Thursday, February 11, 2021

TO MERVAS


 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.

27 comments:

  1. Sounds like a novel of hope and sadness, but a well written one. Glad you enjoyed reading To Mervas.

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    1. As you can see, it had quite an impact on me.

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  2. This sounds excellent Judy. I may have read this imprint a couple times in the past. I feel the same way about translated literary fiction from Europa Editions; I have (2) shelves of their books.

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    1. Oh yes, I like books from Europa too!

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  3. i was sort of put off modern Scandinavian lit because of all the gore and cruelty... maybe this one is different? Sjowell and Wahloo's mysteries with Martin Beck i thought were terrific and relatively angst free, though, which reminds me i ought to reread some of them...

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    1. This one has angst, that is for sure. Do you think it is because it is dark there for half the year?

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    2. i hadn't thought of that... i'll bet you're on to something, there...

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  4. This sounds worthwhile. Sometimes we need novels about people bouncing back from hard times. I also like books where people
    And places from the past take prominence in the present.

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    1. Brian, your comment led me to realize how the places in the novel were so integral to its effect on me.

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  5. I like the sound of this one. This poor woman needs to start over! Good for her to gather the strength to do so. Love the Swedish setting.

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  6. I've read a number of books set in Sweden, but when I think about them I realize they's mostly been mysteries. Sweden does have a rich history of mystery writers, but this one seems like a very personal and layered story of a life. When well-done, which apparently this one was, those can be such rewarding reads.

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    1. Sweden's publishing industry did cash in on the mystery genre. But you are correct, the literature of Sweden has a beautiful sensibility.

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  7. It's been a while since I've read a European translated book. Sounds like To Mervas is a winner. Lots of sadness and heartache but I'm encouraged to hear that it is mostly a story of hope.

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    1. Yes, hope is what saved it from being too sad and brutal. The will to live and find at least some happiness brought Marta through.

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  8. I love the cover! It reminds me of a Van Gogh painting! Definitely adding this to my TBR because you've made me very curious. I also love stories that take place in Sweden, because I had a lovely summer there a few years ago.

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    1. I think this book will fit very comfortably on your TBR. I will watch for your thoughts on it someday.

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  9. That's it, you'e sold me on this one!

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    1. Truly, I thought of you when I read it!

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  10. Going to try this one - hope its a good translation. Cheers

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    1. Great, Carole. It is an elegant translation.

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