Dwelling on disease
Swedes (maybe others too?) like to read about diseases of all kinds. According to new research at Lund University, the focus in modern literature is on stories about bad health. Add to that thousands of blogs, articles in papers and stories on TV. “We live in a culture where disease no longer is a natural part of life, but rather something unexpected and unbelievable, even something unnatural,” says Katarina Bernhardsson, literary historian. She is explaining our interest in reading, seeing and hearing about sickness and disease. Among autobiographies the so-called pathography (a study on the life of an individual with regard to the influence of a particular disease or psychological disorder) has become its own genre over the past 40 years. Ulla-Carin Lindquist’s book about Lou Gehrig’s Disease “Ro utan åror” (translated into English under the title “Rowing Without Oars”) and Kjell-Olof Feldt’s book about cancer, are but two examples in Sweden. The TV series “Himlen kan vänta” (Heaven can wait) showcases a group of people and their fight against illness. Bernhardsson says the motif for sickness often is that of exile, and the sick person is reporting to us, the healthy, from an unknown country, where symptoms and healthcare is in focus. Bernhardsson adds that she wants to see her thesis as a piece in the puzzle of that field of research that in English is referred to as Medical humanities, a closing of the gap between medicine and the humanities. “For me it’s about a way to view literature as something that can enrich our experience of life,” she says. In her thesis, Bernhardsson takes a closer look at seven Swedish novels from the 21st century about cancer, tuberculosis, and anorexia nervosa – just to mention some of the illnesses.

Earth tremor in Sweden

An earth tremor (somewhere between 2.5 and 3 on the Richter scale) occurred in the city of Härnösand the other day. Earth tremors of this magnitude occurs roughly once a year in Sweden. To cause any serious damage it has to reach around 5, which happens once every hundred years.

Children with other mother tongue disadvantaged
The education of children with a mother tongue other than Swedish has many shortcomings. This shows a review by the Swedish School Inspectorate of 42 schools and preschools. Children receive poor teaching in Swedish as a second language, and preschools should do more to support children's language development. Schools also take too little account of children's own experiences. "The result is that children's language and knowledge development is slowed down", says Agneta Ericsson, Project Manager at the Schools Inspectorate.

Documentary links Silvia’s father to the Nazis
This is the documentary Queen Silvia doesn’t want to see. Swedish channel TV4 recently showed a documentary about a family secret, more precisely a secret about Queen Silvia’s father Walther Sommerlath. It shows that he was a member of the German Nazi Party, and that he took over a company from a Jew as part of Hitler’s goal in making Germany more Aryan. Queen Silvia always thought her father made innocent toys like electric trains in his factory, when in truth the factory was part of Hitler’s war machinery. Before Silvia married King Carl XVI Gustaf in 1976, her father denied having been a member of the Nazi Party but the paper Arbetaren revealed that was a lie already 8 years ago. Silvia and her brothers then dismissed that saying all Germans were forced to be members. But when Walther Sommerlath joined the Nazi Party’s foreign department in Brazil, only about 2 900 of the 80 000 Germans living in Brazil at that time did so. When in April 1938, Sommerlath returned to Germany, he took over a factory in Berlin, a factory that specialized in making optics for Hitler’s air force Luftwaffe. Documents show that the previous owner of this factory, Efim Wechsler, had been Jewish, and that Sommerlath’s taking over was part of making Germany more Aryan. Sommerlath took over the business a few months after the terror of the Kristallnacht, when Jewish homes and shops were ransacked and destroyed. Letters from Sommerlath’s business were signed “Heil Hitler”.