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.
As the autumn darkness envelops us, what better than snuggling under a blanket with a good book? Over 10 posts, I will give you a recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. The fifth recommendation is ’Hanna’sDaughters’ from 1994, written by Marianne Fredriksson.
Set against the majestic isolation of Scandinavian lakes and mountains, this is a story of three generations of women from the same family. It is a moving testament of a time forgotten and an epic romance in every sense of the word. It also reflects Swedish society and a journey from poverty to prosperity.
Autumn has us firmly in its clutches. Today, the clocks go back and darkness envelops us. what better then, than snuggling under a blanket with a good book? Sweden’s literary scene is highly productive, from non-fiction to novels, detective stories to literary masterpieces. For the coming ten blogs, I will give you one recommendation of a Swedish book, translated into English, that is well worth a read. Out first – in honour of approaching Halloween – is Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist 2004.
In the dark winter of 1981 in the grey Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, twelve year-old Oskar is being bullied. He develops a friendship with a young neighbour, Eli, who helps him fight back against his tormentors. But all is not what it seems because Eli is a vampire. As mysterious murders spread fear and confusion in the community, Oskar starts to suspect his neighbour’s dark secret.
The book was made into a film in 2008, which is also well worth a watch.
A friend of mine was visiting at the weekend with her small child, and she forgot one of her books when she left. I looked through it and was struck by how the story book reflected Swedish society and lifestyle: a picture book designed to groom children in the Swedish way.
The book is called ‘Titta Max grav’ – ‘Look, Max’s grave!‘ – and it was first published in 1991 and written by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson. The book is a fascinating account of the life of a little boy called Max from the cradle to the grave. He is born, learns to walk and talk, gets a dog, goes to school, becomes a banker, finds a woman (unclear if they are married), has a child. But then it all goes downhill for Max. He watches too much television, so his woman gets sick of him and leaves. He gets sick, wants to consume Swedish ‘snus’ (snuff), gets sicker and eventually dies alone. And the final picture – look, Max’s grave.
The ‘simple’ story promotes many Swedish values which guide Swedish society: all children receive an education, men and women don’t have to be married to have children, women are empowered to leave useless men, everybody receives healthcare, many people die alone.
There’s nothing specifically unique about this particular book. All cultures pass on their values to their children via stories. Sometimes these are verbal stories told by grandparents as they entertain their grandchildren. Sometimes these are communicated via tv or other screens to curious minds.
Very often they are transmitted via ‘simple’ books full of pictures and easy words by parents at bedtime. But these books are actually not simple at all: they are cultural mechanisms designed to pass on values and ethics and indoctrinate children into the prevailing sense of morality.
So those of you with small children. Have you refelcted over what the stories are teaching your children? How are you indoctrinating them?