Monday, January 12, 2015

Inspired by Swedish Literature

For Christmas, my paternal grandparents got me a pretty nice gift: A novel I was interested in reading.
I phrase it that way because it's difficult to buy me something to read that I'll find interesting. More often than not I won't find too much to interest me at a bookstore. I'm a bit of a tricky customer. And when I do find something I get into, I hardly stop reading it.

Knowing I'd liked that 100 Year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window novel (they'd read it themselves), they happened across a second novel by the same author, a book called The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden. Right away I took to it.

I won't get too much into it other than to say that I continue to highly enjoy the author's simplistic, ironic, comedic style of writing, and that secondary characters who are so dumb and childish and only exist to cause disastrous consequences for the main characters are really annoying to read. Oh, and I was irrationally overjoyed to discover a tertiary but important character named Henrietta. Plus a second, delightful new character at the end with the same name.

What I really find awesome here is how much both those novels have inspired my interests. No novel has really done that for me before. My all-time favourite novels, the two I can read over and over and over without losing interest or happiness in their plots - both Lightning and Watchers, by Dean Koontz - didn't even inspire much interest in their subject matters. One focused on time-travel and the Second World War. The other focused on biological experimentation and warfare, etc. Both featured strong main characters who find love halfway through the story. I didn't develop any interest in either World War II or research on mixing animal DNA to create intelligent war animals. Why the work of Swedish author Jonas Jonasson?

Thanks to both those novels, I've been going on Wikipedia and looking up prime ministers and presidents mentioned in them, as well as flying around in Google Earth to visit places mentioned in both books. I thought Jonasson created Vladivostock as a fictional Russian port town that burnt up. Actually, it exists, and only its massive fire is fictional, only happening in his first novel. I saw it mentioned in an article on Russia on Wikipedia today.

Unlike Lightning, The 100 Year-Old Man novel caused me to develop an interest in WWII. I even burrowed a book from my paternal grandfather called How War Came, published in 1989. I started it a few days ago. Some of the sentences are so long they're a little hard to comprehend, but my interest hasn't waned. I've even been doing light research on how certain governments are structured. I really didn't actually know specifically what a constitutional monarchy was - other than that it had to do with a government working with a King or Queen. It's a system where the monarch answers to the constitution of the government. I kept noticing via news and media how some European countries had both prime ministers and presidents at the same time; they simply have systems in which the president is the head of state and the prime minister manages the legislature.

No novel(s) have ever inspired me to research all of these things. History and politics. South Africa actually did have a brief nuclear weapons program in the late 70s. Interesting. I now know a federation is a country where its states/provinces have their own autonomous governments but are still under a central government (like Canada or the U.S.). I used to think all monarchs had real, absolute power. Most actually don't and just exist as ceremonial figureheads.

I think the works of Jonas Jonasson worked this inspiration for me simply because they provided a simplistic point of view of something in an interesting way. His characters go through real, documented events that are given to the reader in a simple point of view that paints interesting personalities and backstories onto the historical figures involved. Apparently, the former prime minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, is a clean freak. Or that's something Jonasson created to make him sound interesting in a comedic sort of way in the book. His character is presented in a scene as wearing an apron and cleaning up the dishes. Meanwhile, with Dean Koontz, you are supposed to have at least a minor knowledge of some of the historic events pertaining to the Second World War, and his intertwining that bit of major history with a time-travel element creates an entirely alternate version of that time. And I like that novel for its main character and her life story more than for the Third Reich's secret time-travel experiments.

I think it's pretty awesome if a novel makes you think - and not merely about yourself or your own stances on something or other, but about the world or its history, or the state of things. My grandfather thinks I've merely reached the age where I've started to think about things in general (you probably wouldn't find many teens or young adults on the brink of their twenties thinking further than their own wants and needs) but it's really these two novels that got me interested. In the past I would always find events in novels interesting to the degree that they're interesting in the universe of the novel, but never further than that. I wouldn't speak up on any kind of events or push forward much opinion on anything because I don't think I know enough to have the authority to speak - but you can't live your life being ignorant of everything and not developing some sort of world view.

On a brief unrelated note, I've noticed a surprising amount of views here from Russia. Whether the KGB still exists or not, I don't know, but if it does, I have nothing to give or cause reason for scrutiny. I'm just a young man sitting in the capital of Canada. Just because the prime minister of my country bluntly scolded the Russian president about being in Ukraine during the G20 doesn't mean there's any connection here. I did some research on that country today. Canada's mere ten provinces is puny compared to their forty-six oblasts (basically the same thing, provinces). There are thirteen federal subjects in Canada; 89 in Russia. That's a huge comparison. I will say though, if I have some sort of audience over there, they'll know I see the obvious beauty in their girls - though they're in an entire spectrum that includes the Ukraine and Serbia. Maybe Georgia. Probably Scotland as well. And Germany. But those first three mostly. I'd like to go there someday.

If Jonas Jonasson writes anything else, I'm definitely going to read it. He's even inspired my writing style, though I'm definitely far from writing like him. I'm happy in my interests. And if I ever write something that gets published someday, hopefully that will inspire someone as well.

Thanks for lighting such a hunger in me for history and politics, Mr. Jonasson. And your fun writing. Sweden has always delivered on neat, interesting, great things, literature or music or whatever. I'd like to go there someday as well.

Red Cloud
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