Thursday, December 31, 2009

New year's eve-Nyårs afton med Fela

It is New Year’s Eve day here in an astonishingly frost-covered Sweden. The news that I have already sampled early in the Swedish darkness offers a little hope – The Opposition in Iran (see Nima Dervish blog Nordic Dervish if you want to follow that) – and lots of political darkness – an almost successful bombing of Northwest 253, the collapse of the State of New York, bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen to name a few.

In a hurry - go to the URLs all the way down. Carpe diem!

Yet there is lots of good life among the people of the world, and I take this opportunity to introduce you to Fela Kuti – a Nigerian musician and opponent of corrupt government – and to his music and dance. The Off Broadway musical “Fela” has moved to Broadway and in so doing will introduce a Nigerian force for good to anyone who starts with the very short clip I link here. I will certainly add more later today, the 31st, and, who knows, maybe I will celebrate New Year’s Eve vicariously by dancing to Fela’s music here in little Linköping since it is not my luck to be in New York City where the Fela-musical band (Antibas) will be playing at the Knitting Factory – sold out.

Vem vet, jag kan tänka mig lägga till lite svenska senare. Men eftersom inte en enda levande människa har tittat på (åtminstone kommenterat) min blogg blir min skrivning bara ”träna skriva på svenska”

Nope not more Swedish but Fela URLs. Try one. Different sides of Fela with the Ginger Baker video - words fail me. Bara kolla!

It’s New Year’s Eve already here in Sweden. Wherever you are, maybe Australia, maybe NYC, maybe Brazil I hope you are dancing!

And in this strange time when one young Nigerian was trying to bring a plane down, it is also time to see another Nigerian live and then get yourself to New York City to see Fela, the Broadway musical.
Nigeria African Music Legends
U Be Thief – video 2 min Fela sings
Fela live 1971 video made by Cream drummer Ginger Baker. The real thing.
Confusion break bone – with text – the political Fela Kuti

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Slaget om muslimerna - Never in DN

Dagens Nyheter did not find Evin Rubar's documentary Slaget om muslimerna worth commenting on except belatedly by a seriously confused John Croneman. Therefore I submitted the text below as my first try at Letter to the Editor (insändare). DN was not interested so I might as well put it "in print" here. Have composed and sent "insändare nr. 2". But if you should read this and kan svenska gå to Nordic Dervish blog since he writes full time about these matters and is good.

Never in Sweden/Aldrig i Sverige, åtminstone i DN kommer man att kunna läsa en seriös diskussion om årets viktigaste dokumentär film, Evin Rubars Slaget om muslimerna- se på SVTs Play TV.

Titeln till den nya boken ”Who Speaks for Islam” ställer den frågan som Evin Rubar besvarar i svenskt sammanhang. I boken – en miljard muslimer talar. I Sverige ger Evin Rubar plåts åt fyra män som talar klarspråk. Dilsa Demirbag-Sten beskriver dessa i sin kommentar om programmet i Expressen: ”Politiker vill gärna föra ’dialog’ med företrädare som säger sig representera stora grupper. Medierna har hjälpt till genom att ständigt vända sig till ’muslimska företrädare’ som nästan alltid är ortodoxt troende.” Och män, själv klart.

Du, läsaren kan inte läsa om dessa män i DN men du kan lyssna på dem för att höra att den ena eller den andra inte delar sådana värderingar som den att jämlikheten mellan män och kvinnor är princip nummer ett. Så långt jag vet kan du inte heller läsa om intellektuella muslimska kvinnor i Kanada och USA (ofta professorer) som anser att varje religion måste utvecklas i kapp med världens utveckling.

En sådan kvinna är Irshad Manji (från Kanada) som det gläder mig att säga finns på SVTs Existens (program 5 av 10 – inget om det i DN tror jag). Irshad Manji ”Speaks for Islam” på ett helt annat sätt än Sveriges självutvalda men med något gemensamt med Nalin Pekgul och Dilsa Demirbag-Sten. I programmet säger reporter Magnus Selstam Jonsson att aldrig i Sverige/Never in Sweden kan du hitta någon som är villig att prata om Irshad Manji. I stället bara gå in på hennes webbsida och beställa utan kostnad hennes bok i det språk du bäst behärska.

