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Is Scandinavian literature gloomy?

Written by son of rambow on Saturday, November 28, 2009

I read on another thread somewhere that Scandinavian literature tends to be gloomy, depressing, or dark. I wonder whether this is because Scandinavian authors sit brooding in log cabins wondering whether to commit suicide, or to murder someone and then write a crime novel about it; or whether this has something to do with typecasting and selective translation.

Scandinavian children's books, such as those by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson are certainly not morbid, though Jansson does the occasional gesture towards a doom-laden atmosphere. Jansson's stories for adults are certainly not gloomy; they are in fact quite life-enhancing. The open sea and the skerries are not a setting for gloom.

Strindberg was the antithesis of gloomy. He was angry, provocative and so on. A satirist in his prose. But even during his Inferno Crisis, he would rage rather than brood. And his late plays bring reconciliation, not a resigned morbidity.

I think that if people switched off their gloom-detectors and read more widely, they would discover that Scandinavia has quite a broad range of moods in the various national literatures represented there. There are also, quite at random, the zaniness of Kandre and Edelfeldt; the legends of Lagerlöf; the dystopia of Boye; the books by Paasilinna; the everyday stories by Grytten; the sci-fi of Ajvide Lindqvist; fay poetry by Byggmästar; the Communist-Socialist poets such as Ågren, Diktonius, Wichman; the provocateur Donner; the leading Jewish literary critic Brandes; the gay and social critical novels of Kihlman; the "hackèd him in pieces smaw" aspect of the sagas, etc., etc.

If you focus on Ingmar Bergman the filmmaker, you can slant your perception of him depending on whether you look at earlier films, such as "Shame" and "The Silence" or the rumbustuous epic "Fanny and Alexander".

And if you read only a strict diet of Lagerkvist, Borgen, maybe Vesaas, Bjørneboe, Mörne, Dagerman, then watch a series of early Bergman films, you could certainly convince yourself that Scandinavia is cold, ice-bound, deeply depressed and depressing. But would you be doing the region justice?

this article posted by eric in world literature forum. follow this topic here

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