To Mervas, Elizabeth Rynell, Archipelago Books, 2010, 192 pp (originally published as Till Mervas by Albert Bonniers Forlag, Stockholm, Sweden, 2002; translated from the Swedish by Victoria Haggblom)
I have been neglecting my Archipelago Books shelf for too long. I must say that every book I have read from this excellent publishing house of translated literature has provided great reading. To Mervas was no exception.
Marta, a solitary middle-aged Swedish spinster with a troubled past, receives a letter from her lover of over 25 years ago. He writes, "Marta, Mart! I'm in Mervas. It is not possible to get any farther away. And no closer either. Your Kosti."
Though I have never been to Sweden, I have read enough novels set there to have a feel for the country. Never had I heard of Mervas. I learned that it is a region of abandoned mining in the far north.
Marta's journal entries from the November day she receives Kosti's letter, reveal her childhood (brutal), her affair with Kosti (aborted by a huge argument), and her sad life ever since. She struggles with her fear of moving out of her lonely existence and a conviction that going to find Kosti is her last chance to make something meaningful of her life.
The writing is crystal clear, both in the telling of Marta's inner turmoil and in describing the journey she does finally make to Mervas. Elisabeth Rynell is both a poet and and a novelist. To Mervas is her third novel and the first to appear in English.
It is a story of hope. Even a woman like Marta, who has suffered from terrible trauma and losses, can pull from her suppressed memory the moments when she had strength and so venture again into life.
I loved this novel from its gorgeous cover to its final page.