Author: Joan Tate

A personal appreciation

Issue 4/1982 | Archives online, Authors

Christer Kihlman

Christer Kihlman. Photo: Magnus Weckström

Almost twenty years ago, a book arrived on my table from a London publisher, a large book called Den blå modern, by someone called Christer Kihlman, of whom I had never heard. Although the book came from Stockholm, in fact it turned out to be the work of a Finland-Swedish writer, perhaps the second or third I had ever read.

The book was to me remarkable. I had never read anything quite like it before, and I have been reading adult fiction for over fifty years. Looking back now in my ancient tatty files, I see I typed three single-spaced pages of synopsis and two and a half of comment, and even translated several extracts, not something I can normally afford to do. This was partly because I was impressed with the book, partly because it was almost impossible to explain the style, or styles, in which it was written, and also it was very difficult to say succinctly just what kind of book it was. The blurb called it a ‘family chronicle’, which in a way it was, but in all other respects it was nothing like what we normally call a family chronicle, anyhow of the kind so familiar from the United States. Two sons trying to live up to their father’s image of a third son, who is dead; but in fact it seemed to me to be the story of one man’s struggle with himself and the agony of existing in a world in which pain and hatred and suffering and despair are constantly victorious over love. In the book was almost everything any thinking person struggles with in his or her mind during a whole lifetime, a search for some kind of meaning in a life that appears meaningless. More…