Jag ser fram emot, år 2010, en hel DN kultur del ägnat åt en jämförelse av vem som talar för Islam i Sverige jämfört med i Kanada och USA.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who Speaks for Islam - Short version

Who Speaks for Islam is the title of a new book by Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito based on a world-wide survey of muslims. I want to keep the book and the title upfront while I do my research for a longer entry. The book presents data to show what I know from everyday experience - people who say they are Muslims have so many different views about the nature of Islam and their relation to it that one must endlessly question - to whom should a government listen if they want to address a policy matter that may concern muslims? In Sweden one only need look at Evin Rubar's recent documentary Slaget om muslimer (will check the exact title)to see the sorry state of who the government listens to who "is speaking for Islam". Things seem much better in the USA and Canada - from my point of view but certainly not from the men who "speak for Islam" in the Rubin documentary, that is with the exception of the Danish muslim around whom the program is built.

The level of comment discussion following Swedish articles and the documentary film seem to be at an extremely low level, at least compared with the level of comment discussion in the New York Times every day.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Black In The Age of Obama - Part 2

Something strange happens to my submissions to the New York Times so I submitted a new text as comment to Charles Blow's column in the NYT on December 5th - Black in the Age of Obama. I am making it my blog post for Sunday morning here in Sweden because every such submission by me refers to the comparison of Infant Mortality statistics in Sweden (best or 2d best in the world) with those in the USA (30th in the world.)

Comment submitted to the NYT
December 6 2009
10:01 am Swedish Time

Sad to say, I must agree completely with the final lines in Charles Blow’s excellent column: \"The Age of Obama, so far at least, seems less about Obama as a black community game-changer than as a White House gamesman.\"

The most recent example is the president’s decision to turn his energies from the passage of universal health care, which would provide major benefit to both disadvantaged blacks and whites, to concentrate on expanding an unwinnable war whose costs can only worsen the situation of black America.

The Obama gamesman chooses to make human and financial commitments in Afghanistan that are most satisfying to the Republican Party that actively opposes the one Obama initiative that clearly is a black community game changer - universal health care.

One need only look at infant mortality in the black community – see CDC publication reported on in the Times – to see where game change is needed. The US is ranked 30th concerning infant mortality in that publication and a major contributor to that low ranking is premature births among black mothers. The potential for “Black game change” has been shown in one county in Wisconsin (also reported in the Times) where infant mortality in the black population has been reduced to the same low level as in the white - an indication that the difference is not so much genetic as it is societal. That level is close to the level in Sweden which is best or second best in the world as concerns this health statistic.

Universal pre-natal care in America is a Game Change that will ensure that fewer black babies die, something that one assumes would be welcomed by all, even Right-to-Lifers. Expansion of the war in Afghanistan can only be negative for Black America. But universal medical care will perhaps not insure many more votes from black Americans in a future election, but war in Afghanistan may well insure more votes from white America.

It was the worst of times.

Larry Lundgren – Linkoeping SWEDEN – for more on this subject.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You can read it in the times (NYT)
Jag har kopierat här mitt inlägg i dagens (5/12 eller 12/5 om du är Amerikan) New York Times opinion article by Charles Blow. Eftersom jag läser NYT OnLine jag får alltid vara först att lägga in inlägg eftersom jag lever på svensk tid. Texten nedan är bara en kommentar till en artikel men jag vill se till att något finns och hoppas att jag skriva mer senare.

Barack Obama had two chances to do something for "blacks" (I explain the quotation marks below). 1) He could have concentrated all his energy on seeing to it that new health policy is passed that provides for universal health care. 2)To do this he could have decided that "winning" in Afghanistan will cost more in deaths incurred, souls (US military and Afghanis)destroyed, and deficit exploded than his announced decision is worth.
On the medical front one need only look at infant mortality in "blacks" (presumably mostly African Americans)and the dramatic exception in one county in Wisconsin (reported in the Times)to see how important universal medical care - here specifically during pregnancy - is for the black population. On the war front one need only consider the financial cost that George W. Bush never wanted to meet via increased taxes and that his successor is likely to find impossible.
Why "blacks" in quotation marks? I write from Sweden as retired American citizen where for a striking percentage of "ethnic Swedes" blacks are ALL who do not have the skin color of an ethnic Swede. I commend Charles Blow in a sense for using the simple term black since the use of this term includes, for example, the Somali immigrants (Bantu clan) in Burlington, Vermont. Furthermore, use of the simple term black emphasizes that it is not genetics (except as determines skin color) but rather skin color alone. Note, however, that according to the Times African Americans are not willing to accept Somali immigrants as African Americans because the Somalis are muslims.

