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Per Gunnar Evander, Plötsligt medan dimman lättar (Suddenly While the Mist is Lifting)

Bonniers,  2002. ISBN: 9100580295

Reviewed by Rick McGregor in SBR 2003:1

Per Gunnar Evander has over thirty books listed on the verso of the title page of this work, the majority of them novels. I have read most of them, and must confess to feeling that there has been much of a sameness over the last dozen. While waiting for the review copy of Evander’s latest novel, Suddenly While the Mist Is Lifting, I had read some Swedish reviews and had formed the impression that this would be more of the same. Not so. True, an Evander novel is (almost always) an Evander novel. The themes of loneliness, silence, love, suicide and death in general – these things are ever-present in Evander’s works. But here one gets less of a feeling that Evander is writing by rote, perhaps because in the decade since 1993 he has only published 3 books, rather than the book a year he produced in the three decades after his debut in 1965. I found instead that this novel was a return to what made a number of Evander’s works from the 1970s so memorable. I don’t mean such pseudo-documentary novels as Uppkomlingarna (his breakthrough work) and Tegelmästare Lundin och stora världen, but rather his psychological novels such as En kärleksroman and Fallet Lillemor Holm. These are novels which explore the typical Evanderesque themes in his particularly distinctive style, often described as “bureaucratic Swedish”. The tension between the emotional involvement of the subject matter and the apparent detachment of the seemingly objective language used to describe it are much of the appeal of Evander’s works in the original, but also what make them fiendishly difficult to translate. Here’s an attempt by way of illustration: “It is of course not impossible that in friendship with another human being there may be revealed hidden languages and directions of travel towards something that could be called, or may even be, self-knowledge.” In Suddenly While the Mist Is Lifting (a recognisably Evanderesque title), the narrator has been invited to talk on the topic of loneliness to a group of pensioners. The book describes his preparations for the talk, as well as his experiences in hospital where he spends some time while being treated for a sleep disorder. At the hospital he makes the acquaintance of Fransson, a retired teacher who is a fellow patient, and one of the latter’s former pupils, Jonny Forsman, now one of the hospital’s orderlies. In a trope that is recognisable from elsewhere in the Evander canon, it transpires that Fransson has crushed Jonny’s dreams of becoming a writer, but has no memory of having done so. (One is reminded of similar recriminations between Robert and his father in Mån-dagarna med Fanny). In the course of a number of long walks from the hospital the narrator becomes friends with Jonny, but is as unable as the psychologist Sulan in Fallet Lillemor Holm to prevent his fate. Per Gunnar Evander has started to find his way back to what he does best with this short novel which in many ways works too as a philosophical essay on the theme of loneliness and on the individual’s search for a place in this world.

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