I needed more of Olof Lagercrantz and I found three books. First, there is "Mina egna ord" (= my own words), which is a collection of articles from his years as culture and chief editor at Dagens Nyheter (= Daily News), from 1951 to 1975. Most of it is about foreign policy, about the Soviet, about anti-semitism, about Africa, the USA and so on. I particularly liked a piece on Olof Palme from 1974, which I find more true and respectful of the real man than much I have read about him in later years. Lagercrantz worked for a mid/rightwing paper, but he liked and respected Palme. Perhaps he saw something of himself in him.
Lagercrantz actually lets Palme speak for him in the next one, "Ett år på sextiotalet" (= a year in the sixties). This is a memoir about his life as a newspaper man, and he focuses on 1967-68 in flashbacks from his life as a retiree in the late 80´s, when he struggles with old age and regrets, perhaps even remorse. He begins with the hard words from a former friend who blamed him publicly for Harry Martinson´s death, he even quotes the parts that were censured by the paper for fear of a law suit (by this time he had quit the paper himself). He does not try to redeem himself though. Instead, later in the book, he tells a story about a conversation with Olof Palme only about a month before his murder, when the politician complains of being abused in the press. Lagercrantz encourages him to speak up against it, but Palme says: "It´s no use." And that seems to be Lagercrantz´s own position.
He becomes wonderfully poetical about writing, about art. Here, an excerpt, in my own crude translation:
The secret of writing is that someone is reading, just as the secret of speaking is that someone is listening. It´s only then, when we begin to listen for a response, that life begins. Perhaps there will be no response, but our longing for it gives birth from the darkness to an ear, from the depth to an eye, from the mud to a tongue.
To write is to practice friendship on an arena where friends come forth and listen. These friends do not meet eye to eye, don´t know each other at all. But alone, in fellowship, they see the words on the paper and the lines and colours in the painting.
They study the movement in the depth that has been transmitted upwards. They are together and all the monstrous faces in the labyrinth are disolved and a human comes forth that we may call brother, sister, friend.
Finally, there is a collection of poems, "Tröst för min älskling" (= consolation for my darling). Well, it´s poetry, what do you expect me to say? I just don´t have the sensibilities for it.
Next, I´m aiming for his auto-biography, apparently there is one. He was sprung from an old military family and I sense a soldier´s pathos in his duty towards his paper, towards the idea of free speech and his sense of responsibility to uphold a healthy climate of debate in this country. A sense of personal responsibility. A rare thing, I find. A flawed man, no doubt, was Lagercrantz, as we all are, but god, I like him!