Before Christmas I finished my first Swedish novel. For me it was a major milestone. I had read books previously which had been rewritten in easy Swedish, but this was the first unabridged, unedited book I had read. It was hard work, with the dictionary beside me. But I enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed the sense of achievement which came at the end.
The book, by a local novelist called Håkan Nesser, had the unlikely name of Kim Novak never swam in Genesaret’s lake, or in Swedish, Kim Novak badade aldrig i Genesarets sjö. It is a story about two fourteen year old boys, a story of adolescence, a story of growing up. Spending a summer together by an idyllic lake in the gentle hills of central Sweden (near Örebro as it turns out) the boys experience various aspects of life – love, sex, death, suffering, evil. A gentle humour runs throughout the book; there is joy and laughter in the midst of questioning and sadness.
I was glad to hear that the book had been made into a film, so the other night Maria and I watched it together. We enjoyed the film almost as much as the book, perhaps more in some ways. The setting was beautiful. The boys playing the main roles gave us lots of laughs.
The main character, Erik, has an older brother, Henry, who is a reporter for the local paper. He is living with them for the summer in the cottage by the lake. He has taken a break from his job to write a book about life, “the real thing.” He explains this to Erik bluntly:
Jag tänker skriva en bok. Jag måste göra den någon gång. Vissa människor måste göra det. Jag är en som människa.
I think I will write a book. I must do it sometime. Certain people must. I am such a person.
I have to say that I understood this completely. Since I was a teenager I have thought about writing a book. I am never sure what it should be about. Something like Henry said: “life – the real thing.” Whatever that might turn out to be. It is a strange thing, this urge to write. Perhaps the desire will never develop into action. It is likely there will never be a book from me. But, as Henry said, so I can say, “I am one of those people.”
Our favourite quote from Henry comes directly after he has discussed the Genesaret house rules with Erik and Edmund, which conclude with the regular emptying of the “shit bucket” from the outdoor toilet.
Livet ska vara som för en fjäril en sommardag.
Life should be as for a butterfly on a summers day.
Ah yes, a summers day. Butterflies. The snow outside makes us dream…