssons’.
Integration is a complex issue and Mustafa Panshiri does not claim to solve all of the problems. However, with this book, and his endless youth outreach work, he will clearly make a difference.
The book can be bought on line and at good book shops.
Yesterday, a new book was published by author Rickard Gramfors. The book, entitled ‘Do you believe in Swedish sin?’ looks at Swedish exploitation and cult films. The book includes ‘350 outrageous, sexy, violent, fun movie posters from the Fifties to the early Eighties. Swedish films of all kinds, whacky co-productions, exported Swedish babes, and international films using the words Sweden, Schweden, Svezia, Suède as selling points; if it was “Swedish” – it was sexy!’
I have put my order in.
This international concept of Swedish sin still lingers around today, and influences some foreigners’ perception of Swedish women. Where does it come from?
Maybe unsurprisingly, it originates in the prudish conservative USA. In a speech given by US president Dwight D Eisenhower in 1960, he claimed that “sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide” in Sweden were due to welfare policy excess. This was a rhetorical way to attack Swedish people and politics at the same time. However, the world quickly forgot the link to welfare policy – but the sin reference remains.
He was basing his opinion on the scandalous Swedish fifties art films like ”One Summer of Happiness” and ”Summer with Monika”, birth-control pills, sexual education publications and condom vending machines. Swedish nudity was prevalent in most of the films throughout the 60’s and 70’s thus cementing the idea of Swedish sin.
In 1971, the Swedish sex education film ‘Language of Love’ was released in London to massive protest. One anti-film sign read ‘Sweden – more pornography, more suicides, more alcoholism and more gonorrhoea every year’.
Place on top of these scandalous films, young women who were self-determined, educated, liberated and sexually-active, and the stereotype becomes fixed.
The interesting thing about stereotypes is that they remain for a very long time. This is why the notion still exists today even though Swedish film today is far from exploitative.
Additionally, stereotypes often have little to do with reality. The reality was of course something else in Sweden at that time. The country was not riddled with promiscuous, drunken people. For example, Sweden had the world’s most restrictive alcohol laws and was struggling with the oppressive inheritance of Lutheran thinking.
So, did Swedish ‘sin’ ever actually exist? Or was it a politically motivated attack aimed at undermining social democracy? Or was it just a marketing trick to sell films and magazines?
In ten posts, I am recommending good Swedish reads to enjoy during the dark days and pandemic lock down. This is the tenth, and final, one, and it’s a classic – ‘Doctor Glas’- written in 1905 by Hjalmar Söderberg.
The gripping tale of a young doctor who falls in love with a married woman. The woman is wedded to a sadistic minister and divorce is out of the question. To free the woman he loves, and enact revenge on her husband, Dr Glas is faced with a terrible dilemma. Söderberg is considered an important figure in Swedish literary history, and wrote several novels. Another of his famous works is ‘The Serious Game’.
In ten posts, I am recommending good Swedish reads to enjoy during the dark days and pandemic lock down. This is the ninth one – ‘Easy Money’ – written in 2006 by Jens Lapidus.
This book takes us into the brutal, criminal underworld of Stockholm. A thriller, the story follows the destinies of a group of young men all trying to get filthy rich, but paying a heavy price along the way. Jens Lapidus has written several books on the same theme and several have been made into movies.
Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The sixth recommendation is ’Popular Music from Vittula’ from 2000, written by Mikael Niemi.
This brilliant book is set in the very north of Sweden during the 60’s and 70’s and is a young boy’s coming of age story. Based on the author’s own childhood, we get to experience a distant time in a remote region of Sweden influenced by communism, alcoholism, machoism, and rock and roll.
Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The sixth recommendation is ’The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ from 2009, written by Jonas Jonasson.
The book follows Allan Karlsson who escapes his old people’s home on his 100th birthday, and embarks on a remarkable journey through Sweden, with the police and bad guys hot in his heels. It is a funny book full of historical reference. It was made into a film in 2013. Jonas Jonasson also wrote ‘The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden’ which is also well worth a read.