A Monster of Mendacity

I found this book at the e-book library, "Får man vara lite tilltalande i det här samhället" (=is it permitted to be a bit attractive in this society) by Marianne Höök. It´s a collection of her best work, three books, and a number of articles and columns, even extracts from diaries and letters.

Marianne Höök was a Swedish journalist and columnist who was also the most glamourous woman in Stockholm, in Sweden even, during the 50´s and 60´s. She was named the best dressed woman in 1970 and graced the cover of Veckojournalen (= the weekly journal), just a few weeks before she killed herself by means of pills and alcohol, only 51 years old.

I was surprised to see that the texts were so modern, and I suppose that is why they have been republished. Some of the things that were written as late as the 1940´s in Swedish are so old-fashioned language-wise, that young people find it hard to understand. I have even heard suggestions that old Swedish classics should be "translated" inte modern language, to make them accessible to a younger audience. Would the English ever consider modernizing Austen or Shakespeare? I hope not!

I became curious about Marianne Höök and started to parallell-read "Jag var självlockig, moderlös, gripande och ett monster av förljugenhet" (= I was naturally curly, motherless, pathetic and a monster of mendacity) by Anette Kullenberg, a journalist who became friend of Höök´s in the 60´s. She was shocked by the suicide, she writes, and now, more than 35 years later, she embarks on a kind of journey, to find out why she did it. Not that she finds the answer she wants, I suppose life just isn´t that rational and logical. But it´s really exciting to hear all the voices of collegues, friends, lovers, the children, and her own memories and speculations. I find myself arguing with Kullenberg, I listen to the voices and I hear, well, not exactly the same things she does. At times I´m filled with a feeling as if I´m watching something foul, something rotten.

What was it about Marianne Höök? Was it incest, as Kullenberg speculates? I doubt it. Was it "just" mental illness, would she have been helped by a simple medicine if she had been here today? Well, that´s a bit too easy as well. I have a feeling she was caught in circumstances (as many creative and highly gifted women were before the invention of contraceptives, before... well, still are, I guess) that didn´t allow her to do what she was meant to do. I think she self-destructed as a failure to be what she knew she had to be to "earn her keep", so to speak. She may have been deluded, but still, I think that´s what she felt, deep down. Many testify that it was painful for her to age, but I think that pain was deeper than just sorrow over her dwindling beauty. But what do I know, what do Kullenberg know? All we can do is listen and reflect, and learn.

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