Friday, 19 September 2014

A holiday in Sweden then?

I gave the BBC's latest detective series from Sweden, Crimes of Passion, a look last week and was instantly hooked. I loved the 1950s setting. I loved the sunshine and colour and nice clothes and all the politeness. It was a timely antidote to the bleak darkness of so much of Scandinavian TV crime in recent years. I didn't miss the squalid deaths, and the grime, and the awkward character relationships. This was much nicer stuff, full of good humour and civilised behaviour, even if lust and greed and dishonesty and a morbid dread of scandal was smouldering away underneath. There were still plenty of dead bodies, but no berserker psychopaths being unbearably cruel. The 'detectives', official and amateur, male and female, were likeable people I could relate to. I'm tired of the cold, moody, emotionally-damaged sort. And the actors spoke crisply - you could make out every Swedish word. So different from the slurred mumblings on Wallander, or the Danish dramas.

This series is based on the novels of a lady called Dagmar Lange (1914-1991), whose pen name was Maria Lang. Look at for a summary of her life and a list of her books. As you can see, she got into her stride in the 1950s, and, on the face of it, her output and style might be compared to Agatha Christie's. I would very much like to read some of her books, which is an incentive to brush up my Swedish. In later life she lived in Nora, situated on a lake in central Sweden north of Örebro. This was called Skoga in her crime books, and was the scene of many of the fictional murders to be solved by her characters. 'Skog' is a not-uncommon element in Swedish place names, and indeed surnames, and means 'wood' or 'forest'.

So my interest in going to Sweden, already reawakened earlier this year when my cousin M--- gave me a great deal of genealogical material bearing on my Swedish ancestors, has now been intensified.

Over the years I have in fact put together a fair collection of books, guides, maps, atlases, and language-study items. I have, for instance, two books on Stockholm and Sweden generally that were published in the mid-1960s (at least ten years later than the period covered by Crimes of Passion, but still rather 1955-ish in feel. These show Sweden as it used to be:

I also have books that deal with modern Sweden:

And maps and atlases to go with them:

And finally, books and so on dealing with the language, for it is quite apparent that I can't rely on everyone speaking perfect English. I will need fairly good and idiomatic Swedish for any conversations I get into:

I bought that yellow-and-blue Teach Yourself book as long ago as 1970. The blue-and-orange grammar book was bought at Foyles in London on 13 October 1973 - I wrote the date inside the cover. I was studying Swedish at the time on an evening course at (what was then) Southampton Technical College. I used to have a fat folder of notes and exercises and reading passages, but it got thrown out in 2005. A pity. If I still had it, it would now be useful stuff for a holiday in Sweden.

The couple who have moved in next door to me are friendly, and the wife C--- is Swedish. She talks to her two very young children, a boy and a girl, in a mixture of English and Swedish. They will grow up bilingual. It would be lovely if we get to know each other well enough for me to get back my lost vocabulary. Nice for the kids too, perhaps, if Auntie Lucy next door is able to ask them how they are today in the way Mama does.

And how would I do the Swedish holiday? I'm sure you can guess - by caravan! Over to France, and then all the way along the North European coast via Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark to Skåne (the southern end of Sweden). Then up to Stockholm, and further north to Norrland, where a lot of my family originally came from. And then? Who can say.

I don't know when I'd be able to afford such a trip. It's really only lack of money that stands in the way. I certainly have the time. Maybe my State Pension (getting closer!) will go further than I think? It would, anyway, be nice to see the land of my ancestors in the next four years or so.


  1. I share you dislike of over-serious crime fiction. Murder is ghastly, and overly realistic portrayals are not what I choose for entertainment. Give me Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercules Poirot or Sherlock Holmes every time.

    Now, thanks to your hearty recommendation, I shall give Crimes of Passion a try. Tack!

  2. It's on at nine tonight, BBC4, Angie.



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