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Dreaming of Us: New Swedish Writing

March 2019

The silhouette of a woman can be seen behind a window curtain
Image: Catherine Anyango Grünewald, Film still from Vanity + Shame, 2011. By arrangement with the artist.

This month we bring you Swedish-language literature from Sweden and Finland. The writers here engage with inclusivity, poverty, identity, and representation, confronting cultural stereotypes to present new perspectives on their countries. Linnea Axelsson’s August Prize-winning epic poem offers a multigenerational portrait of the indigenous Sami culture. Poet Mara Lee finds a teenage confrontation with neo-Nazis affecting her later relationships. Balsam Karam conjures a hellish prison in a futuristic setting, and Andrzej Tichý considers the people contemporary Swedish society has disavowed. In work from two Finland-Swedish writers, Mathias Rosenlund upends the stereotype of Scandinavian affluence, while Adrian Perera exposes the unthinking racism behind publishing “categories.” Poet Nino Mick interrogates identity and the limitations of bureaucracy. And Johannes Anyuru travels to Alhambra and meditates on history and Islam. We thank our guest editor, Saskia Vogel, who introduces the issue and provides several of the translations. The costs of the translations were defrayed by a subsidy from the Swedish Arts Council, gratefully acknowledged.

Who Dreams of Us?: New Swedish-Language Writing
By Saskia Vogel
Whose story gets to be told?
Two people walk through the snow with the sun rising behind mountains in the distance
Tadeáš Gregor, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
From “Aednan”
By Linnea Axelsson
What kind of home is it / where no one dares say / our son’s name
Translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel
By Mara Lee
He squinted at me, swaying in the wind. Blood or soil, he asked.
Translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel
Event Horizon
By Balsam Karam
The sun rose over the mountaintop in a blaze of blue and green and so the day began.
Translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel & Alice Olsson
From “Wretchedness”
By Andrzej Tichý
He said, this is real, and then he pulled up his shirt and showed us the scars under his arm.
Translated from Swedish by Nichola Smalley
Kopparberg Road 20
By Mathias Rosenlund
When you’ve always worked for a low wage, getting a higher wage is a challenge.
Translated from Swedish by Saskia Vogel
From “White Monkey”
By Adrian Perera
I say change is always painful, / someone has to be the first.
Translated from Swedish by Christian Gullette
From “Twenty-Five Thousand Miles of Nerves”
By Nino Mick
I want to reside in the hard and permanent / so I construct a suite of poems and a man to live inside
Translated from Swedish by Christian Gullette
By Johannes Anyuru
Writing is a post-traumatic symptom.
Translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson