|The cover image is a detail of this painting.|
Jakob Hård is a kind man, and he is naive. Not stupid, but he is not a thinker. Our perspective throughout is his, and through him we get to know the poorest homeless children, we get to drink with the Mayor, and we get to help the King´s personal physician embalm the royal body. Hård relates to others emotionally rather than intellectually and not until he understands the deep emotions that fuels his wife´s behavior can he reach out to her and forgive everything. He is almost Jesus-like in his acceptance and mercy. One can, and I like the idea, see him as a personification of Mother Sweden, who blindly loves her son/the King, but who wakes up to the bleak consequences of his hubris.
I had never heard of Ellen Mattson when she got the Selma Lagerlöf Award this spring. I put this book, "Snö" (=snow) from 2001, on my reading list mainly because it was set in the 18th Century and that seemed really interesting. I am impressed, this is a great, great novel. It´s intriguing, exciting, moving (I cried like I haven´t done since the little matchstick girl) and profound. There are so many levels to this story. I just googled her and I was surprised to find that she is only four years older than I. For some reason, I had thought she was older. Probably the maturity of her writing. I wouldn´t mind knowing a bit more about how she came up with the idea for this. I´m so impressed I´m staggering, really.
Only a couple of times did the illusion break for me. Just a couple of words that seemed out of place in a story from 1718, like "automatic". Not a word I would have chosen for a novel set 150 years before the Industrial Revolution got near us. But that´s nitpicking.
The one novel this reminded me of is Coetzee´s "Waiting for the Barbarians". But, dammit, this is better.
I wonder how this novel would do in translation. Surely it´s worth a wider audience? A bit more aggressive marketing? Or am I the only reader who´s missed her? I wish I could recommend her to the whole world!