Finally, let it be known that many of my Somali, Iranian, Iraqi, Kurdish friends here in Sweden who had hope with the election of Barack Obama now ask me daily - Why does the USA always continue warring? And many - yesterday Somalis - said one by one "I am disappointed in Barack Obama". So am I. (De frågade mig då jag var på Rödakorset här i Linköping).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Things I Should be Writing About

I have no time these days to write the things I should be writing about, but I want to post a note about my good intentions. Today was a free-for-all discussion at Rödakorset since there was an extreme lack of students needing help and an extreme richness of bright strikingly individualistic conversationalists - yes, even in Sweden - who provided an abundance of riches. Things to think, research, and even write about.

Some of these things had in one way or another to do with identity so I will just write some reminders in the form of (rhetorical ?) questions:

Where does your nationality rank in the list of identifiers that would tell us something about you?

Why did so many "ethnic Swedes 2alive during World War II wish to identify with and support the idea that they were part of some kind of Aryan "master race" and support Adolf Hitler?

Vad menas med "Hon är svensk"?

And last a rough quotation from an interview I heard yesterday on Sverige's radio and then some questions. In both Swedish and English. "Jo, jag är sekuliserad muslim och jag har 100 procent svenska värderingar, jag är precis som vilken svensk tjej som helst." Yes, I am a secularised Muslim and I have 100 percent Swedish values, I am exactly like any other Swedish young woman.

Questions arising from the above:
Vad menas med svenska värderingar. What did she/you mean by Swedish values?
Vad menas när en tjej (detta exempel) säger jag är precis som vilken svensk tjej...? What does a young woman (this example) mean when she says she is just like any other ("ethnic") Swedish young woman?

Varför skulle hon säga sådana saker? Why would she say these things?
Tror du att hon vet vad hon säger? Do you believe she knows what she is saying?

Not me! Önskar att jag kunde kontakta henne och fråga. Reportern bodde ha ställt någon fråga men det gjorde hon inte. Not good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Over abundance-Try Thomas Friedman NYT

Back in early November I had the naive belief that I would actually compose something on at least one of the subjects I named there. And now as we approach American Thanksgiving - Even in Sweden - I can only admit to myself that I have composed nothing for this blog.

All the composing has gone in to following some significant discussions in the New York Times and Dagens Nyheter and in some cases commenting and even trying to draw conclusions about the distribution of opinions in comments.

Should you be so crazy as to try that, keep in mind that the comment world is a bottomless pit. I cite two articles mostly to use this "inlägg" as "dagboks inlägg" since I really would like to go further with both.

I Dagens Nyheter - kanske 16de november - kunde man läsa debattartikel om att 14 åringar inte fick gå på alkoholfri fest eftersom så skulle inte unga muslimska svenskar i Malmö göra. Jag återkommer med bättre käll hänvisning.

In the New York Times 18 November and excellent column by Thomas Friedman - What Do They Really Believe? Friedman has the most sane views I can find on the changes in thinking about energy sources and uses that could have changed the world and might still do so. I contributed the first comment on that column, but since I was doing so from Sweden before the NYT "comment checker" swings into action the first comment appeared for a time at the top of each listing of 12 or so comments and then disappeared. My comment was made at 4:14 Eastern Standard Time (USA) so I have learned not to enter comments in the NYT until later in the endlessly dark and rainy Swedish morning. The comment nevertheless survived in the listing of comments recommended by two or more readers. I think it is at level 10 readers recommended.

Nevertheless that single comment elicited a quick response from a reader in America who was in the process of contracting to have a ground-source heat pump system installed in his home in Pennsylvania. The near total absence of this technology in my part of the USA has troubled me, so my correspondent's two Emails so far have stimulated my determination to write about that subject.

But that requires research, careful composition, and time - in other words, not today.

Happy Thanksgiving - I will be celebrating that fine day on a little island on the Swedish west coast.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Islam i Sverige or Medical Care in the USA?

