marshtide: (Katherine Hepburn - Sylvia Scarlett)
Two leftover prompts:

1. [personal profile] eggcrack asked about my favourite people from Swedish history, and I have to admit that my understanding of Swedish history is still fairly surface. I do think that, for example, Queen Christina is completely fascinating - but I still haven't got around to reading up on her properly! And I don't even have so many more names.

On the other hand, we do have a great big book of Swedish queer history sitting on a shelf, as well as a number of feminist books which probably have some history in, so I should get working on my knowledge! I guess I'll try to remember to report back on my findings later.

(Actually, most of my understanding of Swedish history comes from Valborg's brother, who has a job related to this stuff, and it's slanted heavily towards "funny stories about kings." And from Valborg's parents, who mostly share information about more recent political history. Although this stuff can be really interesting, it hasn't really turned up any people who make me fantastically gleeful; though I'll admit that Olof Palme was really interesting, he also strikes me as more than slightly infuriating. For example.)

2. [personal profile] silveradept asked about intersection of identities (british, queer, feminist, nerd, in sweden). This is complicated because my identity is pretty unstable in some ways, but!

First: queer and feminist sit together comfortably for me. Although I've met feminists who try to make it into a problem, I haven't met them regularly, probably because I've been selective about spaces. The thing they don't always sit together well with is being a nerd, especially if I try to take myself out into mixed nerd spaces, instead of the internet ones I inhabit (which are generally either queer-dominated or female-dominated or both, and to some extent invested in equality).

Essentially it doesn't actually feel that safe to be visibly queer or to express feminist opinions in a lot of in-person nerd spaces I've found myself in.

I usually do both anyway, and then there's a fight and I go look for somewhere else to hang out, because man, life is too short. (I am, however, gratified to hear that one former group I went through this process with has apparently done some thinking after the event about things I said and the only unrepentant member has left in disgust.)

I've had huge problems finding a roleplaying group, for example, which isn't full of misogynistic bullshit or homophobia or both. I think I've only had one, actually. I don't think they don't exist, but I do feel like I have to look really hard, and if I wanted to put up a notice to try and find a group to play with right now I would probably do it in a queer space - not a general nerd one.

Second: Being British is actually an identity which I can use more easily now I'm in Sweden than I could when I was in Britain. It felt uncomfortable there, which has a lot to do with the way I was treated growing up - that is to say, I'm part Ukrainian, and it's often been used as a way to make me Not British Enough and therefore fair game for all kinds of bullshit. Children are bastards.

Extra context - growing up in the late 80s/90s with an eastern european surname in a tiny rural community where most other people had family roots in the local area going back a few hundred years. It was fantastic. There is also the thing where a surprising number of people have asked me in all seriousness which country I came from and complimented me on my English (even without having seen my surname, in some cases!). Being British is not really an identity that Britain likes to let me take for granted, but Sweden is quite happy to. Probably as a result of this I actually feel a bit more at home in Sweden, if only because I know where I stand; I have a definite identity as a British-born immigrant. People can hear from my accent that I'm probably British, and here I am. Ta-da.

Third: my queer feminist identity has actually undergone a good bit of development in Sweden too. I had read quite a lot of theory and fiction in the UK, and thought a lot about these issues, but somehow I've built up a much more systematic picture while I've been here. I've actually enjoyed reading feminist theory in Swedish even more than in English, which I do admit is more than a little perverse of me. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that moving to another country is the kind of change which, in some odd way, makes it easier to re-focus when it comes to other parts of one's life.

I think somewhat differently in Swedish than I do in English. I have different words and concepts. And I lack words for some things; that means I have to think around them. And that might be a good thing in this respect as well, in terms of examining concepts.

P.S. PRODUCTIVITY REPORT: I finished tidying the patio, which basically meant pulling up all the tiny trees that were trying to start growing between paving stones (other random dandelions etc. can stay, do I look like I care - but one has to draw the line somewhere, and that line is somewhere around "fucking lilac bushes everywhere"). I have cleaned a winter's worth of grime off the bench, table and windowsills out there. I have chucked a bunch of herb seeds (basil, thyme, dill, oregano, chives, parsley) all over everywhere that wasn't full of tulips, because we are basically really bad at flowers anyway and we eat herbs like you would not believe. And we went for a pretty long walk up to Val's parents on the other side of town; I was in the wheelchair for a lot of it, but I still feel kind of accomplished. (The wheelchair is basically perfect for my needs, because the moment I feel a bit like I'm starting to be in pain I can sit down, and then the pain calms down - if I have to first find a bench I'm generally in too much pain for sitting to really cut it by the time I get there and that's when I end up back in bed in a heap, whimpering.)
marshtide: (Too-ticki)


1. Tony Porter talks about how fucked up current ideas of masculinity are. (Discussion of rape and violence against women.)


(NSFW alltihop. Reklamen på Bangs hemsida är alltid något... du vet.)

