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Vi ses igen i nästra dröm Carl-Henning Wijkmark, Vi ses igen i nästra dröm (We'll Meet Again in the Next Dream)

Norstedts,  2013.

Reviewed by Tom Geddes in SBR 2014:1

Review Section: Fiction, Light-Hearted and More Serious


First-person narrator Frank Larson, a  university lecturer in America, returns to  his native Sweden to attend a conference  in Lund and present a paper on the  (real) early-twentieth-century literary  critic Olle Holmberg. Descending to a  basement toilet, he finds the exit locked  and wanders subterranean corridors  to emerge on the street in a Lund city  and university of the 1920s. Instead of  his own scheduled lecture, he finds Olle  Holmberg himself at the podium, and for  fear of being disbelieved decides to adapt  to the period in which he finds himself,  becoming increasingly fascinated by it  and scarcely thinking of the wife, sons  and colleagues he is unable to contact  in present-day America. Earning money  for his hotel bill by writing a version  of the story of his own time-shift for a  newspaper, and funding his travel from  further writing, he adjusts his mode of  speech and dress to his new era and  sets off for Amalfi to seek out his longdead but then 19-year-old mother-to-be,  persuading her to accompany him to an  archaeological site in Spain to which a  chance encounter has brought him an  invitation. He employs the figure of the  Lady of Elche, the focus of the excavation,  as both divine and human symbol to  express cryptically and indirectly to  his 19-year-old companion the regret  and guilt he feels for the failures in his  relationship with the mother she was to  become.

This short novel, with its amusing  yet unsettling use of the device of a  door to another dimension, which might  represent a descent into the psyche but  has more references to the historicopolitical, seems to have the pretensions  of an existential quest, and for Swedish  readers it may comprise a gentle allusion  to Holmberg’s major work on dreams  and literary creation. But it will remain  for most readers as insubstantial as  the dream it finally reveals itself to be.  Its unlikely plot may be excused by the  dream format, but it lacks local colour,  apart from such superficial motifs as  horses and motor vehicles, and the  time-shift is not sufficiently exploited,  despite passing mention of Spengler  and other historical personages and the  perspective of the narrator’s knowledge  of the future.

The theme of rebirth and redemption,  personal and political, and coming  to terms with the past, was so much  better dealt with in Wijkmark’s longer  novel Dacapo (1994), a successful blend  of social, cultural and psychological  themes in thriller format. The book  under review is more of a novella which  seems to promise more than it delivers.  Let us hope for another major novel,  one that perhaps might match his still  un-Englished Dressinen (The Trolley)  from 1983, a masterpiece of narrative  that took a man and three apes on a  transatlantic voyage on a converted  railway trolley in an allegorical critique of  civilisation predating - and outclassing -  Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.


Also by Carl-Henning Wijkmark

  • Du som ej finns (You Who Do Not Exist). Reviewed by Irene Scobbie in SBR 1997:2.

Other reviews by Tom Geddes


Other reviews in SBR 2014:1


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