Translated by Thomas Teal
Front quote is fun;
There are only three subjects: love death and flies. Ever since man was invented, this emotion, this fear and the presence of these insects have been his constant companions. Other people can take care of the first two subjects. Me, I just concern myself with flies – a much greater theme than man, though maybe not greater than women.–Augusto Monterosso
Description: Fredrik Sjöberg’s mesmerising Swedish bestseller on travel, the joy of collecting and discovering the hidden wonders of life.
The hoverflies are only props. No, not only, but to some extent. Here and there, my story is about something else. Some days I tell myself that my mission is to say something about the art and sometimes the bliss of limitation. And the legibility of landscape. Other days are more dismal. As if I were standing on queue in the rain outside confessional literature’s nudist colony, mirrors everywhere, blue with cold.
Warm, funny and insightful, The Fly Trap is a meditation on collecting; be it hoverflies or fine art. A fascinating web of associations, it begins with Sjöberg’s own tranquil experience as an entomologist on a remote island in Sweden, and takes in heroic historical expeditions to Burma and the wilderness of Kamchatka. Along the way, Sjoberg pauses to reflect on a range of ideas – slowness, art, freedom, – drawing other great writers, like D.H Lawrence and Bruce Chatwin, into dialogue. From the everyday to the exotic, The Fly Trap revels in the wonder of the natural world and leaves a trail of memorable images and stories.’A rare masterpiece . . . graceful, poetic, astonishing and – yes! – absolutely thrilling’ Jyllands Posten’Sjöberg has a witty, erudite, incisive tone reminiscent of travellers and anthropologists such as Barlow, Chatwin or even Robert Byron’ Swedish Book ReviewFredrik Sjöberg is an entomologist and lives with his family on the island Runmarö, in the archipelago east of Stockholm. He is also a literary critic, translator, cultural columnist and the author of several books including The Art of Flight and The Raisin King, which accompany The Fly Trap.
Opening:The Curse of the Starving Class: It was during the times I spent wandering the streets Nybroplan with a lamb in my arms. I remember it so well. Spring had come. The air was dry, almost dusty. The air was chilly but still carried the smell of the earth and last year’s leaves, warmed by the sun.
Opening. Short choppy sentences. May turn out to be a problem. We shall see.
Later: a fun read, loved the whimsy and the rambling, and Hej! who knew THAT about Peter Stormare; August Strindberg is shown to great effect too.
I have a neice who is obsessed with butterflies – she and her professor flit around the Lund area just as Fredrik did/does on Runmarö, so I get the compulsive side of collecting.
The writing style became reader friendly soon enough and in fact some sections are, to me, very amusing; take this snippet re hoverfly collectors:
‘We are quiet, contemplative people, and our behaviour in the field is relatively aristocratic. Running is not necessarily beneath our dignity but it is in any case pointless because the flies move much too fast. Consequencly, we stand still, as if on guard, and moreover almost exclusively in blazing sunshine, little breeze and fragrant flowers. Passersby can therefore easily get the impression that the fly hunter is a convalescent of some kind, momentarily lost in meditation. This is not wholly inaccurate.’
‘Of all the hoverflies in the country, criorhina ranunculi is not only one of the largest and most beautiful, it is also so rare that in the early 1990s the decision was made to list it as extinct in Sweden.’
Dr René Edmond Malaise (1892-1978) was a Swedish entomologist, explorer and art collector who is mostly known for his invention of the Malaise trap and his systematic collection of thousands of insects. — Wiki sourced
Lovely read. Rating is three and a half malaise traps.