Helena von Zweigbergk was born in Stockholm 1959. She is an author and journalist. She started her literary career with the crime fiction series about Ingrid Carlberg, a prison chaplain. This is her fourth literary novel and can be read as a stand al ...
Helena von Zweigbergk was born in Stockholm 1959. She is an author and journalist. She started her literary career with the crime fiction series about Ingrid Carlberg, a prison chaplain. This is her fourth literary novel and can be read as a stand alone sequel to her hugely succesful and praised novel Ur vulkanens mun / From the Mouth of the Volcano (2008).
Interview from 2008 between Helena von Zweigbergk and senior editor Eva Gedin:
EG: Who is Anna, and who is Mats? How would you describe them?
HvZ: Mats is a forty-year-old web designer whose career is not going quite as smoothly as it used to. Anna works in a bookshop and has just started writing books about how you best enjoy life. She is a bit of a lost and anxious soul. He is often in a bad mood. They are both unhappy and deep inside think that it is the other person’s fault.
Mats and Anna are modern people who know how everything should be, and how people should behave. They know their Doctor Phil. How to respect each other as a couple. They also know how important it is to give their children love and security. They know everything, but how does that help them?
EG: Are the demands we make on our relationships today just too ambitious? Is that why we have problems getting them to work?
HvZ: People have started thinking of relationships and parenthood in the same way they think of careers. Especially where children are concerned, there is an extremely inflated idea about being the best mum or dad in the world. It all ends up as a sort of narcissism. The poor children have to assist their parents with confirmation. Someone said to me that in the old days one was afraid that one’s parents didn’t love one. Now it is the opposite.
EG: How do you want people to react when they read the book? Do you think it can save some relationships?
HvZ: I don’t know. I hope they can start to see, but I don’t give advice. You get plenty of that nowadays; you can find it in every magazine. What I really hope is that people who have read the book start to TALK. Then I will have achieved something. And that they will get to see something very down-to-earth that we know exists but that we never really see properly.
EG: Was there something special that you thought was important when you wrote the book?
HvZ: The children! I wanted to show what it is like for the children in a really tense family like this. Doctor Phil has said that it is better to come from a split family, than to live in a split family. There is so much talk about how children of divorced parents suffer. But children in an ambitious nuclear family like this one, can have a really rough time.
EG: Your new book, Thing you Just Say is about a woman in her fifties, Susanne. Who is she?
HvZ: Susanne has moved out to the countryside to a little cottage of her own. She has left her job as a senior executive, and got a nice golden handshake. And she has also left her husband and three step-children. She has promised herself one year in seclusion. And she is not going to bother about her surroundings and who she ought to be.
EG: What would you say is the central theme in the book? What questions were the most important for you to ask, to shed light upon?
HvZ: I think that this novel is about ‘freedom versus dependence’, and about the degree of responsibility that we have for each other. When does it end? The book is also about getting older, and staring the rest of your life right in the eye, and wondering what you should do with it.
EG: This story concerns to a great degree the relation between brothers and sisters, or – in this case – between sisters. What was tempting about that?
HvZ: The closeness between sisters is exciting and difficult to write about. It is a closeness that can be absolutely essential to your life, and warm, and claustrophobic at one and the same time. And also I think that having a brother or sister makes quite as much of a mark on an individual as parents do. Sometimes more.
EG: In connection with the publication of your new book, your first relationship-novel A Thousand Fragments of Trust is being re-issued. It seems as if that book and From the Mouth of the Volcano (which was published last year) and Things you Just Say go together in some way. Can you describe how?
HvZ: Without doubt there is a thematic similarity. In all three books there is a parent who leaves. They are also all of them stories about people who try to achieve a functional way of interacting with those they love, although they do it in different ways. They are modern contemporary stories but in three different ages of life: people in their thirties, forties and fifties.