To my horror, I realized that not only would I have to fight with the beast of the east, to get to the book sale this year, but I also had to fight with time, since my youngest son, had to go for his yearly ultra sound, to check on his faulty right kidney. I did not know if it would be possible to squeeze in a visit to the book shop, before heading to the hospital, but with seven children, I have become some sort of whiz at logistics. I got everyone up early, got out the door earlier than usual, even though I had to have my tardy teenage daughter with me as well, who moves in slow motion when it comes to everything. And to my amazement, I actually got in to town in reasonable time, after having dropped off two boys in two villages, pretty hastily. F. and I headed together to the big book shop, her with the aim of Charlotte Brontë and any teenage books, and me, with a list of books, I just had to have.
F. ended up choosing ”Villette” by Brontë, since she has had to write two papers on that author and her, only having read ”Jane Eyre”, which was not on the sale. She put some of the teenage books back, when I pointed out, that some books are just better borrowing at the library. Instead I handed her, a very own copy of ”Sense & Sensibility”, since every girl ought to have her own copies of all of Jane Austen’s work, in my opinion.
Now, this year, I did get too many books, but there were some really nice ones and since we made sure to have our choices made before 10:00, we got four books for the price of three, which helped. And there were some that I did not want to live without. One of them was Marte Michelet’s book ”Det största brottet” or in translation it would be ”The Biggest Crime: Victims and Offenders in the Norwegian Holocaust”. This is a book that I first saw in the Swedish Military Library club and could not afford, but a very important book indeed. Anti-Semitism has always been strong in Norway, even though they have always had the least Jews. And it was terribly strong, even after all Jews were gone, since people were convinced they were not gone. If anyone listened to propaganda about Jewish conspiracy etc. it was the Norwegians. To be honest, when I read a 600 page book on anti-Semitism, it was quite apparent that the countries with the least Jews, were the most anti-Semitic. A very sad fact! This book, will talk about the Norwegian society making the Norwegian Holocaust possible, the police and Nazis helping out, but also the everyday person.
Another book I wanted to read, just because I have read all her other books, was Hédi Fried’s ”Frågor jag fått om Förintelsen” or ”Questions I have received about the Holocaust”. Ever since she arrived in Sweden after the war, as a survivor of three camps, being a Hungarian Jew, she has travelled around to schools all over Sweden and Universities, lecturing on the Holocaust. This will probably be her final book, since she is getting to be very old. She is in her late 90s and when I last saw her on TV, she was showing signs of beginning memory loss. Not particularly strange after the circumstances, but none of us who fear anti-Semitism, want these witnesses to die off.
The third book in the picture, ”The Impossible Exile. Stefan Zweig at the End of the World”, is a biography on Stefan Zweig, who was a famous author in his day, before Hitler made it impossible for him to stay in his beloved Austria. He and his wife escaped the Holocaust, but ended up taking their lives in 1942, while living in Brasil. Who was Stefan Zweig? Well, if you have seen ”Hotel Budapest” with Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, then you know at least one Zweig story. The book is written by George Prochnik, whose family also escaped the Holocaust, by leaving Wien in time.
So three Holocaust books, in a way. Then we move over to my favourite topic of all historic ones: World War II. And here I of course could not pass up, yet two more books on Winston Churchill. The man never ceases to amaze nor entertain. You always learn some new aspect.
The third book in this picture, is going to be a very disturbing one. ”Year Zero” will show a completely different view of 8 May 1945. Churchill happily stood in front of his people, making the Victory sign. 101st Airborne, Easy Company, sat in Southern Germany and drank themselves silly on Nazi alcohol. People danced on Trafalgar square, secretaries threw out paper flakes over the main street in Stockholm, people danced in New York and that famous kiss between a sailor and a nurse took place. At the same time, war was not over. Happiness and relief moved in to serious retaliation. Women in Germany were being raped by Russian soldiers and French women by American soldiers. People were moved around like cattle, starving, and there was no way to pick up the pieces of a normal life. Russian POWs were regarded as traitors in their own country and were sent to Siberia. This book will show that you can’t expect a signed peace treaty to suddenly transform a society built up on warfare into a normal functioning society.
