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Den sanna berättelsen om Inga Andersson
(The True Story of Inga Andersson)
Norstedts, 2002. ISBN: 9113010964
Reviewed by Tom Geddes in SBR 2003:1
Larsson’s previous prescient novel, Det onda ögat (The Evil Eye, reviewed SBR 2000:1), with its fictional planned terrorist atrocity in Paris, regrettably did not appear in English before 11 September 2001 (nor yet since). It may not have forewarned specifically of New York, but it was a prime example of life imitating art. His new novel is equally deserving of wider recognition. Not only does it sound another warning through fiction, in this case about the singular “rogue state”, it also investigates the very relationship between fiction and reality which imbues literature with its unique combination of aesthetic delight and psychological, philosophical and socio-political insights.
Inga Andersson is a high-quality literary thriller in which overt quasi-biographical elements are employed in a serious yet jocular sustained metafictional exploration of the relationship between a writer and his characters. Inga Andersson, like Larsson, is a lecturer at the university of Lund who lives across the water in a Danish fishing village. Her research is on secret organizations, from religious sects to the USA’s National Security Agency and Echelon, the multi-national intelligence monitoring system. Her attempt to present a paper on Echelon at a French conference attracts the attention of the NSA, and she has to go into hiding. Aided by two Danish fishermen who provide a thematically linked historical perspective in their reminiscences on the evils of the Nazi occupation and the secrecy of the Resistance, she offers a trade-off which is only fully revealed to the reader much later and which explains her intense commitment to her research.
In venturing as a criminologist into the field of literature, she seeks advice from a university colleague, who is both a novelist and professor of French (viz. Larsson), named Anders Ingesson. The transposition of name to suggest two parts of an authorial persona may seem facile, but the playful side of literature is integral to the structure and theme of this novel. There are two parallel, semi-alternating strands: an impersonal and omniscient narrative about Inga Andersson, and a first-person narrative by Anders Ingesson, in which he considers attempting a novel on the basis of the little he knows about Inga. Instead he finds himself falling in love with the “real” rather than the imaginary character. The result of this intricate interweaving is the fascination of a double suspense - not only narrative, in the sense of plot, but also narratological, in that we are unsure how much of the narrative will turn out to be “true” (in fictional terms) and how much will have been imagined by the fictional author.
The authorial process itself separates and connects the inner fiction, the parallel or framework fiction, and the real world: for instance, researching into his “fictional” character or fellow-participant, the author travels to Menwith Hill in Yorkshire for first-hand experience of the listening station there and its descriptive incorporation into the plot, a plot into which he himself is then drawn. Biography and fiction become intertwined on multiple levels.
In this engrossing experiment with the conventions of the thriller, we may be left wondering whether it is emotionally or aesthetically acceptable for heroines as well as villains to die if their story lives on. Inga’s obsession with developing a theory of the motivation for human evil prompts her to expose all secrecy, whether malevolent or benign and at whatever cost to herself. But this reviewer will obey the constraints of both thriller and review, and not reveal all.
Also by Björn Larsson
Other reviews by Tom Geddes
- Carl-Henning Wijkmark, Vi ses igen i nästra dröm (We'll Meet Again in the Next Dream). Reviewed in SBR 2014:1.
- Hans Gunnarsson, Försmådd (Rejected). Reviewed in SBR 2013:1.
- Björn Larsson, Döda poeter skriver inte kriminalromaner (Dead Poets Can't Write Crime Novels). Reviewed in SBR 2011:1.
- Sven Olov Karlsson, Amerikahuset (The American House). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- Björn Larsson, Filologens dröm (The Philologist's Dream). Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Kristian Fredén, Offret (The Sacrifice). Reviewed in SBR 2006:1.
- Monika Fagerholm, Den amerikanska flickan (The American Girl). Reviewed in SBR 2005:2.
- Torgny Lindgren, Pölsan (Brawn). Reviewed in SBR 2002:2.
- Marie Hermanson, Ett oskrivet blad (A Blank Page). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Eva-Marie Liffner, Camera (Camera). Reviewed in SBR 2001:2.
- Björn Larsson, Det onda ögat (The Evil Eye). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Torgny Lindgren, I Brokiga Blads vatten (In the Waters of Mottled Leaves). Reviewed in SBR 2000:1.
- Denis Ballu, Lettres nordiques en traduction française 1720-1995. Reviewed in SBR 1999:1.
- Gabriella Håkansson, Operation B (Operation B). Reviewed in SBR 1998:2.
- Torgny Lindgren, Hummelhonung (Honey from the Bumblebee). Reviewed in SBR 1995:2.
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.
- 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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