Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Utan personligt ansvar by Lena Andersson

”Utan personligt ansvar”, without personal responsibility, is a novel about a relationship that is not a relationship. Five years have passed since Ester Nilsson's romance with Hugo Rask and that experience has not made her cynical. Her new love subject is Olof Sten, an actor and a very ambivalent man. As Olof describes it, t's allright to have a relationship with Ester, as long as it's not called a relationship. Because Olof is married.

Lena Andersson is phenomenal at describing the sublime. A dislocation, an imbalance of power between two people, something that should be unreasonable in the world of love. The theme, as well as the predecessor, is a trespassing of moral boundaries, without personal responsibility. Because in the subjective reality it's impossible to proove Olof feelings or lack there of. And that makes Ester, who loves with all her heart, the weak one.

Much feels like a repetition of the last book. It's the same main character and the same theme. Nevertheless, it's not obsolete, and it's as interesting as before. There's the same naive expectations, imaginary love response and restrained anger, but this time the relationship, which is not a relationship but unsurpricingly very much resembles one in every aspect, is extracted suffering for several years. This time Ester's love want to be with her in a way, but since he is married she doesn't fit into his life.

Both of them are aware of the imbalance of power and the stream of mixed signals seems endless. But Ester fights for a long time and as usual it's the partner most smitten that is the most vulnerable. The prose is philosophical and you can almost hear Lena Andersson's ironical voice. Uncertainty is mixed with short moments of happiness and pain, and Ester, in her philosophical manner, is always ready to interpret the course of events in an optimistic way. 

The intimacy is coming at a high price. It's almost like a financial business. As Ester view it, when Olof is in the possession of capital, he can afford to be an asshole. When his account is empty, he has to spend time with her and appreciate her to be able to make her stay. With occasional symbolic transactions, he compensates for being distant and, first and foremost, married. He feeds on her feelings. When Ester wants more, he received the symbolic capital and becomes uninterested, and when Ester doesn't bother anymore, he is poor and wants to be with her.

Unfortunately, Olof Sten remains an evasive shadow, almost a stranger, throughout the book. Since Ester is a verbal-erotic character, the intellectual conversation between them is necessary and very important to her, should be more prominent. But it might not be enough for the reader to get to know Olof anyway, and be able to understand Ester's feelings, because he is seen through her eyes and love is illogical and blind. Surely, one can be judgmental towards her. But many people probably identify with some of the feelings and some of the behavior, because most people have been in love once.


Missing person by Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano received the Nobel Prize in literature in 2014, with the motivation "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Modiano seems to be a humble person with much integrity. He was thankful to be chosen and be a part of a group of authors that he himself has always admired.

Despite being a famous author in France, with 30 books, many people - readers, literature critiques and himself included - were surprised that he won the prize. Many Swedish readers were unacquainted with his authorship - which no doubt is the big publishers fault, not having translated his books lately, probably because they consider their commercial value too low. Only a smaller publisher has shown interest in his work and translated it. It's almost as if his books resembled the shadows they contain. Fortunately, Modiano's books now has the attention they deserve.

Modiano was born in 1945, in Paris. His parents had met during the occupation and his early life involved some dark experiences that made the foundation of his body of work. He has an interest in uncovering mysteries from the past and in "Missing person", "De dunkla butikernas gata", the main character, who has lost his memory, is searching for his identity. Clues lead back to the occupation in Paris. The core of the novel is identity and the meaning of the past. Without memories we don't know ourselves. We are only strangers, shadows without directions. The dark streets in the novel perfectly catches the main character's melancholy.

Time is an essential theme. It's a floating concept, and sometimes it's difficult to decide when something occurs. The impressions of the present and past is melting together and the character's understanding of his past alters from different people's stories. Sometimes they are not even his own memories. The prose is humble but effective. Modiano is clever at portraying the deceitful memory lane, with its delusive cul-de-sacs, and how easy the subjective mind can be influenced.

Authors that have received the Nobelprize are often perceived as heavy, even by people that haven't read their books, but Modiano's work is very accessible to the reader. The books are short and the prose is rather humble, though it has many levels. "Missing person" is exciting as well as accessible and should appeal to a broad group of readers.


