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Leopard förlag, 2002. ISBN: 9173430099
Reviewed by Eivor Martinus in SBR 2003:1
I have deliberately avoided trying to translate the title. This sixth part of an autobiographical series is not an auto-biography or memoir in the traditional sense, but a lively monologue which explores every nook and cranny of the human psyche.
Jan Myrdal is now seventy-five as he keeps reminding us; if he had been seventy I would have suggested “Three score years and ten” as a possible title in English, but now we have to wrack our brains in order to shun the impossible “Old Man’s Sickness” or the obvious “Dirty old man” or “Old devil”. None of them incorporates the reference to incontinence, prostate cancer or other aches and pains normally attributed to the seventh age of man which the ambiguous Swedish title does.
The fact is Jan Myrdal has written a remarkable book. It is ruthlessly honest and as such uncomfortable at times, but at second reading I found it deeply moving and most interesting, not least as a testimony by a staunch left-wing intel-lectual in the last half of the twentieth century.
As I was reading the book I recalled an episode when we went back-stage to congratulate an old English actress whom we had known for many years. She had just given a splendid performance and did not show any signs of senility. “I don’t recommend old age,” she said, stroking her poodle. “I don’t recommend it at all.” The words stuck.
Myrdal, similarly does not show any signs of weakening intellectually, even if his body is giving him more trouble than before. A heart operation, excruciating sciatica, early signs of prostate problems are charted as annoying obstacles put in his way. There is so much left to do, so many outlines, half finished books, plays, articles; and yet the clock is ticking away, one’s friends and elderly relatives pop off leaving an ever growing vacuum around one.
“We don’t belong to a culture where old age is revered,” writes Myrdal.
High and low, rich and poor – old age is the great leveller. Ambassadors, Nobel Prize winners and a famous film pro-ducer all end up in elderly care, confused and forgotten. Myrdal’s thoughts and reflections cover the whole spectrum – love in all its forms, sexuality, porno-graphy, politics, linguistics. His knowledge is immense, his linguistic abilities vast and he is capable of as much anger now as when he was as a young man.
There was one long moving chapter about the death of his favourite old dog who apparently decided to commit suicide by lying down on the rails in front of an approaching train. Did I detect a touch of envy? A stoical attitude to the inevitable. Animals have a better way of dealing with old age than humans when there is no light on the horizon. But there is a lot of life and passion left in Myrdal still.
Other reviews by Eivor Martinus
- Lena Einhorn, Siri. Reviewed in SBR 2012:1.
- Theodor Kallifatides, Vänner och älskare (Friends and Lovers). Reviewed in SBR 2009:1.
- Peter Birro, August. Reviewed in SBR 2008:2.
- Nina Burton, Den nya kvinnostaden: Pionjärer och glömda kvinnor under tvåtusen år (The New City of Ladies: Pioneers and Forgotten Women Over Two Thousand Years). Reviewed in SBR 2007:1.
- Christina Bergil, Sja vita vargar i ett träd (Seven white wolves in a tree). Reviewed in SBR 2005:1.
- Oscar Danielson, Siljans konditori (En kärleksroman) (Siljan's Coffee Shop [A Love Story]). Reviewed in SBR 2004:1.
- Friedrich Strindberg, Under jorden i Berlin (Underground in Berlin). Reviewed in SBR 2003:1.
- Margareta Wirmark, Den kluvna scenen, Kvinnor i Strindbergs dramatik (The Divided Stage: Women in Strindberg's Plays). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Margareta Wirmark, Kampen med döden, En studie över Strindbergs Dödsdansen (The Battle with Death: A study of Strindberg's The Dance of Death). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
- Bodil Malmsten, Priset på vatten i Finistère (The Price of Water in Finistère). Reviewed in SBR 2002:1.
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.
- 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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