Det var länge sedan dvs it was long ago, more than one month, that I wrote something here. There is a good and sufficient reason: This is such an exciting time intellectually that just trying to keep up superficially demands time and energy. So this brief remark - read only by myself as usual - is to state what is so exciting. Then I can only hope that I manage to start writing here about each of the following, if only for my own satisfaction.

Health Care Reform Legislation in the United States - For someone who has had the best of medical care in both Sweden and the USA, even during a single year, the fierce debate about Health Care legislation in the United States has had a special attraction. To date I have been adding comments in the New York Times and in blogs in the USA maintained by bloggers who are ill informed about Sweden. One facet of the debate that became the focus of the an ill informed Harvard educated blogger is what she called the "failure to take race into consideration" in comparing infant mortality in the USA with the rate in EU countries. That leads to the second major subject.

The importance of "race", genetic difference, ethnicity, culture and of mixing different such.
This is a gigantic subject brought to the fore by the election of Barack Obama and then emphasized in the Health Care debate and now on the BBC in programs on the conceiving of children by parents of contrasting "race". (I will explain why "race" always appears in quotation marks once I write separate entries.

Who Speaks for Islam? I have written about this in various settings but in an effort to go further, I had to take a time out and read the book "Who Speaks for Islam?" which I have now done. Even this subject was discussed, wonder of wonders, on Sveriges Radio P1 today 8 October, thanks to a discussion being carried out on the BBC via Maajid Nawas.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

To the Gang of Seven-Vad jag vill ha

Litteraturmanifestdebatten (LMD) tar aldrig slut. I DN 3/10 skriver Moa Matthis ”Man blir inte klokare av att läsa litterära manifest men det är spännande att se författare reflektera över sitt yrke; vad och hur det bör göras, och kanske mest intressant, för vem?” Matthis skriver också ”Höstens LMD har inte handlat så mycket om läsarna och det är kanske klokt…”

Men jag, som en av ”läsarna” accepterar inte den tanken.

The Gang of Seven fick plats i DN till att publicera Manifest 1 (656 ord) och ytterliggare en chans att publicera Appendix (763 ord) som varken gjorde mig klokare (som Matthis) eller fångad av reflektioner över författarnas yrke (till skillnad från Matthis).

Vad jag fick lära mig av dessa ungefär 1400 ord kan förkortas till: ”Vi är och förblir Story Tellers. Vi anklagar kritiker, förlag, och författare som inte tänker som vi – kanske även professorer för att ”…de alla har drivit den unga svenska prosen allt längre ut i en periferi…” Vi anklagar även ”Alarmerande många läsare (som) har i dag vänt ryggen åt den unga svenska prosan…”

Med andra ord det är vi alla som måste bära ansvaret för att samtliga sju ”unga” inte blivit lästa till den graden de önskar. Ni sju visade oss att Ni var arga mot alla men det hjälper inte.

Matthis ville påminna oss om att giganterna - Eliot, Joyce, Stein, och Hemingway - var ”ytterst världsliga i sitt manövrerande på marknaden” och ville bli lästa. Så ville The Gang of Seven (Axmacher till Wolff) som betraktar sig som representanter för ”den unga svenska prosan.” bli lästa.

Men allt som de kunde komma med var ”Vi skall skriva.” Men goda föresatser räcker inte, som min mor lärde mig – The road to hell is paved with good intentions.. Mina förslag, delvis till dem ”unga”, delvis till tidningar och universitet, som jag lägger fram - om Ni sju skulle vilja nå mig – är:

1) Skriv noveller och romaner, 2) Skapa en ”Unga svenska prosans” webbsajt där alla 7 med flera finns, 3) Använd webbsidan för att göra det lätt för mig att få smaka av vad Ni skrivit, 4) Fråga tidningar som DN om det är så läservänligt att ägna 4 hela sidor (3/10 t ex) åt två franska författare – en levande, Claire Castillon, en död, Simone de Beauvoir - om det finns nya böcker av unga svenska författare som förtjänar 250 ord var. 5) Kom ihåg att det kommer nya böcker från alla världens horn varenda dag och att jag som läsare får fiska på Amazon och Google och AdLibris där det finns - varje gång jag tittar - böcker som lockar – nyligen Monika Fagerholms Glitterscenen (från Finland) – och köper.

