Author: Gustaf Widén

Johan Bargum’s analyses

Issue 2/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Johan Bargum. Photo: Irmeli Jung

Few Finland-Swedish authors can make a living by their writing. A readership of little more than 300,000 cannot support a large number of writers, and only the most successful books sell more than a thousand copies. Writers have thus no choice but to seek other markets, notably in Sweden or among the Finnish-speaking population.

Both alternatives present problems, but popular writers like Henrik Tikkanen and Christer Kihlman are tending more and more to publish simultaneously in all three markets. Since the publication of his novel Den privata detektiven (‘The private detective’) in 1980, which even became the Book of the Month in Sweden, Johan Bargum has joined this group. Enthusiastic reviewers have since speculated on the possibility of translations into other European languages.

Born in 1943, Bargum grew up in Helsinki and, like so many other writers with their roots in the Finnish capital, he comes from an upper-class family. Politically he belongs to the left, while artistically he has benefited from family tradition: both his grandmother, Margit von Willebrand-Hollmerus, and his mother, Viveca Hollmerus, are well-known authors. Writing as a family tradition is actually quite a common phenomenon in Finland-Swedish literature.

A social conscience

Thanks to his skill as a dramatist as well as a prose-writer, Johan Bargum has been able to live by his pen for the past ten years. Early in the 1970s he had a success with Som snort (‘A cinch’), Bygga bastu (‘Building a sauna’) and Virke och verkan (‘Material and the making’), all specially written for Lilla Teatern, the Swedish-language theatre in Helsinki. In this trilogy he was concerned with the difficulties encountered by small businessman in their struggle against large monopolies. His text is characterized by a strong ironic humour. More…