The walking dead, volume 1 by Robert Kirkman

The police officer Rick wakes up in a hospital and discovers the world has changed. Zombie creatures are everywhere and mankind is forced to hide or kill them. The society has collapsed, and small groups of people are trying to survive.

I don't have much experience in graphic novels, but this is my point of view. This is a novel about a zombie apocalypse, but it's also so much more. In the introduction, Robert Kirkman explains that he was interesting in portraying a different zombie story. The psychological aspect was important, which is evident in the main character's change through the story, in a time that demands great, and not always kind, measures. That is one of the most interesting themes in the book. The story is not first and foremost a story about the apocalypse, but a story with psychological dimensions.

As for the layout, the book is well-detailed and carefully crafted. The pictures are really artful, with everything from the shadows to the characters face expressions.

However, there are some minor distracting details, from a gender perspective. The division of responsibilities in the group is interesting. Everyone should benefit from learning all kind of skills. That is necessary since no one knows what the future holds. Donna mentions that the women clean the clothes because of their gender, and she is onto something. Unfortunately, she is portrayed as a whiny, bitter woman and Lori - who doesn't question anything, and equals the proper woman - is protesting against Donna. Upholding gender differences don't belong in this kind of situation. Of course, the most skilled should do the work. Man or woman. Rick should be hunting. He is a police officer, accustomed to danger and weapons. But Andrea turns out to be a rather good shot, as well. Why make a big thing about it? Women can be heroes, as well.

Another thing worth mentioning is the quote that Dale "deserves" two women - of course young and beautiful - living with him, indicating something, but Dale merely states that they are only friends. Why not let them do whatever they want together, and neither honor or condemn it? Perhaps some indulgence is necessary, but what is the meaning of portraying women's purpose as being a reward for men that "deserve" it, without consideration to the women's needs? Why is it never the opposite, that a women deserves two young, beautiful men? I don't think the characters have these remarks in the tv-series, so I'm biased since I watched it before I read it.

When it comes to the structure of the characters in the book, the obvious leader, Rick, is a good man, most of the time, but the fact that he appoints himself as the leader of the group, only questioned by Shane, is another silent rule. Kirkman had a possibility to explore gender equality, but he passed. It's evident the book is written for men. However, the most irritating character is Lori. Why is she so boring and unlikable? She and Shane knew where Rick was and thought he was safe, but even so, didn't come back for him. When Rick woke up, he was crazy about finding his family. Why couldn't Lori be the same?

The most interesting theme in the book is about humanity and responsibility in this kind of situation. To what extent are we supposed to take care of each other? How human are we? In many ways, mankind is worse than the walking dead because people are responsible for their actions. The book is as much a social commentary as a zombie apocalypse story. It's fascinating to enter a world where the normal laws don't apply anymore. This is the first book, and just the beginning, but Rick's gradual change in the series is a way of showing how much our ordinary lives are driven by laws, social structures. It's easy to follow the laws and be humble and empathetic when everything is normal. But when the society has collapsed, some other, more primitive, factors about survival instinct surface and become significant.


Det här är vår tid by Fanny Härgestam

The Tunisian pitchman Muhammad Bouazizi started the Arabic revolution when setting fire to himself in december, 17th, 2010. A short time after, the president of Tunisia resigned. In ”Det här är vår tid”, This is our time, thoughts, feelings and visions among the politicians and the population in the wake of the revolution are central - when the democracy fever has subsided and the anxiety begins.

Fanny Härgestam has followed three women in different political parties and a woman in the countryside, whose husband was shot during the revolution. Thus, the martyr widow, Amira, wonders if the revolution contributes to opportunities of a free life or destroy lives.

This is a book about the value of words during the eventful time when the future of Tunisia is taking shape. Three of the women Färgestam is portraying are working within politics. Mabrouka Mbarek, member of the middle party CPR, Meherzia Labidi, member of the Islamist Ennahda and Selma Mabrouk, member of the socialist party Ettakatol.

On the contrary to what one might believe about politics, it is a thriller. Wild discussions, demonstrations and two murder on members of the opposition are happening during the constitution writing. The most discussed questions are about religion's part in the constitution, and article 46, about women's rights. There is a constant struggle between the parties and the women have an admirable patience when the period is dragging on. They are brave and inspiring and do everything they can for a democratic future, while people are murdered for their opinions. 

