Reviewed by Kristina Sjögren in SBR 2013:2
Review Section: Fiction: The Past and the Present
Having lately read several Indian authors who were new to me, I was intrigued to review a book by a Swedish authorwriting about India. Mikael Bergstrand’s Dimma över Darjeeling is a freestanding follow-up of his breakthrough novel Delhis vackraste händer (Delhi’s Most Beautiful Hands), published in 2011 and translated into several languages.
In Dimma över Darjeeling the surly middle-aged man Göran Borg has once again started to feel depressed about life in his hometown Malmö. Things are not going as hoped with his new job or his relations with his family and his therapist. He misses India. So when he gets an invitation to Bombay to the wedding of his Indian friend Yogi, Göran manages to obtain a few weeks of holiday from his unenthusiastic young female boss on condition that he returns promptly afterwards.
In Bombay Göran meets up with a troubled Yogi, whose austere mother will not allow him to marry his beloved Lakshmi, as she comes from a less well-to-do family than his own. There is only one solution:
Yogi must make his future father-in-law rich enough for Yogi to be able to marry his daughter. He has already figured out how the reluctant Göran could help him. The first step of the plan consists of buying a tea plantation in Darjeeling.
Göran assists Yogi in purchasing the plantation, but when the two friends arrive in Darjeeling they find they have been conned. Both Yogi and his intended father-in-law are ruined, and Yogi’s chances of marrying Lakshmi seem reduced to zero. Yogi’s mother bans Yogi from her house until he has sorted out the mess and Yogi sinks into depression. On top of everything else, it is high time for Göran to return to Malmö in order to keep his safe, well-paid job. But can he really abandon his despairing, still unmarried friend?
The book is written in the first person with Göran Borg as the narrator. It can be categorised as ‘humorous literature’, treating topics such as middle-age crisis and weariness, inability to connect with your grown children, but also friendship and courage. The literary style much resembles that of the popular Finnish author Arto Paasilinna with his solid list of international bestsellers or Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, whose The Hundred-Year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared has been translated into 25 languages. They have in common fast-moving, journalistic prose styles, uncomplicated characters and straightforward plots, which unfurl at a rapid pace and are typically male-centred stories, in which women at best flicker by as possible romantic partners or scary old bags. Even if a couple of strong female characters have been introduced into Dimma över Darjeeling, in contrast to Bergstrand’s first book about Göran Borg, it is still a story about male friendship.
The Indian settings are well represented and nicely done; you can actually see, smell and hear both the hot, lively Bombay and the misty, silent Darjeeling.
This is an exciting, funny feel-good read. I like it even better than Delhi’s Most Beautiful Hands.