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from In the Red Queen's Castle
Lars Jakobson
Translated and introduced by Neil Smith

Lars JakobsonLars Jakobson was born in 1959 in the city of Lund, and now lives in Stockholm. He made his literary debut in 1985 with a collection of stories, Vinterkvarteret (Winter Quarters).


I den Röda Damens slottIn the Red Queen’s Castle was nominated for the prestigious August Prize, and was awarded Aftonbladet’s literary prize in 2000. It was reviewed in Dagens Nyheter as ”a book that ought to be read carefully, several times. It is what it supposes the world to be: multi-dimensional”.

Original Title: I den Röda Damens slott
Publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2000, 316 pages. ISBN: 9100573310

With In the Red Queen’s Castle, Lars Jakobson has created a highly detailed and credible alternative history of the second half of the twentieth century, one in which the manned exploration of Mars was begun as early as the 1950s. Many of the historical details recounted in the novel are initially familiar, until it becomes apparent that they are warped versions of events as we know them: Orson Welles’s masterpiece, for instance, was his film of Heart of Darkness, whereas Citizen Kane was never completed.

The book is constructed of fragments of the different narrative threads: at its heart is the story of the narrator who is clearing out his childhood home in the Swedish province of Dalarna following the death of his father. Interwoven with this are the narrator’s childhood reminiscences, his attempts to write an introduction to a book about the Martian landings, the story of the excavation of a vast library on Mars and the ensuing attempts to decipher the language of the long-extinct Martian civilization. Extracts from books, and from scientific and ‘historical’ documents appear throughout the novel, as do letters sent to the narrator by his elusive friend Doug.

In the Red Queen’s Castle is a complex narrative that deserves to be read on many levels. It has clear points of contact with the author’s previous novel, The Canal-Builders’ Children, but also with Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian series, as well as Alice in Wonderland and Harry Martinson’s space-epic Aniara. But at its heart is the very human story of the relationship between a father and a son.

Previous books include:
Menagerie (Menagerie, 1989)
Pumpan (The Pump, 1991)
Hemsökelser (Visitations, 1994)
Kanalbyggarnas barn (The Canal-Builders' Children, 1997, also published in Norwegian, Danish and German)
Contents of the 2003:1 issue

Continuity and Change in Swedish Prose Fiction
Ingrid Elam

Snow
Ellen Mattson
In the Red Queen's Castle
Lars Jakobson
Camera
Eva-Marie Liffner
Clouds
Elisabet Hermodsson
Via Liljendal
Susanne Ringell