Life in Art

I have just finished Kerstin Ekman´s latest novel "Grand final i skojarbranschen" (= grand final in the swindling business, not easy to translate that one...). It´s in the genre of autofiction, a fictionalized autobiography, where Ekman separates her two selves (as she seems to percieve them): the Author and the Writer.

The Author is Lillemor Troj (this is a play with Kerstin Ekman´s own name, she was born Kerstin Lillemor Hjorth, and it´s a bit of a bonus that Troj makes you think of a trojan horse, isn´t it?), a beautiful, blond, blue-eyed, photogenic, well-dressed young woman, who gets engaged to be the front figure for Writer Barbro/Babba Andersson, a woman only described as being "shapeless". She writes herself a body of words, she says somewhere in the book. And the body that the audience sees is Lillemor Troj´s. But Lillemor isn´t all passive in the writing of the books. She often provides the material for the stories and she types and corrects the language, and structures the stories. She is the Good Girl, the one with the good grades at school, the one who knows how everything should be, the disciplined and hard working one. She understands about the world and lives in it, while Babba is only interested in escaping the world and writing her stories, an almost entirely intuitive and physical process that does not seem to require much thought.

The twosome make a prolific partnership, but not without it´s crises. At different times they both try to get away from the other. How it all develops I shall not give away, it would spoil your pleasure. 

This is brilliantly written, and I have read reviews where she is very favourably compared to other authors in the autofiction genre. Someone wrote that she makes Knausgård (the genre´s meteor star of the last year in Scandinavian literature) look like an amateur. I can´t tell if that is right, I haven´t read Knausgård. Or any other autofiction, as far as I know. Ekman´s novel is full of clever metafores about the art of writing, and about the creative process in general, I think. And I imagine that it´s a rather frank autobiography. Life serving art, though, not the other way around.

Any English readers wanting to make Kerstin Ekman´s acquaintance should try "Blackwater". Highly recommendable.

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