Sunday, 10 May 2009

Swedish Writers at EIBF, 2009

See Swedish Book Review 2009:1, p.92, for details of Swedish writers at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 15-31 August this year. I'm not a betting man, but I'd wager that Henning Mankell will get the biggest audience. They'd better hold that event in an extra big tent. I might take the opportunity to say hello to Per Wästberg, for whom I did some translation jobs in the past, and whom I have only met once before - also in Edinburgh - at an International PEN conference some years ago.

The EIBF is my favourite among the many festivals (International, Fringe, jazz, TV ...) that clog up Edinburgh's streets and venues in the late summer/early autumn. It's the only time in the year when Charlotte Square garden in the west end is open to the public, and the civilised susurration of thousands of bookworms in that charming Georgian setting makes a welcome contrast to the maelstrom of the Royal Mile where Fringe "performers" and assorted mountebanks and flyer-wielding students determined to shanghai you into their show impede your passage.

Entry to the garden is free, and there's no pressure to buy a ticket for any of the events with big-name writers. I've spoken myself in the past and introduced speakers on behalf of Scottish PEN, but now I prefer to just amble in with the rest of the hoi polloi, browse the publishers' stalls in the book tents, and sit outside with a beer and a sandwich. Or inside, if it's that kind of summer.

Harry

7 comments:

  1. >> I'd wager that Henning Mankell will get the biggest audience.<<

    Well, I hope they make room for some Swedish poets, too.

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  2. I'm cynical about the obsession that the British book trade has with bestselling thrillers from ScandalNavelia. For me it doesn't have to be only poetry, but also general (i.e. normal) novels, which are not books that follow the trend of police series, which, after all, TV can do much better if you want gore, violence and murder most foul. Gently does it, so to speak.

    Subtlety, narrative perspectives, thought processes, and the like can, however, be better done in books, rather than with an eternal voice over.

    Pottering around Edinburgh does sound nice.

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  3. The only poet specifically mentioned in the SBR is "Swedish-Ugandan poet Johannes Anyuru". Out of the eight Swedish writers pencilled in for the EIBF, I would say that Mankell is the least interesting.

    Another bookish event in Edinburgh is the Christian Aid booksale at St. Andrew's and St. George's church in George Street. It's an annual event in the month of May and is always hyped up for weeks beforehand as the biggest second-hand booksale in the world. There are usually some unexpected treasures donated.

    It started on Saturday and I called in a couple of hours ago for a look-see. Made a beeline as ever for the foreign languages section and bought myself a "Teach Yourself Urdu"; Jul Christophory "Sot et op Lëtzebuergesch/Dites-le en luxembourgeois/Say it in Luxemburgish"; Elias Bredsdorff "Ærkedansk", and Erik Aalbæk Jensen "Herrens mark", all for a fiver.

    Harry

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  4. Of the bouquinisterie Harry mentions, I note the Lëtzebuergesch book (Lët's Speak Lëtzebuergesch"?) and the name Elias Bredsdorff. I remember Bredsdorff from 1972, when he came to UEA to talk about "balla^s". The ^ represents his glottal-stop rendering of the word "ballad", even in English. During that same time, we UEA Scandinavianists also met Göran Printz-Påhlsson, who emerged from his rooms above a pub in Cambridge to impress us first-year students with his cravat and pondus. I remember a tape recorder with the droning song "Falkvard Lagermansson" being played, with the burden: "Jag säger Eder Falkvard, I skolen utav landet bortrymma". When I finally went to Sweden, they didn't quite speak like that. But I still remember the tune after 35 years.

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  5. I only knew Bredsdorff's name as the author of the definitive biography of Hans Christian Andersen. Which reminds me that in my 3rd year at university I shared digs with a visiting Dane who baffled me once by talking about the well-known writer José Andersen. I couldn't think who this apparently Spanish-Danish hybrid was. Only found out much later that HC is pronounced like José in Danish.

    I've just Googled Elias Bredsdorff, and I recommend you to read the Guardian obituary from 2002. I'm afraid I don't know how to create a link here. Bredsdorff was a left-winger politically and was active in the Danish Resistance during WWII. At Cambridge he was friendly with the left-wing economist Maurice Dobb - I'm sure I've seen his name linked with the Cambridge spy-ring - and that old ass Lord Justice Melford Stevenson called Bredsdorff an "evil influence" on the students of Cambridge. That was after he defended their right to protest about a visit from members of the Greek colonels' régime while their junta was in power there.

    So all in all Professor Bredsdorff sounds like a jolly good egg to me, and I look forward to reading his essays.

    Harry

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  6. The link to the Guarian obituary of Elias Bredsdorff is here.

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  7. Eric, I've got bad news for you. From time to time I read the online edition of "Östgöta Correspondenten", the local paper I used to read in my Linköping days, and I see that local boy Mons Kallentoft is an established writer of "deckare" who is currently working on his third book about Kommissarie Malin Fors "som löser brutala mord på östgötaslätten".

    "Nu är hon tillbaka, Linköpings kriminalhjältinna, olyckligare och mer nersupen än någonsin". So all the usual clichés are in place. How long, I wonder, before Malin Fors takes her place alongside Wallander & co.?

    Harry

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