Kris

My last-minute scramble to read more Swedish before the end of the year led me to revisit Karin Boye’s Kris, a book I first read in 2017. I even wrote about it here! Ah, how embarrassing to keep any kind of public record of one’s life, but oh well. It would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.

In 2017, I felt like I had pretty much conquered Swedish and that the world was my oyster. Yet reading Kris was a struggle. Yes, I was reading several books at the time, but that’s a convenient excuse. The honest truth that I didn’t want to fess up to publicly was that Kris was just really, really hard. If anything, that’s probably why I was reading so many books at once: I needed something to reach for that wasn’t Kris. Each reading session included frequent breaks to count how many pages were left in this chapter, in the whole book. I stubbornly refused to look up new words because there were so many in any given section that any sense of flow would have been ruined. Nor did I have the patience to, for example, note all the words I didn’t know, look them up afterwards, and then read the chapter again. All of this should have clued me in to my immense hubris with respect to my actual functional level of Swedish, but it did not. Instead, I contented myself with declaring the book “difficult literature” and prided myself on having a brain big enough to finish the book at all.

This time around I finished the book in less than a week. Finally, I’m actually a genius at Swedish! (I can’t wait to revisit this blog post in another six years and flinch at the hubris.)

Since the actual reading experience was much easier, I had more brain left over to actually take in everything else in the book: the depression, the anxiety, the theology. Or, more humbly, maybe it wasn’t leveling up in Swedish that made all the difference. Maybe it was also the result of reading such an intense book in the depths of Swedish winter instead during the height of Swedish summer, or fresh war in Europe, or changes in my own personal circumstances. At any rate, it hit different this time around. More personal.

The first (as far as I can tell) English translation of Kris came out after my initial reading attempt in 2017: Crisis. Which means that this post won’t be my last about the book.

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katherine

Stockholm-based translator and copyeditor of American extraction.

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