◀ Review Search Page
Norstedts, 2002. ISBN: 9113011030
Reviewed by Stig Olsson in SBR 2003:1
A Nordic country, perhaps Sweden, perhaps in our time, it is war. Virdborg’s first novel is about a sensitive military mission. In a desperate effort to stop and destroy the enemy four men have been selected to carry out the risky, dangerous task to move classified technical equipment along the coast to a communication centre further south. If successful, the soldiers Edh, Nylund, Börjesson and Granvik will be generously rewarded. Black Crab is the code name assigned to the special task. The crab moves sideways, says the colonel in his briefing to the task force, not forward or backward. That’s what you will do to confuse and surprise the enemy who expects you to attack or retreat.
I haven’t spoken to my parents since the total mobilisation fours years ago, says Edh in conversation. A country at war, hostilities everywhere, rumours and an exceptionally cold winter. What kind of war is it? Invasion by a foreign enemy or civil war? It is not entirely clear and the outlook is bleak. Uncertainty and fear are spread widely but the four in the group are highly committed and preparations for the group’s departure are meticulous, and suddenly the marching orders come. It becomes clear that the group is to skate on the thick ice in the archipelago, each one with a container (contents unknown) to deliver on arrival at the communication centre. The group must move at night, a daunting task.
The military presence, its hierarchy and organisation provides a backdrop of reality to a narrative evoking a surrealistic atmosphere. The author seems obsessed with meticulously recorded details and sometimes the effect is awkward. However, when Virdborg describes the hardships on the ice for the four men in the group his vocabulary and sentence structure are precise, clean and onomatopoetic. Here is Virdborg at his finest. His terse, harsh account of the group’s struggle for survival on the ice is gripping and totally convincing. The darkness, the cold, the fear, the uncertainty, the hallucinations are there, recorded persuasively. The somewhat monotonous tracing of the group’s ice-skating has momentarily become a thriller.
In the end the crucial mission with the containers on the ice seems a disaster, but we don’t know. Perhaps everything isn’t lost after all. Sometimes Virdborg appears acquainted with the military establishment and its jargon against which he somehow manages to bring existential struggle to the fore.
The review of Virdborg’s first book, a collection of short stories, in Swedish Book Review 2002:2 contains some biographical data on the author.
Also by Jerker Virdborg
Other reviews by Stig Olsson
- Ola Larsmo, Jag vill inte tjäna (I Do Not Wish to Serve). Reviewed in SBR 2009:2.
- Daniel Sjölin, Världens sista roman (The World's Last Novel). Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Tim Davys, Amberville. Reviewed in SBR 2008:1.
- Theodor Kallifatides, Herakles (Heracles). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Carina Burman, Vit som marmor - ett romerskt mysterium (White as Marble - A Roman Mystery). Reviewed in SBR 2006:2.
- Klas Östergren, Gangsters. Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Håkan Anderson, Breven (The Letters). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Lars Ahlin, OM (IF). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Håkan Nesser, Kära Agnes! (Dear Agnes!). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Arne Sundelin, Sova räv (Sleeping with One Eye Open). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Lars Åke Augustsson, Sveavägen. Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Jan Henrik Swahn, Vandrarna (The Wanderers). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Tomas Tranströmer and Robert Bly, Air Mail, Brev 1964-1990 (Air Mail, Letters 1964-1990). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Kristina Sandberg, Insekternas sång (The Song of the Insects). Reviewed in SBR 2001:1.
- Torbjörn Elensky, Myrstack (Ant-Hill). Reviewed in SBR 2000:2.
- Ole Söderström, Avsked till det igenkännliga (A Farewell to the Recognizable). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Agneta Klingspor, Framkallning (Development). Reviewed in SBR 1999:2.
- Ole Hessler, Minnen av en ängel i sovsäck (Memories of an Angel in a Sleeping Bag). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Torbjörn Elensky, På stället (On the Spot). Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Birgitta Trotzig, Dubbelheten. Tre sagor (Doubleness. Three Fairy Tales). Reviewed in SBR 1998:2.
- Theodor Kallifatides, De sju timmarna i paradiset (The Seven Hours in Paradise). Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
- Lars Andersson, Platsens ande. En bok om Tage Aurell (The Spirit of the Place. A Book about Tage Aurell). Reviewed in SBR 1998:1.
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.
- Stig Claesson, Efter oss syndafloden (Après nous le déluge). Reviewed by Henning Koch.
- 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.
◀ Back to Search Results