Och en sista kommentar – synd att det svenska universitetet inte har någon Liberal Arts tradition (jfr Yale, Harvard, Brown mm) som innebär att varje student får chansen att läsa litteratur samtidigt som de läser psykologi, kemi, eller annat och inte bara det utan också att varje universitet anställer författare som hinner undervisa och skriva och blir kända. Joyce Carol Oates är en sådan.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Litteraturmanifestdebatt-DN har glömt läsarna

Jag har bidragit många kommentarer under manifestdebattens lopp i DN och har tänkt att det var konstigt att ingen har skrivit om läsarna. I dag 3/10 har Moa Matthis gjort det i sin krönika men tyvärr kan man inte läsa krönikan OnLine. Man kan läsa recensioner av Björk, Danius, och Börtz och jag har därför lämnat en kommentar under Danius recension för att lova att jag skall skriva här i morgon bitti 4/10 om läsarna. But not tonight, which hardly matters since only I read this blogg! (se tidigare post 12/9 mm) Note added 4 October 2009 kl. 12.30: I have composed a document for Dagens Nyheter and sent that to them. Later today I will draw from that document to put my thoughts out here in my lonely blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vem skall representera muslimer i Sverige

Dilsa Demirbag-Sten som kom till Sverige från Kurdistan (läs hennes bok Stamtavlor) skriver i dag i DN (24/9) en debatt artikel som är garanterad att stimulera debatt om två viktiga frågor. Man förstår av bilden i vilken man ser bara två ögon som tillhör en kvinna som annars är gömd bakom niqabs svarta tyg att artikeln delvis handlar om debatten om en lärare får klä ut sig på det sättet - i Sverige. Men Dilsa ställer en viktigare eller mer omfattande fråga - vem skall representera Sveriges diversa muslimer i diskussioner med regeringen? Hon nämner några som har tagit an sig rollen och frågar - hur blev de utvalde? Det är viktigt att regeringen, kanske först och främst Nyamko Sabuni besvarar Dilsas frågor, men lika viktigt att de muslimer som jag känner hör av sig.

Naturligtvis blir jag nyfiken om att veta om likadana frågor har framförts i USA men kan ej minnas att jag har sett motsvarande i New York Times som jag läser "cover to cover" varenda dag.

I will be back in English if I find anything from the USA and will pose the questions to a sample of my many muslim friends in Sweden.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's Not About Race - 150 Words for the New York Times

First English, then Swedish (19 September 2009 - have added a link to Charles Blow-NYT-Read it!)
As recent posts show, I have been trying to keep up with the Manifest debate in Sweden. But there is a much more important debate going on in the USA. Today (18 September, David Brooks expressed in the New York Times some important thoughts that the Times editors seem unable to grasp. Therefore I have written the 145 words below and sent to the Times. The limitation to no more than 150 words is excellent, too bad Never in Sweden. Try it sometime.
Som mina senaste inlägg har visat, jag har försökt hinna i kapp med allt som publiceras om Manifest debatten i Sverige. Men, det pågår en mycket viktigare debatt i USA. Idag, 18 september, har David Brooks publicerat i The New York Times väsentliga tankar som NYT redaktörer inte fattar. Jag har skrivit och skickat 145 ord till the Times. Restriktionen - mindre än 150 ord är utmarkt, tyvärr Never in Sweden. Prova!

David Brooks has it right (9/18). It is time to stop thinking in James Watson terms (10/2007): The “African genome” does not offer the intellectual potential of the “Watson-group genome”. Since the Times has never, to my knowledge, revealed the name of the President’s “race” I suggest the Time’s writers adopt the following alternative.
Analyze in each Times article the statements of those who dislike, distrust, even hate and excoriate Barack Obama in terms of the expressed basis for these expressions. Doing so will reveal the abysmal ignorance of these critics as concerns Marxism, Hitler, socialism, medical care in Europe and Canada, and more. The thoughts expressed by my President arise not from that place in his genome that assigned a brown or beige skin color (Duke Ellington’s terms) but rather from his life history, his education, and his intellect. It’s Not About Race!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Morning in Sweden - I suggest that hidden behind the manifests that The Swedish authors who I am calling The Gang of 7 published in DN is their simple wish to be loved by Swedish critics. Then maybe they will be read by Swedish readers. One of my hypotheses about them was that they would like to be read as much as Philip Roth or Claire Messud is read. My hypothesis was confirmed in one case at least, and that led me to enter the Swedish text below in Dagens Nyheter rather early this morning, the 12th of September.

