The novels of journalist-become-author Maria Ernestam are both serious and humorous. Sometimes compared with works by Isabel Allende, Fay Weldon, Ingrid Noll and Ruth Rendell, Ernestam's books have been a great success with readers and critics alike.
Maria Ernestam. Photo: Richard Ryan
1. What made you start writing?
“I was one of those kids who grew up with books and lived more in the reality of books than in ‘normal’ reality. I was always a writing person, but I never nourished dreams of becoming an author. So I kept on with my studies and went on into journalism and I was very happy with that. The trigger was: I had been writing about German gene technology, a very sensitive issue in Germany. Then I watched a scene in a Woody Allen movie, where death knocks at the door. Together, the ideas of gene technology and death inspired me, and a story started to develop. (The resulting novel was Caipirinha med döden, Caipirinha with Death, editor’s remark.)
2. You spent many years abroad, also working with other languages. What do you feel about the Swedish language?
“Swedish is quite a rich language, quite a musical language. You can find different tones, and you can make witty twists, you can play with it. I sometimes miss certain words, where there is a perfect word for something in German or in English that I don’t find in Swedish. But then again there are Swedish words that I can’t find in German.”
3. What image of Sweden do you think you convey to your readers?
“Maybe a different Sweden. It’s not the Bullerby or Astrid Lindgren Sweden. It’s more a Sweden of light and dark, of good and bad. It’s a Sweden of illusion and reality, a Sweden of contrast, of opposites, where one side always has a correspondent on the other side. So, maybe a Sweden that is a little bit more dramatic, a bit madder, a bit wilder. I have actually been told that I’m not a typical Swedish writer. Particularly after the book Caipirinha with Death.”
4. Name a Swedish writer who has influenced you.
“Selma Lagerlöf, who also has these tendencies to work with light and dark, and magic realism. Then Pär Lagerkvist with some of his books, and Vilhelm Moberg with his looking back in history. Majgull Axelsson is a contemporary writer I feel some connection to.
5. What do you like most about Sweden?
“That it’s a fairly equal country, that the roles of men and women are better than in many other countries. I really like our nature, that we are taking care of it; this has been very important for Sweden. I like that it’s a clean country, with fresh air. There is a certain innocence about Sweden. It can make me mad sometimes, but if you’ve been abroad and come back, there is still this feeling of ‘this is a very good country to live in and for children to grow up in.’”
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