2. En idealisk gärningsman av Niklas Hellgren (våldtäkt, ras, föredomar)

3. Konst som splittrar nationen av Tiina Rosenberg (SD, främlingsfientlighet och konst som nånting som bör vara skönt och ge glädje - eller bör provocera)

4. De osynliga systrarna av Susan Behnam (gammal artikel om invandrarkvinnor och kvinnorörelsen)

Jag blir lite kär i Bang ibland. Har ni favorit tidskrifter på svenska som jag kanske skulle tycka om...?

I feel unsure about how to describe my interview experience. It felt positive; but on the other hand, I've had such overwhelmingly negative experiences of interviews before that I can't say if that's a skewed perspective talking. It could just mean "I didn't even panic a little bit."

The really positive thing here, I think, is that I know now that I'm capable of doing an interview without hyperventilating, which has been a traditional problem and a barrier to gainful employment. What's more, I can do it in Swedish - and regardless of outcome they were really impressed with my language skills and said so several times. (Sometimes I do feel like Swedish has been a key to a bunch of things for me, particularly expressing myself with confidence, which maybe sounds weird considering I'm not actually capable of such complex expression as I am in English. I'm sure it's also coincidence in that my mental health has improved a lot over the last year, but the end result is that I can now do things in Swedish that I couldn't have done in English last year.)

I never did talk about my exam much, did I? The key points are:

1. I got to write a short comic piece on the topic of LGBT parenting (there were a few themes to pick from, one of which was children and childhood, so I ran with it). I got very high marks.

2. My spoken test was on the subject of gender equality. ...I got very high marks.

I detect the hand of D in the latter. He's the younger of my two teachers, and delights in provocative topics, and is very good at asking the questions that people try to avoid. He's thoughtful and precise in his expression of ideas and I suspect that a day when he gets to challenge people's preconceptions is, for him, an excellent day. Yes, we got on rather well.
marshtide: (Mist)
We've been talking about language. I'm beginning to feel like I'm living in Swedish; I have control over my language and I think in it and I can communicate increasingly complicated ideas in it. I don't have fine control. If I'm not concentrating I use the wrong one out of present tense/infinitive fairly often. There are words I'm missing and have to talk around. Sometimes my subclauses end up with weird word order. But I have a different grasp of the language now to the one I've had before, and it's one where words stop just being words and start being big, complicated and loaded with associations.

We talked about Swedish literature. I've been reading quite a bit by modern authors, ones who aren't particularly literary, and they have quite sparse language; they just don't use many words. Mian Lodalen and Maria Sveland use so few words when you compare them with Birgitta Stenberg. If they didn't have things to say - and they do - then I wouldn't bother, basically, because there is nothing they do with language itself that's particularly exciting. The excitement has to come from characters and ideas; which is fine. But in terms of learning Swedish and feeling out the extent of it they have basically nothing to teach me. Against that, Theodor Kallifatides has heaps to teach me. For example.

Then Val said: If you want to see what the Swedish language can do, read Tranströmer.

So I did.

I am fascinated.

Tranströmer is a poet. He writes about nature a lot, but not like anyone else writes about nature.

He writes lines like, Gryningen slår och slår i havets gråstensgrindar.


I en långsam virvel har tystnaden stigit
hit från jordens mitt, att slå rot och växa
och med yvig krona beskugga mannens solvarma trappa.

The texture is somehow as fascinating as the content to me right now.

(Also discussed: whether I write in English or Swedish, this experience, living in another language, will change my writing. I find that really exciting. I'm beginning to find this whole experience, with language, really genuinely exciting. Before I was just fighting to get a grip on it; now I'm learning nuances.)
marshtide: (Default)
10 months ago I read, with great difficult & a lot of help from Val, a short Swedish picture-book called Nasse hittar en stol ("Nasse finds a chair", where "Nasse" means "piglet" but is in this case the name of a bear. I clearly picked a completely straightforward starting point...). In it, Nasse finds a chair and tries to work out what it is and what to do with it. Hilarity ensues.

Over the last week I read Resa med lätt bagage by Tove Jansson ("Travelling Light" is the offical English title; it's just been released in English, possibly for the first time, if I remember right.), which is a fairly slim book of short stories but one definitely aimed at adults. I'd read a couple of stories from this volume before in English - the title story, and another called "Correspondence" - and thoroughly enjoyed them; I enjoyed quite a bit of the rest of the book as well, and one story randomly tripped me over into some kind of panic, and some stories I should probably read again to get more of the nuance. Tove is writing here about freedom and responsibility; being away and being at home and being in between places; things we carry with us. Enjoyed, though I'd still give people Sommarboken/The Summer Book & Rent spel/Fair Play to read for preference. Though several of Tove Jansson's books for adults do take the form of short stories - all three mentioned here qualify - The Summer Book and Fair Play are also single coherent works which focus on one pair of characters each, and I think of them more as novels than as short stories, whereas Travelling Light has a much looser theme. The stories aren't connected together in the same way, so I would talk about loving individual stories from it rather than loving it as a whole book.