Har följt debatten om The Gang of 7 och haft svårt att förstå varför de skrivit sina 10 + 10 löften i DN. I dag läser jag: ”…vi redan nu…börjat arbeta efter de tio löften..” Aha! Nu kan jag LL se fram emot att läsa den första romanen skriven av 7 samarbetande författare, lite som en vetenskaplig artikel i NEJM. För att försöka förstå dessa 7 har jag googlat alla och nu hittat nyckeln: Högström i Expressen 18/9 2007 ”De tre bästa romaner jag läst det senaste året är Claire Messuds The emperor’s children, Philip Roths Everyman och Ian McEwans On Chesnil beach. Ingen av dem skulle vara tänkbar på svenska…” Parad exempel av vad jag kallar för Never in Sweden fenomen (se min blogg)! Liknar också vad Jonas Thente skrivit i sin blogg om Pynchons Inherent Vice: ”… hur kommer det sig att ingen svensk författare lyckas kombinera samhällsanalys med smart och konsekvent burlesk?” Mitt förslag till gänget: Skriv på engelska men akta Er för Herr Engdahl DN 2/1 2008.” Green Card anyone?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Författare mot författare

Författare mot författare – varför?
Lördag 22/ 9 2009 kunde man se i Kultur delen av Dagens Nyheter (DN) en bild av sju unga svenska författare som hade skrivit Manifest för ett nytt litterärt decennium. De ville visa att de var arga fast mot vem är den återstående frågan. Där fanns dessa tre rubriker: 1) Det realistiskt förankrade berättandet har ¬annekterats av kriminal- och chick-lit-romanen, 2) Gränsen mellan den fiktiva och den själv¬biografiska prosan har suddats ut. 3) Det renodlade berättandet med konstnärliga anspråk har av såväl författare som kritiker nästan helt satts på undantag.

I manifestet nedan använde de ”The Editorial We” (Jag vet inte om uttrycket används på svenska) för att berätta vad och hur vi sju tänker skriva i framtiden. Det var 10 stycken ”Vi punkter” och här ett exempel från tvåan. Vi vill skriva romaner som utan konstnärliga eftergifter vill nå ut till största möjliga ¬läsekrets

Efter att jag hade gått igenom hela 10 punkter ett par gånger tänkte jag först ”Only in Sweden” skulle ett gäng författare ta i anspråk att lägga fram ett sådant manifest. Jag gav uttryck till detta påstående först i en kommentar i DN om en artikel eller om Jonas Thentes blogg – kanske båda.

Två eller max tre enkla frågor här i fall någon läser denna: 1) Hur kommer det sig att dessa sju tagit den vägen? 2) Om jag har rätt att ett motsvarande gäng i USA/Nordamerika aldrig skulle göra så, varför gör man så i Sverige?, 3) What’s the point? Här menar jag att hittills har alla bra romaner blivit skrivna av individer. Skall var och en av dessa sju följa hela manifestet då han eller hon påbörjar The Great New Swedish Novel? Eller tänker de skriva som kommité?

Jag återkommer på svenska och engelska snarast möjligt med mina hypoteser.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Only in Sweden - Case Study 1 - What Swedish Authors Do

At the end of August seven Swedish authors published a “Manifest” in the pages of Sweden’s New York Times AKA Dagens Nyheter (DN) about the rules that they say Swedish authors of fiction should follow in the future. This started a debate, which continues in DN and in the blogosphere. The entire phenomenon is definitely an Only in Sweden phenomenon.

I enter this note in case someone actually reads the comment I just entered (2 August) in DN and looks here in my blog for a promised expansion of the thoughts expressed in the 684 character ”kommentar” in DN.

