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Efter oss syndafloden
(Après nous le déluge)
Bonniers, 2002. ISBN: 9100580279
Reviewed by Henning Koch in SBR 2003:1
Efter oss syndafloden is a wistful account of the author’s early years in 1950’s Paris. Stig Claesson develops his narrative through anecdote. We learn, for instance, that his interview with Miles Davis petered out because the subject, like everyone else in this book, had consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. And, that he and Lars Forssell, with time on their hands, and plenty of wine, once retired to his room where he painted the poet in oil. And, that a favourite cheap bar served defective wine consisting of dried bull’s blood, water and spirits. While all this is fascinating, before long the reader begins to wonder where it is leading. We have no problem believing that the gallery of people that feature in this book, such as Carl Reuterswärd, Per Rådström, Gunnar Gredell and Jan Myrdal, really were in Paris, probably for the same reasons as the author. But only very rarely, if at all, do we explore their thoughts and dreams, or, indeed, what Claesson thought of them. The most common mistake of biographers is to rely on their readers’ capacity to understand what they have lived through. In fact, in itself it is not enough that Claesson saw Samuel Beckett sitting in a bar. Let’s face it, everyone saw Samuel Beckett sitting in a bar, and one is almost dismayed once again to chance upon this image.
What is missing in this book is either a more substantial attempt to write biography, or a real attempt to write autobiographical fiction. What Claesson seems intent on portraying, in fact, are the dreams and hopes of a youthful set of émigré friends intent on living life - this, as we all know, being euphemistic for getting drunk, getting laid and getting published. In this, he succeeds very well, although in so doing, we find ourselves in so many bars, with so many glasses of poisoned Calvados, such a profusion of beers and early morning cognacs, that it all blurs into a haze of indifference. Claesson cites Rådström’s comment that “I have never understood people who don’t drink, and now that I’ve stopped, I understand them even less...” At the heart of this story is a sense that Claesson still has not come to terms with his nihilism, or his yearning for a life based on exile and non-attachment. Only in his love affair with Diana Thompson, a black American, do we recognize an event that holds real personal significance for him. For in spite of the creed of free love circulated among this group of friends, Claesson is clearly an archetypal, wounded romantic. Had Claesson more determinedly explored difficult ground such as this, instead of poetically holding off, this book might have achieved so much more. Many aficionados will read between the lines of this book to extract its every Parisian nuance of overflowing ashtrays, stale wine, and post-coital hotel beds. But Claesson does not allow his readers to fully enter the personal sphere of his youth, merely opens the door and shows a glimpse of a world that has gone. Then uncorks another bottle of wine and goes back to remembering...
Also by Stig Claesson
Other reviews by Henning Koch
- Thomas Bodström, Populisten (The Populist). Reviewed in SBR 2014:1.
- Hannes Råstam, Fallet Thomas Quick - Att skapa en seriemördarare (Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer). Reviewed in SBR 2013:1.
- Sara Arrhenius and Magnus Berg (eds), Resan till månen (A Trip to the Moon). Reviewed in SBR 2012:2.
- Lukas Moodysson, Tolv månader i skugga (Twelve Months in Shadow). Reviewed in SBR 2012:2.
- Anders Olsson, Ordens asyl (The Asylum of Words). Reviewed in SBR 2012:1.
- Peter Törnqvist, Kioskvridning 140 grader (Kiosk Rotation 140 Degrees). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Birgitta Stenberg, Eldar och is (Fires and Ice). Reviewed in SBR 2010:2.
- Lars Sund, En lycklig liten ö (A Happy Little Isle). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Jonas Gardell, Om Jesus (Of Jesus). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Per Wästberg, Anders Sparrmans resa - en biografisk roman (Anders Sparman's Journey - A Biographical Novel). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- Mikael Timm, Lusten och dämonerna - Boken om Bergman (The Lust and the Daemons - a Book about Bergman). Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Dick Harrison and Kristina Svensson, Vikingaliv (Viking Lives). Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Bengt Jangfeldt, Med livet som insats. Berättelsen om Vladimir Majakovskij (Life at Stake: The Story of Vladimir Majakovsky). Reviewed in SBR 2007:2.
- Roland Poirier Martinsson, Arkimedes. Matematiker, vapenmakare, stjärnskådare (Archimedes. Mathematician, Weaponsmith, Star-Gazer). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Henrik Nilsson, Nätterna, Veronica (The Nights, Veronica). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Fabian Kastner, Oneirine - Roman i tusen delar (Oneirine - A Novel in a Thousand Pieces). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Henrik and Fredrik Lindström, Svitjods undergång och Sveriges födelse (The Fall of Svitjod and the Birth of Sweden). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Jan Bondeson, Blood on the Snow. Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Birgitta Stenberg, Alla vilda (All Wild). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Zvonimir Popović, Våt sand (Wet Sand). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Fredrik Sjöberg, Flugfällan (The Fly-Trap). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Marie Hermanson, Hembiträdet (The Maid). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Peter Englund, Tystnadens historia och andra essäer (A History of Silence and Other Essays). Reviewed in SBR 2004:2.
- Lars Magnar Enoksen, Vikingarnas stridskonst (The Fighting Art of the Vikings). Reviewed in SBR 2004:2.
- Johan Bargum, Avsked (Leave-Taking). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Göran Hägg, Svenskhetens historia (A History of Swedishness). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
Other reviews in SBR 2003:1
- Gerda Antti, Livet skriver kapitel (Life Writes its Chapters). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Majgull Axelsson, En stad av slott (A City of Castles). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Ernst Brunner, Fukta din aska. C M Bellmans liv från början till slut (Moisten Your Mortal Ashes. C M Bellman's Life from Beginning to End). Reviewed by Birgitta Thompson.
- Stewe Claeson, Rönndruvan glöder (The Rowan's Cluster Glows). Reviewed by Charles Harrison-Wallace.
- Åke Edwardson, Segel av sten (Sails of Stone). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Anna Ehn, Man ska vara tyst när man önskar (Make a Silent Wish). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Per Gunnar Evander, Plötsligt medan dimman lättar (Suddenly While the Mist is Lifting). Reviewed by Rick McGregor.
- Theodor Kallifatides, Den sjätte pasageraren (The Sixth Passenger). Reviewed by Peter Linton.
- Maaret Koskinen, I begynnelsen var ordet: Ingmar Bergman och hans tidiga författarskap (In the Beginning Was the Word: Ingmar Bergman and his early writings). Reviewed by Annika Lindskog.
- Björn Larsson, Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson (The True Story of Inga Andersson). Reviewed by Tom Geddes.
- Ulla-Lena Lundberg, Marsipansoldaten (The Marzipan Soldier). Reviewed by Silvester Mazzarella.
- Henning Mankell, Innan frosten (Before the Frost). Reviewed by Laurie Thompson.
- Jan Myrdal, Gubbsjuka. Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Cilla Neumann, Dem oss skyldiga äro (Those Who Trespass Against Us). Reviewed by Linda Schenck.
- Håkan Nesser, Kära Agnes! (Dear Agnes!). Reviewed by Stig Olsson.
- Johanna Nilsson, Rebell med frusna fötter (Rebel With Frozen Feet). Reviewed by Sarah Death.
- Elisabeth Rynell, Till Mervas (To Mervas). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie.
- Niklas Rådström, Kvartett (Quartet). Reviewed by Anne Born.
- Friedrich Strindberg, Under jorden i Berlin (Underground in Berlin). Reviewed by Eivor Martinus.
- Jerker Virdborg, Svart krabba (Black Crab). Reviewed by Stig Olsson.
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