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Best Untranslated Writers: Oline Stig

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The marriage of Papom (husband) and Tom (wife) is not a usual marriage. When the story begins they are travelling together to Italy where they aim to search for Adalberto Mariano, the survived navigator on the airship Italia which crashed on Svalbard in 1928. The reason for the search is surprising: Tom has fallen in love with Mariano from what she has read about the failed North Pole expedition in Swedish newspapers. And Papom’s major preoccupation is not that his wife is in love with another man – but that she might be disappointed when she eventually meets him.

This tender adventure in Swedish writer Oline Stig’s short story ‘Den andra himlen’ (‘The other heaven’, 2007), included in her collection of the same name, meanders from Venice to Bologna and further on to the Adriatic port town Cesenatico. The contrast between the Nordic, icy, hostile expedition towards the north pool, continuously referred to throughout the story contrasts with the sweet languidness of the Italian landscape. Stig’s eye for the different settings is so sharp, as is her capacity for raising the tension when the couple finally approaches the navigator. They search for him in hospitals and on windy beaches; they sit just behind him and his wife on a terrace at the Censenatico Lido. But when the couple finally manage to talk to the navigator, the story’s direction changes unexpectedly.

Even though the status of the short story in Sweden is undeservedly low we do have some strong short story writers. It would be better if Sweden could gain a reputation not only as a country where writers focus on a highly lucrative but quite banal suspense-genre, but also as a literary arena for a more demanding writing. In Stig’s collection and in the above-mentioned story in particular, she shows that she dominates the tools of the art in a playful and brilliant manner. Oline Stig doesn’t blindly obey the narrow logic of the dramatic curve, and she lets the story branch where it is necessary. The end is surprising and, so to say, out of tune in a liberating way.

Image from Kristianstadsbladet

For more from Best Untranslated: Stephan Mendel-Enk on Sami Said, Miroslav Penkov on Peter Delchev, Etgar Keret on Gadi Taub, Edwidge Danticat on Kettly Mars and Valeria Luiselli on Sergio Pitol.

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