But in the event some American reads these few sentences I will ask if you might name 5 American authors of fiction and then answer the following question: What is the probability that these five would spend time writing a manifest stating rules that American authors should follow in the future when each author plans his or her next novel? That’s what the Swedish authors did-Only in Sweden, Never in America. Why? Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Never in Sweden:-Case Study 1

Never In Sweden – Our first case study: The time has come to introduce my readers (actually, there are none) to my first “Never In Sweden” case study. On August 22, the Swedish book reviewer Jonas Thente reviewed Thomas Pynchon’s newest novel Inherent Vice and continued commenting in his blog. Thente’s opening lines in the blog had not directly to do with this novel but rather with the hypothesis that “Never in Sweden” could one find a Swedish author who could bring off what this American author had succeeded in doing.
Thente’s words in my translation (see for the original): “There are disadvantages associated with reading novels like Thomas Pynchon’s most recent, Inherent Vice. In any case if one lives and works in Sweden. Why is it that no Swedish author can manage to combine societal analysis with such sharp and consistent burlesque? The Swedish “cottage” (a reference to a Swedish concept – folkhemmet) feels all too confining to me after (reading) a novel such as Pynchon’s – or those by so many other international authors.”
You, the American or Brit who reads this might well conclude that such an incident is, as the Brits say, “a one off” event, of little interest and implying nothing. Not so within an “Only In Sweden” context since the Swedish literary establishment with self-designated leader former Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy (Nobel Prize in Literature) Horace Engdahl will very likely – if privately – remove the name Thente from his list of acceptable reviewers. Given Engdahl’s contempt for American authors, for Thente to have the temerity to suggest that an American author deserves the attention of the Swedish reader, who unlike the American, has no interest in fiction written under the influence of mass culture, is a cardinal sin.
By an odd twist of fate, Thente has during the same week landed in the middle of the kind of literary (?) debate that is an “Only in Sweden” phenomenon. To that I will return if as few as one single angry Swede visits my blog. In that case, you will learn more about Horace E., även på svenska.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday night in Sweden and it is time to give you a first sample of my friends who belong to "dem" (see previous post). Saturday night was the wedding party of my friend Sipel and her husband Jamil, born in that part of Kurdistan that lies within present-day Iraq. These parties are part of what makes living in Sweden possible, a magnificent combination of friendship, music, and dance all at the highest level without the need for stimulants - you choose.

Such parties including this one often start at 18.00 and continue until 02:00 the next morning. From the get-go, the central feature is the music and the dance. Here, in this first post, I offer a sample of the most basic form this takes. Except for the time it took to film this, I get high - or in a continuous state of "highness" - from being part of this "trance dance". There is a continuous infusion of energy both from the responses of all in the ring and especially from those with whom you, as individual, are linked, and from the music itself which is driving and poly-rhythmic (not Swedish dance-band music, jag lovar dig).

There are plenty of variations within this basic form but here you see it as a sort of Kurdish Dance 101.

So let's see if a link can bring this up. Remember I am in week one and so far nobody actually has looked at this blog. Men jag har tålamod.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Du är inte svensk-You are not a Swede

Long ago in Göteborg, I sat next to a woman on the trolley to Saltholmen. She started talking to me and I replied. And then, suddenly, she looked at me, deeply shocked, and said with emphasis “Du är inte svensk!” I already knew that since I had come fairly recently from the US of A. So why the shock? If you are an ethnic Swede (etnisk svensk) I will give you two clues. Since three fourths of my grandparents were ethnic Swedes who emigrated to the USA, then my appearance might reflect that history. And, since I learned Swedish late in life, jag talar svenska med amerikansk brytning.

In any case in my 13 years in Sweden I have learned that this distinction – vi och dem – where “vi” (we) are the ethnic Swedes (see Svante Pääbos genetic studies) and “dem” (them) is everybody else – is extremely important.

Why just the other day Sveriges Radio P3 (young) woman talked briefly with a caller speaking perfect Swedish who said “I was born in Indonesia but was adopted by a Swedish couple and came to Sweden as an infant. And what did the P3 woman say? You guessed it, she said “Du är inte svensk.”

The Swedish National Encyclopedia definition of svensk is.- first in NE’s English dictionary simply noun - Swede and then in its Swedish dictionary translated Noun - person from Sweden. Our P3 woman clearly does not agree with this definition and has a different way of classifying people, at least as long as she is in Sweden.