Which was a rather long-winded way of reminding myself that I've come some way.

LibraryThing is providing some kind of map of my progress through the Swedish language (though I've a sneaking suspicion I've left one or two things off; notably, I've been reading quite a bit of manga in Swedish and for some reason I've never put manga on my librarything account - not sure why).

(& note to self, while I'm still on books: following a conversation a while ago on [personal profile] cimorene's journal and a Tiger Beatdown post which felt like it had missed the mark by several thousand miles for me I am pretty sure I'll be reading the Millennium Trilogy in Swedish soon, for compare-and-contrast fun. Since I hear there are meant to be problems with the English translation and am now wondering exactly which bits don't match up. Curiosity. I has it.)

Lately I've been having this odd feeling that I've hit some kind of a block with Swedish. No-one else seems to feel like this is true, & I'm told I'm using a lot of new words all the time and that my grammar is improving constantly as well. I'm trying to work out where, then, the feeling is coming from. I think my best theory is that all the new stuff I'm saying I've been able to understand for a while already, so being able to say it is a kind of progress that hardly registers; it just feels like something I "should" have been able to do already. Which is ridiculous; the gap between what one can understand and what one can use can be huge, and making progress in that respect is really important. I suppose it's harder for me to measure myself, though.

Also, the more you know the more you are aware of how much you get wrong. *g* I think that I have a reasonable understanding of grammar in principal now, but relatively poor practical application. So there's that; I can hear myself speaking incorrectly. It takes other people pointing out how I can do x now when I couldn't before for me to go "Oh! I see! Cool!"

Positive self-awareness has never been my strongest point, though I'm pretty good at awareness of my failings. (Stop laughing.)
marshtide: (Default)
My milk carton has a little piece of text on the back of it. It says:

Vår superkändisbiolog Linné, some levde på 1700-talet, trodde att vissa fåglar levade på botten av sjöar under vintern, för att ploppa upp framåt våren.

Let's see. Something vaguely like:

Our superstar biologist Linnaeus, who lived in the 18th century, thought that certain birds lived on the bottom of lakes during the winter, in order to plop back up in the spring.

I feel educated! By milk.

Also, I fondly imagine Swedish biologists sitting and staring at lakes as the ice begins to melt, looking hopeful.
marshtide: (Default)
This evening, we watched a literature/culture show on SVT2. It's called Babel. I'm told it's pretty smart but also entertaining rather than stuffy. It's gender conscious, and also seems really thoughtful; I get the feeling the presenter asks very good questions. I'll go with seems and I get the feeling because of course I only understand bits and pieces; spoken Swedish is difficult for me without subtitles, and this is of course not a show for discussion of simple concepts such as one might find in a picture book*... but Native Speaker likes it a lot, and is if possible even more prone to rage at media than I am, so we're probably good. Tonight they had a male novelist on the show and asked him a lot of questions I think I'd only heard directed at female novelists in the past: about his children, his relationship with them, and how he feels his writing impacts upon his family life. It wasn't focused on to the exclusion of all else, but it got a nice little section of conversation, and oh boy, oh boy, we're actually admitting that family is not just an issue for women to worry about! I'm for this. Then they had a conversation about how the idea of genius can be really problematic.** I think I'm sold. Even with the thing where I barely understand. Roll on, fluency.

To be honest, I feel sort of refreshed by the whole thing. I'm quite used to the idea that culture shows will tend to be a bit patronising about some things, and gender is one of those; possibly I've just been embittered by The One Show back in the UK, which admittedly sells itself as a "magazine show" rather than a culture show and makes no claims to be highbrow, but is a fairly good example of the "entertaining" end of the UK TV spectrum: prone to stereotyping, good at taking ideas very much at face value, etc. More intelectual programs exist in the UK, yes, but I can't think of anything on TV that hits the same balance of smart, non-insulting and actually entertaining. There are some on the radio, maybe, but that's not a direct comparison either. (I also have more respect for BBC Radio at large than BBC TV. I have comparative-coverage-of-tricky-issues type anecdotes but then I'd be here all night, so maybe I'll save them.)

Anyway, oh boy oh boy, I know Sweden still has a lot of problems with gender equality, several of which have irritated me in recent weeks (scandal over female politician taking advantage of laws which allow couples to have the father be the one who stays home with the baby more than the mother, and how this apparently makes her a terrible human being - check. girls' football team getting horribly dismissive and patronising treatment compared to boys' football team run by same club - check.), but all the same. Feels better than home so far.

* By the way, I had never quite appreciated how difficult the language in picture books could be until I started reading them in another language. I'm just saying.

** although Swedish culture discourages people thinking they are too good, too important, or too anything, as far as I can tell - i vårt land så får man inte vara förmer and all that - so this might not be as unusual as it feels to my UK-trained mind.


marshtide: (Default)

December 2012

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