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"Childhood" was a scandal which became a classic.
This book's revisionist look at the private lives of the founders of the Swedish welfare state was so scandalous it was almost suppressed in Sweden. Sissela Bok's "Alva Myrdal" was written in response, to give Jan's mother's point of view on this fascinating, troubled family.
But Childhood is first of all a story about the intense experience of childhood stripped of all sentimentality, seen again with a child's naive openness to all of its sensual wonder, fantasies, and anger.
Jan Myrdal's novels about his childhood have already become classics in Sweden, where the most recent history of Swedish literature called them "one of our literature's most remarkable descriptions of how a self is created."
Myrdal insists that this book is "a story about childhood, not an autobiography." And it is not necessary for the reader to know that the Alva in the book is the Alva Myrdal who won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Gunnar is the Gunnar Myrdal who wrote "An American Dilemma" and won the Nobel Prize for Economics.
But it is part of the background of the book that the Myrdals as individuals, not as a family, have had a dominating intellectual influence in Sweden since the end of the 1920s.
It is also part of the background of this book that it was a major scandal. "Childhood" takes you into the private life of Sweden's intellectual and political establishment, showing it to you through the eyes of a child unimpressed by its pretensions, a child who was to become "Jan Myrdal, the insolent, the intolerant, the merciless critic of Swedish social-democracy" (Le Monde).
Although Myrdal was already a best-selling author in Sweden, he had to fight to get "Childhood" published, and it was almost marginalized in a small, limited edition. But he circumvented attempts to suppress the book by reading it on the radio and serializing it in a major daily, forcing the controversy into the open. "Childhood" soon became a best-seller and later was accepted as a classic.
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Childhood won the Great Prize for the Novel for 1982 from Sweden's Literary Foundation; the third volume, Twelve Going on Thirteen, won the Esselte Prize for Literature, with free copies distributed to all of Sweden's middle school children.
Myrdal has become widely regarded as Sweden's most important writer and intellectual, with a national importance possible only in a country like Sweden. When he had a heart attack a few years ago, the largest daily newspaper, a sensational tabloid, Expressen, had its front page completely filled with a headline about it. On his 60th birthday cabinet ministers, labor leaders, religious leaders as well as writers and artists came to his door with gifts (he lives two hours from Stockholm).
In this country, he is known mainly for his writing about China (Harrison Salisbury called Report from a Chinese Village a social classic) and Confessions of a Disloyal European, which the NY Times Book Review chose as "one of ten books of particular excellence and significance in 1968" in its Christmas book issue. But in Sweden he is the author of over 60 volumes of political commentary, art and literary criticism, history, novels, autobiography, poetry and plays, and has also curated exhibitions and regularly does documentaries on whatever he pleases for Swedish TV (recently a 13 part series on the history of political and social caricature, also printed as a coffee table book). Most recent volumes in Sweden are his collected art criticism and a huge art book "Five Years of Freedom," on a period in the 1830s when there was press freedom in France. Myrdal also curated an exhibition on the subject and was recently awarded the coveted honor, Chevalier des arts et des lettres, by the French government.Review:
"A gift to world literature." -- Washington Times
"All his life Jan Myrdal has prided himself on being a maverick. Now this maverick has taken his place in the forefront of Swedish letters." -- Harrison Salisbury, in the introduction to "Childhood"
"Artistically, the...truest thing any Swedish writer has written during the past few decades." -- Caj Lundgren, Svenska Dagbladet
"His autobiography will remain alive in Swedish literature for a very long time...It is great literature." -- Maria Bergom Larsson, Aftonbladet
"In the clear images and sensations of the moment, the author recalls the boy he was fifty years earlier, on whom the 1930s pedagogical project was tried and whom came to regard himself as a failure of rationality.
"These prose stories are one of literature's most remarkable descriptions of how an ego is created. Myrdal has entered childhood and the teenage years and speaks from their perspective. The principle of the description is as simple as it is difficult: everything must remain as it once was for him as he grew up. The child reports matter-of-factly about his childhood and give back its images with uncensored sharpness. The reader meets, on could say, a "pre-conscious" Jan Myrdal. But it is Jan Myrdal who formed him." -- Den svenska litteraturen The History of Swedish Literature, vol VI 1950-1985
"Jan Myrdal is Sweden's best writer. Whenever he travels abroad it becomes silent in Sweden." -- Ivar Lo-Johansson
"Remarkable...The viewpoint of the child...is acutely rendered. A chapter that begins, "One late winter day I drowned," blends hair-raising reality with the visionary...Yet, oddly enough, if the atmosphere of "Childhood" sometimes evokes an Ingmar Bergman film, passions congealing into icy solitude, the overall mood is tender and lyrical." -- Robert Taylor, Boston Globe
"This book is straightforwardly and beautifully written, successfully evoking emotions without manipulating the reader." -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"When he reworks episodes and events he visualizes them with almost hallucinatory sharpness. He is where he writes...he approaches the child's world with insight and absolute respect.... Need I say this is living literature?" -- Peter Curman, Stockholms Tidningen
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Book Description Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1991. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0941702294
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