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Per Gunnar Evander, I min ungdom speglade jag mig ofta (In My Youth I Often Looked at Myself in the Mirror)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2005. ISBN: 9100107735

Reviewed by Anna-Lisa Murrell in SBR 2006:1


A lonely, divorced writer reflects on his life. As a member of a dream group, he is encouraged by another member of the group, Jesper, a vicar and a good listener, to write a novel based totally on experiences noted down in his diaries. Jesper, however, believes in all seriousness that one should not keep a diary. When asked for an explanation, he says that the important thing is “to sort memories and list injustices”. To find inspiration, the writer decides to move into a new environment, to hire a cottage by Bärsjön, a lake in the Kolmården area. The second part of the book begins with his thoughts concerning his daughter Andrea’s death in a traffic accident. The cottage and the nature all around offer him some peace and solace from his sorrow and despair. But painful memories return to him. He sees a building where he had an affair with a promiscuous woman, who deceived him and exploited him financially. This memory offers the reader a devastating picture of a scene both funny and sad, a baboon-like man en flagrante. But he gains some comfort on many occasions when he sees his daughter Andrea’s face in the waves of the lake. Another positive encounter in his life is his friend Eskil. A symbol of goodness, but helpless with only one arm, Eskil is still able to save the writer from drowning when he tries to destroy his notebooks and writings, then ends up in hospital. His time there provides the reader with an amusing portrait of a female hospital visitor, who suggests that his excursion in the “eggshell” dinghy was a subconscious attempt to commit suicide. The book offers plenty of Christian, Freudian and Jungian symbolism. The fish – an early Christian symbol; a deep lake – the soul; Eskil’s boat – Charon’s ferry; Eskil – the patron saint of Sörmland. The writer’s cramped accommodation is an expression of his anxiety. On his journey to town, Eskil takes him to a funeral parlour and leads him downstairs, where they find a skull. Eskil engages in his peculiar pastime of trying out coffins. Evander’s beautiful prose and sense of humour, which sometimes lighten up the tragic scenes, persuade the reader to have patience with the narcissistic ‘I’. The book has been surrounded by controversy, as it is semi-biographical and has been hurtful to Evander’s ex-wife and his daughter Carin, who has protested against him writing an untruthful account of his deceased daughter Andrea. The book was nominated for the August prize in 2005.


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