From North to South and Back Again

Posted on 16th June 2014 at 15:58 by Ruth Urbom

In this blog post, SELTA member and Swedish Book Review editor Sarah Death provides some tips on a new literary magazine from Sweden, as well as her reflections on some books she's currently reading – from Sweden and closer to home! Sarah's translation of Tomas Bannerhed's 'scintillating first novel' The Ravens was published by Clerkenwell Press earlier this year.

I am dipping with alacrity into the first issue of a new Swedish literary magazine, fyrahundrafemtio coverFyrahundrafemtio (450). At the helm is Lasse Winkler who edited Svensk bokhandel (the Swedish Bookseller) with such aplomb and a literary twist for some years. Focusing mainly on Swedish and Anglophone literature, it is an engrossing mix of articles, interviews, reviews, short notices and great photos. The inaugural issue features an interview with Maggie O’Farrell and a reflection on the differences between men and women’s reading and the prestige attached to them, seen through a case study of a fairly typical Swedish couple. This is a traditional paper magazine, but subscription details and tasters are available here:

The magazine is reviewed here:

I am being drawn into Lillelord (Gyldendal, 1955), the first part of a renowned trilogy by Lillelord coverNorwegian writer Johan Borgen, set in Oslo before the First World War. A fine psychological portrait of a complex young protagonist on the eve of a new age. This is my preparation to be the editor of the English translation currently which Janet Garton is currently working on for Norvik Press.

Following a recent holiday trip to the heel of Italy, especially the abandoned cave dwellings at Matera, my current bedtime reading is Carlo Levi’s moving classic Christ Stopped at Eboli (1945) in an admirable translation by Frances Frenaye (Penguin Modern Classics, first published 1947). Levi was a political prisoner in internal exile under the Fascist regime in the mid-1930s, banished to a village in the impoverished region of Basilicata.

My travelling partner read the Levi book while we were actually in the region, while my own holiday reading was Kate Atkinson’s haunting story of a family in post-war York, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a fascinating prelude to her latest novel Life after Life, which I devoured last month.

What I am not reading this week is this month’s choice at my local library reading group: the late Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Light Years (1990, The Cazalet Chronicle vol. 1). Howard’s series of novels comes strongly recommended by fellow group members but the cast of brittle characters and the upper-middle-class milieu have failed to grab me after opening chapters.Det jag redan minns cover

What I will be reading next is Mats Kempe’s linked short stories with an unsettling undercurrent of magical realism, Det jag redan minns (What I Already Remember, Norstedts, 2014), which I will be reviewing for the autumn issue of Swedish Book Review. There are links to the Swedish reviews on the publisher’s site:

(Update by Sarah Death, October 2014:) The new literary magazine Fyrahundrafemtio (450) sadly ran into financial difficulties in September 2014 and has been forced to cease physical publication for the time being, though its editor Lasse Winkler remains upbeat about future developments and will continue to issue a digital newsletter. The whole third issue, at advanced draft stage, is available to read here: