Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Johannes Göransson Interview: Question 3

RK: "With Deer" is, to put it mildly, strong. How was the book received in the author's native Sweden when it released there 11 years ago? What did people, poets and critics have to say about it--good, bad and indifferent (and by indifferent I have in mind the sort of critics who early-on dismissed Neruda's rich and dense language, imagery and play of tropes by labeling it "tomato sauce")?

JG: Throughout her public career, Berg has received a lot of praise as well as a lot of critique. Many people love the powerful, dynamic poetry, but a lot of people find it decadent. I should say that decadence and left-wing politics make up a kind of axis around which a lot of Swedish culture rotates. To my mind, almost all of the interesting Swedish art is decadent, and most of the boring stuff is earnest, responsible and left-wing (see my previous answer for people yearning to reach beyond the alienation of language). "With Deer" was her first book and my impression is that it was popular but considered a kind of oddity. Her second book, Dark Matter, was more popular still, somethign of a cult classic. And then her third book, Transfer Fat, suddenly seems to have made her into one of the absolutely most important poets in Sweden. Her most recent book, Loss, probably received the best reception of any of her work. It was reviewed in pretty much all the daily papers and a lot of critics argued that her motherhood trilogy (Transfer Fat, Uppland and Loss) is a major work in the history of Swedish literature. So over the past 11 years she has gone from weirdo to an important writer in literary history. I think a lot of that has to do with a shift in generations among the critics. I know that Bengt Emil Johnson, the old concretist poet from the 60s, has long been her supporter, but I've noticed that a lot of the other reviewers are younger writers now, writers who started writing in the 1990s. And her influence on younger poets is very evident. I should also note that poetry is much more popular in Sweden than it is in the US. Berg's books sell out their printings of a couple thousand copies even though she's writing in a country of 8-9 million people.

(to see the rest of the interview look in archives--dec 2008-- or, more easily, click on one of the labels, like Johannes Goransson, at the bottom of this post)

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