Klas Östergren is a Swedish author, born in Stockholm in 1955, who received the prestigious Piratenpriset (="The Pirate Award", named after Swedish humorist Fritiof Nilsson "Piraten") in 1995.
Östergren is perhaps most famous for his collections of short stories, such as the 1997 Med stövlarna på och andra berättelser (=With One's Boots on and Other Stories), which has later been adapted for TV, but also through a number of productions exclusively for the screen and TV.
His breakthrough was a modern pastiche of famous Swedish naturalist August Strindberg's Röda rummet (The Red Room), called Gentlemen.
Often set in an urban context, Östergren's stories carry a mellow sense of resignation with them in their simple but precise language. Descriptions of colors are rare, and frequent rain paints a gray world.
A (hopefully incomplete) bibliography:
/msg me to report errors, amendments or updates, or to your favorite editor in the event that I am dead or otherwise away from E2.
The following is an Östergren pastiche written by Yours Truly for IB Language A1: Swedish, Higher Level, as a practice task. It takes off some 25 years after the story in Med stövlarna på called Röd jul (=Red Christmas). Disclaimer: It is not Östergren, the original text as well as the translation is written by me, and a translation of an actual Östergren story might look very different. While I received 7/7 for Swedish altogether, the following was not included in that assessment, and it would be unlike me to speculate.
The appearance of some people seems to be untouched by the passage of time. These people might get a few more wrinkles as the years pass, and their eyes still reveal the true age of their owners. Somehow one can see in a person's eyes how old she is. The eyes seem to age more and more for every thing they see.
Bonnie's appearance had frozen in time in this mysterious way. The shape of her face was perhaps somewhat more rounded. The hair had started to fade slightly to gray in spots. Other than that, she looked just like she had on that December night a quarter of a century ago.
Apparently, I had changed more than that, because it took quite a while and a bit of explaining before she recognized me. She had probably forgotten me in the belief that she would never meet me again. Memories have a strange ability to kill themselves when they notice that they don't serve any purpose.
I had passed the restaurant where I had, a little over a year ago, for a moment realized the obvious but elusive answer. When I passed it this time, I had already forgotten exactly what the question was. I walked into a small nearby café. The door was at the corner of a block, and a bell tingled as I stepped out of the gray, cold November haze. She sat close to the entrance - alone at a table for two. I immediately recognized her and said hello. After explaining who I was, I ordered a coffee and another cup for Bonnie.
She didn't seem to be in a hurry. It seemed as she was mainly waiting for time to pass, and the conversation got rather lengthy. I told her a bit about what I had done since we met last time. Just like last time, I lied about something in the beginning of the conversation, but noticed pretty soon that Bonnie had developed her feminine skill of detecting lies. She didn't say anything, but it was plain to see she knew I lied. I decided not to do it again. However, I left the lie as a truth.
Eventually, the conversation inevitably came upon the topic of our last meeting.
"Who was he?" I asked. "Who?" she asked back. I suspected she already knew whom I meant. "Him," I said. "The one that left." "Erik?" She said the name in a cold way that hinted at a total lack of emotion for the man. "He..." She hesitated slightly. She probably didn't know where to start. "We had been married for almost two years. We met in Copenhagen, though we both live in Stockholm. He owned a company. I never really understood what kind of company."
She drank of the coffee and warmed her hands on the cup. "We got married on New Year's Day." She smiled. There were no traces of bitterness in the smile. It was a beautiful memory, regardless of what had happened later. "He said I was his New Year resolution." She raised the right corner of her mouth sarcastically.
The honeymoon had lasted for a little over a month, and they had visited all corners of the world that would interest the wealthy. She didn't say so, but I understood they spent a lot of money on that trip. She had been well off before she met him - even better than he had been, but his company had started to make progress. She had gotten her share of it and never seemed to mind. A little less than two years later, that had been one of the reasons for their divorce.
"He said I spent all his money," she said. "Well, did you?" I asked. "Maybe," she replied. "I guess it added up to a bit, but nothing he couldn't afford. Trust me." One could tell that she had taken all the blame for the divorce at first, but that she later realized that it wasn't just her fault. She said so herself, but I had already understood.
"It wasn't for the money," she said, and with her index finger, she traced a circular stain of coffee on the table. "It was him that I missed that Christmas - not his money." I believed her. "If I had known what was going to happen, I would have changed my habits." She paused. "But maybe it was just as good. I might never have realized it, but he and I didn't match. Now he realized it, and maybe that made it harder to accept. But it was for the better."
"He always told me I could tell him anything. Everything. I did that, and I said the same thing to him that he said to me, but he didn't want to take his own advice." I nodded. It wasn't the first time I heard of that sort of situation, and it has happened to myself a few times. She continued: "If he had said what he disliked, I could have changed it, but I didn't know anything was wrong. After a while I realized there was something, but I didn't know what." I nodded again and got my coffee refilled. It was snowing in the dark outside.
"After a while he just got more and more quiet. We rarely talked. He never answered my questions, and when I wanted us to do something together, he always said no. He thought I'd taken everything for granted - that I hadn't been grateful. Actually, he was the one to take me for granted. He took for granted that I would be so perfect - that I would always have time to be grateful, and that I would always understand that I was... lucky. The question is if I even was."
She paused and drank her coffee. I let her go on. It was strange to hear her tell so much to a person who was really a stranger. I got a feeling she was lonely, and didn't have anyone to talk to, but it still didn't seem very likely. Despite her age and a fading hair color, she was very beautiful. Maybe she was the one not telling everything to the one she should now.
"Eventually he stopped talking to me altogether. He didn't even respond when spoken to. Well, you saw for yourself." I nodded and inhaled quickly and affirmatively. "One day he said he met someone else. I understood he had seen her for a long time without my knowing, but I didn't know how long. Perhaps it was a couple of weeks. Maybe it was a month. But it might have been half a year. How do I know? He never told. I never saw him after that day. He never walked through that door again after he left."
I had seen it already back then. Rarely have I seen someone do something with such determination as when the dark man apparently named Erik walked out of Bonnie's apartment. She said she moved a month later, and she was a bout to tell me something else, but she was interrupted.
"Excuse me, but we're closing." It was the woman who ran the place. It might not have been meant that way, but it sounded unfriendly, and she hadn't looked at us when she said it, while wiping another table. We left. She put on a big fur that looked warm and beautiful without giving the impression of being too exclusive. It suited her. We were going in different directions already from the door, and we said goodbye after talking a short while. It was easy to see one's own breath, and the snow was still falling slowly in big flakes. Like last time, I went home without expecting to see her again.