So lets look at two pictures of the same drummer - taken by me June 2009 while listening to Turkish music. Picture our P3 woman looking at this person live in Göteborg. Then for contrast, picture her on vacation in the USA where she looks at the drummer. She studies his face closeup. How does she think when in Göteborg? I leave the answer to you. Now, how might she respond if her American friend said to her, “What do you think, Kerstin, is he American?”

That’s all for now. What do you think? How do you think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The excerpts from Professor Allan Pred's obituary are presented in order to illustrate the benefits of having multiple roots, of being able, apparently, to merge what some see as separate identities into a single more powerful one (See On Identity, Amin Maalouuf on this subject). With those roots and a powerful intellect, Professor Pred was able to see what even intellectual ethnic Swedes seemed to have so much trouble seeing, let alone acknowledging. I also present these excerpts because my very interest in the subject he treats so deeply has its roots in a somewhat similar history. Thanks to a Swedish wife and a bilingual daughter, I, like Pred, was able to move to Sweden upon retirement from the University of Rochester and thus to experience a single Swedish city, Linköping, full time. The effect on me was identical with the effect on Pred. My thoughts follow his, but they find the expression for which I was looking in his profound contributions in print.

Allan Pred was born in the Bronx in 1936. His father was a high school French language teacher, his mother a housewife and musician. Both of his grandparents had been Jewish immigrants from Poland. A child of the late Depression, he rarely looked back to New York after his departure for Antioch College in 1953. His new horizons were out in the Midwest and later across the Atlantic to Europe – what became a life-long love affair with Sweden. He first visited the country while a graduate student at Chicago, drawn, in part, by the theoretical and scientific innovations of Swedish geographers … When he met his wife of 44 years, Hjördis, in San Francisco in 1962 the die was cast. They lived between Berkeley and Sweden on a yearly basis, raising bi-lingual children. In the 1980s, they bought a summer home in Sörmland, Sweden…

Inevitably he turned to contemporary Swedish life and to what he took to be the deafening silence surrounding the question of race and racism. In two powerful and controversial books – his stunning excoriation of cultural racism, memorably entitled Even in Sweden: Racisms, Racialized Spaces, and the Popular Geographical Imagination (2000) and The Past is Not Dead: Facts, Fictions and Enduring Racial Stereotypes (2004) – Pred courageously exposed a deep vein of pain and shame…

Excerpted from

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The phrase Only-Never In Sweden has its origins in the title of a book by the late Professor Alan Pred - Even In Sweden published by the University of California Press in 2000. What is it that occurs Even In Sweden? The sub (or super) title of Professor Pred's book makes that clear: Racisms, Racialized Spaces and the Popular Geographical Imagination.

Professor Pred and I first arrived in Sweden from our east coast (me) and west coast (him) locations at about the same time - 1990-1991. We both brought with us the soon to be discovered curious notion that Sweden was, unlike other countries, a place where all were accepted, all were equal whatever their color, background, or history. It is now difficult to trace the origins of this curious faith, but anecdotally I can report that I had read of black American jazz musicians who reported that in Sweden or Denmark they had been received as equals and not subject to the treatment all too often given them in the United States.

I went back to the USA in 1992, puzzled by my discoveries that Sweden was not at all as I had believed. Once I returned in 1996 to stay for good, I, like Professor Pred, learned day by day how wrong we had been about what it meant to be "different" in Sweden. Anyone who takes up residence in a new country becomes an amateur sociologist, one who learns a little bit about elements of the new societies and may even go beyond that to try to understand that new society.

Yet one could feel quite alone because the Swedish self image was and perhaps is that we are the best in the world, seen from the moral and ethical point of view. Feeling quite alone, it was an extraordinary experience to discover one day in 2004, that an American Intellectual (not a designation liked in Sweden) had studied in depth the phenomena that I observed daily on a personal level in the small university town of Linköping.

The next step to be taken is to draw on the obituary of the late Professor Pred and to sample his paraphrases of Gunnar Myrdal's statements about America and race.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Only/Never/Even in Sweden

Only-NeverInSweden - The phrase grew out of a book Even in Sweden that caught my attention a few years back after I became the first in the family to emigrate in the reverse direction - from the USA to Sweden/Sverige. I will be back with more about that book but leave anyone who reads this with a question What only/never/even occurs in Sweden? The context is "by comparison with your favorite or least favorite part of the USA."