I have been a lazy blogger. Or, actually, I read "Ett gott liv" (=a good life) by Ann Heberlein while it was so fresh the reviews hadn´t come out yet and I just didn´t know if it was fair to think what I thought about it. Then Tranströmer happened to us - cultural bliss in medialand - and when the reviews finally came I was kinda out of wind.
Ann Heberlein is a Swedish scholar in the field of theology, her particular speciality is ethics and more specifically she has written books about responsibility and evil. 2008 she published a book titled "Jag vill inte dö, jag vill bara inte leva" (=I don´t want to die, I just don´t want to live), where she "came out" as a sufferer of bipolar disorder. I didn´t read it at the time, but it was a major media happening and hard to miss.
The reason I picked "Ett gott liv" was, more or less, that it was available as an e-book at the library and it was on the first page when I was looking for something new to read. Coincidence, really. I quickly became hooked. And realized that this book is a kind of corrective to the other one, that she describes somewhere as her "suicide note". She writes that the book came out while she was still deeply depressed and suicidal and she thinks the publisher she then used never should have allowed her to go through with it. She claims to want to discuss how the publishing world "uses" people who are weak or ill and lacking in awareness of the consequences of baring it all, just to make a buck. Now, Heberlein writes well and seems very much on top of everything, so of course I became curious to see how she writes when she is ill and cannot be held accountable for her own actions, so I downloaded "Jag vill inte dö, jag vill bara inte leva".
Well, she sounded pretty much like someone who knew what she was doing at the time. Not much difference between the books in that respect, it´s very much the same Heberlein that the reader meets on the pages. I don´t know what kind of person one would have to be to have understood at the time that Heberlein should not have been allowed to publish the book. I also find, while I read both of them, that I´m arguing with her. I don´t agree entirely about the way she describes the world. I think she sometimes makes sloppy generalizations about culture and society and what people think and what people want and so on.
I also increasingly, as I read, get the feeling that she is trying to play me, that I´m being manipulated into thinking, well, I´m not sure what I´m supposed to be thinking. That she is sane, perhaps. She is quite honest about the first book being an attempt to get away from responsibility (one of her pet projects, that). I have seen that in a few people I have known over the years: they are eager to bare it all, to confess and lay all their shortcomings before you, so that they will not have to say NO to anything. They want you to do it for them. Pull the brake when they can´t do it themselves, for whatever reason. (Heberlein has now, when she is supposedly sane, made a pact with her husband. Next time she is ill, he is allowed to stop her. If he can.)
I imagine being bipolar is not easy. It must hurt to try and patch up ones lost esteem, self- and professional, after an episode and repair a damaged reputation (if indeed it is). Heberlein is well worth reading, probably has one of the best intellects in this country and I´m curious about her other books, including a novel that she is allegedly writing with her husband. Read this as a peek into a mind that sometimes runs away with itself and that is trying to regain control. Treat it as a field trip. You might not be able to put it to words exactly, but you will learn something if you listen to Ann Heberlein.