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Book review: Per Wästberg captures his friend's sense of humor and hudlöshet

in 1996 gave Per Wästberg out ”Eulogy”, a collection of speeches, he, as chairman of the prisjuryn kept to the beneficiaries of the Pilotpriset 1985-95. Of the ten winners was half already in the diary Wästberg brought from 1946 and published as ”A young man's diary”. This amazing fact allows us to imagine that the Wästberg, was born into an environment busily frequented by of tidningsmän, bookseller and author. And also, perhaps, that during his high school time came to go to the same school as Tomas Tranströmer, Sven Lindqvist, and many others of the generation that became adult in the beginning of the 50's, and that would come to dominate the literary scene in Sweden for a long time.

Wästberg is now not only their friend's friend, he is also an astute and sensitive reader as in ”Eulogy” on a few pages manages to capture the particularity and the greatness of so different authors as Karl Vennberg and Sven Delblanc, Lars Gyllensten, and Lars Forssell (yes, it was mostly men). It is just the curiosity and the ability to estimate the dissimilarity that I remember of his ”Eulogy”, and that strikes me again when I read his biography of Bo Grandien (1932-2014).

Read more: Per Wästberg recommends five favorite books

Bo Grandien on the DN's editorial, 2002. Photo: Lennart Isaksson

friends since high school and knew early on that they wanted to be a writer. They were both hungry readers, discussing books with each other, applied to the French – the time was such – but also appreciated the little undanskymde Folke Dahlberg. At the same time, they were very different: ”Bo was an adventurer who protected their vulnerability with that look outward rather than inward... his joke was a film over a hudlöshet as I in the beginning of our friendship, not figured,” writes Wästberg, who is himself in his friend's eyes appeared to be as a carefree and talented young man from Östermalm.

What is visible in your friends eyes is vetbart thanks to the letter that was sent in a triangle between Bo Grandien, Tomas Tranströmer and Per Wästberg. They are, at the side of the Wästbergs own diaries and Grandiens literary and journalistic texts, the main source material in this biography. Wästberg points out in the preface that the reader must reckon with the long brevcitat, he has chosen to let his friends talk undisturbed ”without interrupting them in out of season”.

Fortunately, I want to add, there is a wonderful freshness in these letters exchanged between the young people in their 20s; they talk about what they see, if the weather and weak east wind, about the books they read, if the youthful euphoria and bleak trouble: ”I think currently on nothing. In addition, I am in love,” writes Grandien to Tranströmer that consoles in the next letter. They know that they are talented, but the doubt nevertheless, they rejoice in each other's successes, but go straight to the things they do not like: ”the Poem you sent is not good. It is lousy. You are unhealthy road of the interior”, writes Grandien for Wästberg with an accuracy that must have done some evil; Wästberg feel his friend's skämtlynne, but the reader can take this criticism seriously.

His interest for trains and other things is not kufens without the artist.

Bo Grandien? His literary creation falls mainly during ten years, from his debut in 1951 with ”Poems back and forth” to the novel ”die a little” from 1962. The latter was a malicious review by Axel Liffner that led to the Grandien gave up on his fiction writing. Hudlöshet, yes. Instead, he devoted himself to journalism, first in the Swedish newspaper svenska Dagbladet, then in Today's News where he was a reporter and eventually head of the allmänreportaget. At leisure, he wrote a thesis in art history on särlingen C G Brunius and became a professor.

I remember him above all as a writer at Dagens Nyheter Name and new page, a man with strong moral convictions of the kind that thrive on a such a page: fires, weather conditions, train. Wästbergs biography lifts out Grandien from särlingfacket and showing him in all his complexity. He was bullied in school, his ensamhetskänsla is a fundamental character trait, his interest in trains and other things is not kufens without the artist's: ”I love the detail, the constant promotion of the concrete,” he writes, and find themselves rewarded in the introduction to Strindberg's ”Easter” and Flaubert's ”Madame Bovary”.

This relation to the concrete reality explains also Grandiens accuracy with the words, he was merciless against the empty abstractions, or well-worn clichés – two catchphrases that certainly Grandien recommended to avoid. He stroked both ”the sun sharpened spear” and ”rain over memory's horizon”. This is not to say that his realism was conventional, he was drawn to the exceptions, bisarrerierna, gåtfullheter who filled out the reality and often had natural explanations, as in the titelnovellen in the collection ”the Japanese who disappeared”, where the whole autentiske marathoner Kanaguri departs without a trace from the marathon in Stockholmsolympiaden 1912.

Birgitta Rubin: Bo Grandien was an exceptionally fine role model

not only with quotes, but also with anecdotes, not to entertain themselves and us on the Grandiens expense but on the contrary to do him the greatest possible justice, sometimes magnify him, always capture something of his personality and sense of humor, shy and drastic at the same time. When Grandien somewhat surprisingly declares that he ”is one of the few who really like opera, the only realistic form. Everything goes where playing easy. The heroines are fat, the heroes hjulbenta and fighting with the wooden sword of incomprehensible battles. But out of their throats pours the song”.

Grandien could probably recognize themselves in it that only has a wooden sword towards the heavy artillery, while Wästberg is now a breeze has annexed yet another eulogy to the row of friend.

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