The next three books I bought, are a combination of history and biography, as all biographies of course are. The war years in Sweden, are described in pictures, in the most expensive of the books I bought. I did not know whether to get it or not but when my daughter claimed that ”Sweden was never in the war, so a completely useless book”, I definitely had to put the book in my basket. No, we did not have a war front in Sweden. No, we did not have any Swedish Jews deported to concentration camps. No, we did not have any bombs dropped ”on purpose” in Sweden. But, to be surrounded by German occupying forces and having the Germans meddle in all Swedish affairs, was not something people lived with in a joking manner. The threat was real, from 1940 on, that the Germans might show up one day and occupy our country. And even if our country was not up to the latest technology, it was sure not going to invite them to stay! My own grand-father was called up for military service the entire war. And my grand-mother constantly had a bag packed in order to take her two daughters up to the forests in Småland, if the invasion would take place. They had to live off rations like the rest of the population. So to say, that the war was far away from Sweden, is not entirely correct. Another aspect was not letting Jews in. So many could have been saved, and were not. Not until the Danish Jews were in danger of being liquidated, did Sweden step up and help. I opened up one page in the book, and it happened to be this one:
I said to F. ”This is why I need to get this book!” She looked in horror at the picture and decided that yes, we need this book. These pictures will show what life was like for my mother and her parents, for my dad and his family. That just because Sweden was neutral, does not mean it did not get affected.
Another important book to read is Hans Fallada’s prison diary, which he hid between novel text, so that his Nazi guards would not discover what he was doing and writing about. He was one of the few resistance fighters that Nazi Germany had. And as such, he was watched, accused and put in prison several times. This diary is from 1944 when things were really going down hill for the master race.
Oh no, I just discovered that Simone de Beauvoir’s memoir is just the first part! Right… I did not see the second part at the sale so here is hoping that part two will come on sale next year? Strong women are always important to get better acquainted with in my opinion, when one belongs to the ”weaker sex” oneself. Women like de Beauvoir can inspire and give a new sense of pride and I sure want to read about how this girl rebelled against what was expected of her, as a bourgeois French girl, at the beginning of the 1900s.
Now, I am not really in to reading a lot of novels. Especially not new ones since I do not like how every modern novel crams sex and homosexuality down our throats. So we will see how the following will be, but Paulo Coelho should be good, taking on the story of world-famous spy Mata Hari. The other one should also be a good one, about an important decision during 1941. Dutch diplomat Oscar finds out that the Germans will invade Russia and should he inform countries of this fact even though the Gestapo is having both him and his daughter Emma under surveillance?
The last two books hardly need any introduction, but if you are in to Agatha Christie and wants to own the books yourself, these editions are beauties. Hardcover, art deco on the inside covers and the old-fashioned beautiful illustrations on the outside, make these a nice addition to a book-case. These came out in new translation to celebrate Agatha’s 125th Birthday and although I prefer reading books in their original language, this book sale is mainly about books in Swedish, so… beggars can’t be choosers. Most of the books I have bought today, are translations, but they are hardcovers and that makes all the difference to me. I will never be a friend of paper backs!
The 16th book? Well, I decided to not get a bunch of children’s books this year. Many can be borrowed at the library. And unfortunately my three youngest are not really book readers. My 14-year-old is only interested in reading ”Lord of the Rings” and ”the Hobbit”. Mainly because he has seen them on film and loves them all. He also is autistic and has ADHD, so reading is too time consuming and is problematic. My 11-year-old autistic son only looks at pictures in books and we suspect dyslexia, so books are not appreciated. My 9-year-old autistic son is slowly learning how to read, but he prefers books for young children and for me to read them to him. Which means we have half a house full of books for him already. But that said, we did come home with one interesting book for him and maybe the others to peek in. About space and having funny flaps to open. I know, pretty sad to forego the children’s book sale almost entirely, but reality has finally sunk in.