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Good Swedish novels?
March 20, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

What are some good Swedish novels?

Specifically modern novels that are set in, or deal with life in Sweden. Written in English. What are the Swedish classics? Leading modern authors in Sweden? Any info that I can put towards compiling a reading list is appreciated. Realised recently that I need more Swedish literature in my life and though I would ask for some personal recommendations here before heading off to google or whatever...
posted by fire&wings to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is a play and it was written in the late 1800s, but it's, uh, Swedish.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:11 AM on March 20, 2006


Henning Mankell's Inspector Wallander series isn't "high fiction" but is among the best series of dectective novels I've read in any language. They're quite popular in Europe, but I don't know if I've seen any around here--although I'm sure you can find them.
posted by maxreax at 9:16 AM on March 20, 2006


Thanks, I've heard of the Inspector Wallander series before. When I say "written in English" I meant translated into English also, obviously.
posted by fire&wings at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2006


Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann had a daughter who wrote a book that i enjoyed, though it's probably not required reading. Psychological with a bit of magical realism.
posted by xanthippe at 9:45 AM on March 20, 2006


As an avid reader of mysteries there is no better writer than Mankell. While it may not be high fiction it is wonderful writing. Some of the most compelling character development that I have come across. His stories are as much about the internal journey's of Wallender as the ostensible mystery.. it is one series that might be best read in sequence--but should be read regardless.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2006


Although beeing Swedish, I don't read much swedish literature and don't really know what is translated to english. But I liked Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi is a popular book about growing up in the Torne river valley in northern Sweden (were I grew up, so that might have something to do with it).

If comics are OK, the first Rocky book has recently been translated to english.

Some classics I remember reading in school: August Strindberg, Vilhelm Moberg (especially the series about a family's emigration to the US), Selma Lagerlöf.

There is a list of swedish writers on wikipedia (seems to be a mix of both modern and classic authors, and some finnish authors who wrote in swedish.)

And Ibsen was norwegian, not swedish.
posted by rpn at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2006


Henrik Ibsen was Norwegian, not Swedish. Liv Ullmann and her daughter Linn Ullmann are Norwegian too.
posted by iviken at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2006


More detective/crime fiction: Liza Marklund and Håkan Nesser are quite popular in Sweden (and translated to english). Never read any of the books myself though.
posted by rpn at 10:20 AM on March 20, 2006


Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman. Actually, anything by Kerstin Ekman, but Blackwater is one of the best books I've ever read.

The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olaf Enquist
Christmas Oratorio by Goran Tunstrom

Second Vilhelm Moberg

Swedish Lit classics:
Miss Julie by August Strindberg

anything by Selma Lagerlof (I'd recommend The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Gosta Berling's Saga or Jerusalem)

anything by Astrid Lindgren (most famous for the Pippi Longstocking stories, but The Brother's Lionheart is not to be missed)

Women and Appletrees by Moa Martinson

and don't overlook Ingmar Bergman's films
posted by luneray at 10:33 AM on March 20, 2006


If you want a reading list, send me an email (in profile) and I'll pass on the M.A. reading list for the University of Washington's Scandinavian Dept.

Sweden has produced some great literature, but so have the other Scandinavian countries. And you're lucky because Scandinavian Literature is "hot" right now, so lots of works are being translated into English.
posted by luneray at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2006


I'm reading my fifth Wallender mystery at the moment. Strangely, I haven't found any of them particularly compelling. Which, of course, raises interesting questions as to why I keep reading them . . .

I think it has everything to do with the setting. I like the descriptions of Sweden and the attitude of the characters. I'd like to find more of that sort of thing in other Scandinavian literature so I'll be watching this thread (and have already sent off an email to luneray).
posted by aladfar at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2006


Written by Swedes:

Pär Lagerkvist's 'Dvärgen' - The dwarf

Not set in sweden, nor is it modern. But better then anything that is.

And perhaps something by Stig Dagerman

I found the translation of his short story "to kill a child" for you to see if you like his style. Any translation loses some I think, but it's still good.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2006


i haven't read much swedish fiction, but can't recommend the Martin Beck mysteries written by the husband/wife team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall more highly.

Great fun and a nice picture of late sixties Sweden.
posted by elsar at 12:10 PM on March 20, 2006


If you ever want to extend your interests to contemporary Norwegian litt (or for the benefit of other readers of this thread), I was blown away (and annoyed) by this book that just recently came out in English. It's the first part of a trilogy, but can easily be read on its own as well.

And speaking of contemporary Norwegian litt, I'd give a blanket recommendation to anything by Lars Saabye Christensen you can get your hands on.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:25 PM on March 20, 2006


Here's a list of contemporary Swedish fiction available in English (that haven't already been mentioned). It's not an exhaustive list (and I haven't read most of them), but it should get you started. :)

Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson (please don't be put off by the cover. It's not "ladies' lit")

The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Frozen Music by Marika Cobbold

The Way of the Serpent and Hash by Torgny Lindgren

The Best Intention by Ingmar Bergman

A Tiler's Afternoon by Lars Gustafsson

Agnes Cecilia by Maria Gripe

The Day I Began my Studies in Philosophy and Other Stories and Death's Midwives by Margarta Ekstrom

Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten

Heart's Delight by Per Nilsson

the Moomin Troll series by Tove Jannson


If you want to branch out beyond Sweden and read some Scandinavian literature, I can heartily recommend the following:

The Magic Lantern (Laterna Magica) by William Heinesen (tr. by Tiina Nunnally)

Kristin Lavransdattar by Sigrid Undset (tr. by Tiina Nunnally, don't bother with any other translation)

Meeting at the Milestone by Sigurd Hoel

Childhood by Tove Ditlevesen
posted by luneray at 1:13 PM on March 20, 2006


Hjalmar Söderberg is a personal and national favourite. Read Doctor Glas and Martin Birck's youth!

Per-Anders Fogelström's trilogy about Stockholm and Vilhelm Moberg's emigration series are both classics, set in different but genuinely Swedish environments in the late 1800:s.

Strindberg, Lagerlöf and Moberg are the grandmasters of Swedish literature. Read them if you want the Great Classics.

For contemporary literature, Popular Music from Vittula is probably just what you're looking for. Torbjörn Flygt's Underdog is a good recent novel describing "Folkhemmet" ("the People's home"), the community model that has largely defined Sweden since the 60:s. I don't know if it's available in English.

I read one book by Kerstin Ekman and thought it was stupid.

The Martin Beck books are good and highly regarded, and have bred an awful lot of bad movies.

Moomin is as enjoyable for adults as for kids, and tremendous books to read out loud to someone. Really, don't miss them.
posted by springload at 5:13 PM on March 24, 2006


Kristin Lavransdattar by Sigrid Undset (tr. by Tiina Nunnally, don't bother with any other translation)

As is the case with Henrik Ibsen and the Ullmanns (as mentioned above), she's Norwegian too - not Swedish.

There are more excellent Norwegian authors, spesifically:

Roald Dahl (Boy)
Jostein Gaarder
Jo Nesbø
Ingvar Ambjørnsen (wrote the book that was made into a movie that was nominated for an Oscar a few years ago: Elling)
Per Petterson (Out Stealing Horses)

And, of course, the four great: Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, Alexander Kielland and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Pick up anything written by these.
posted by Haarball at 3:47 AM on March 27, 2006


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