When the Islamic party, Ennahda, won the first free election in 2011, there were, according to the author, many people that worried about restricted women's rights, and now Ennahda and the opposition was going to write the constitution together. How would it turn out? Was it even possible to agree?

This is an important time of democracy building in the nation that began the Arabic revolution. Härgestam has interviewed many people inside the center of politics in the Bardo Palace and among the population outside, to be able to write from all perspectives. It is very thrilling.


Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

Philosophy vs science progress. What is more important to mankind? What makes us happy? The play Arcadia (1993) is set in a country house, Sidley Park, in Derbyshire, and follows the lives of people living there in the 1800's and present day.

The play is rich and complex. Stoppard explores many different themes and contrasts such as past and present, and order and disorder. They melt together and show that everything is connected. The story offers more questions than answers. It involves philosophy, history, classic literature, mystical poets like Lord Byron, landscape design, murder speculations, population dynamics, mathematical algorithms and thermodynamics. And everything comes together perfectly. Some of the characters even investigate science that challenges Newton's theories of physics. It's very interesting for people with great curiousity. 

The play also investigates the meaning of certainty, the nature of evidence and truth in modern ideas about history, mathematics and physics. Clues from the past can be interpreted in different ways. And because they can't be proven to be false, does that mean they are true? Is truth the necessary opposite of false? The characters are struggling with this problem when they are thinking about history and time. Much of the play centers around time - research about history and attempts of predicting the future with an equation, and the exceptions that make it impossible. They discuss the hypothetical theory about the prediction of the future being prevented by irregularities such as sex. Perhaps love is the exception of the rule, which makes the future so difficult to predict. The disorder in feelings, the contrast, or perhaps the connection, of passion and madness, is a kind of practical example of chaos theory. The concept of order vs chaos theory is explored in different ways, both in personal feelings and physical disorder (the table in the center of the room that collects objects from both time periods). The characters' social order moves into chaos, where time is depicted as a kind of illusion. However, there might be order in chaos, perhaps we are incapable of perceiving it because our lack of knowledge.

There's a tragic theme of smallness, universal insufficiency and the life going in one direction. Despite Newton's equations that goes both ways, there are certain events that are irreversible, like time, and fire and heat (the second law of thermodynamics), as well as the cooling universe and burned relationships. But the characters in the 1800's are living on in descendants and letters. Life is eternal, and at the same time, it is the exception of the rule. Stoppard paints this picture splendidly. When there's chaos, there are no longer any rules, and the different eras intermingle. The structure of the play is a work of art itself.

Last but not least, every theme is evolving from the source of love and death and it's both tragic, comical and thrilling. And regardless of time they think and reflect. This is a play for people not wanting to be served answers, but prefer to interpret and form their opinions along the way. Answers are not important. Conversation is. So, connecting the dots, philosophy or science progress, reflection or knowledge? When the characters face a dark future, and when the world is doomed – due to chaos theory - they turn to music and waltz. So, perhaps that is one answer to the question about what's more important to mankind?


Sapfo - dikter och fragment by Sapfo

”Jag säger dig, man kommer att minnas oss i framtiden.” - Verse 147. My own translation: ”I tell you, we will be remembered in the future”.

The words turned out to be a profetia. Sapfo is one of the first known poets in history. She has had an immense impact on the western society. For 2500 years, she has affected people with her poems and is still not forgotten. She introduced a certain concept of love that still remains in our society. The physical pain of love, that becomes a pathology. Our idea of passion. It all derives very much from her. 

Not much is known about her, but she was a great name in her time and later centuries. Platon spoke greatly of her, her image was pictured on coins and theaters made plays about her. Then came religion, and whether it was because of her gender or presumed homosexuality, she was no longer seen as a great poet, but a sinner.  In her own time she was considered a great poet, regardless of her privat life and sexuality. According to the authors and interpreters of the book, Ovidius might have been the first to introduce her as homosexual and promiscuous. The word lesbian derives from her.

The last century, however, her texts have surfaced yet again, and this is a new edition of translated and interpreted fragments, also containing the precious, one and only intact poem that has been found. Sapfo seems to have been a very intriguing person and it's fascinating to read poems that paint a picture of people's lives so long ago, and to realize that despite many changes around us, we are so alike.