You think Sweden is hunky-dory? A caring place without abuse and injustice? Kristian Lundbergs Yarden (The Yard; my translation) will wake you up. It’s the story of the authors year-long sojourn as a day-labourer in the Malmö port. It’s a story about a world that should have died a century ago, but, like a latter-day hydra, once again rears it’s ugly head(s).
The Yard is very well written, with an exact, poetic language and a reverberating rage that is impossible to hide from. How I wish there were more fantasy novels like this.
There used to be day-labourers in Sweden. People who turned up in the morning, asking if there was any work for them. Sometimes there was. When there wasn’t, a whole family went without food. These people were under-paid, had no rights (could even be arrested for vagrancy on their way from one part of the country to another) and were subsequently abused and repressed by the rich and the powerful. Luckily for Sweden, the workers movement was strong (unlike in for example the USA, where unions are under constant pressure from the money-masters) and managed, over time, to get rid of the system …
Wait a minute! That’s an outright lie! I have work as a sort of day-labourer (of my own free will, but nonetheless) for a labour hiring company. Being an academic I was well paid. Being Swedish-born I was treated with respect. Being a man I was taken serious. I’m very happy about being a male, Swedish academic, but the step from strong to weak isn’t very long, like quite a lot of the ”winners” in modern day Sweden seem to believe, convincing themselves that their success is only due to their own hard work and exceptional talent. Well, I’ve met armies of morons who were also successful, so please shove your ”talents” and your ”hard work” up your asses and shut the fuck up!
Aggressive? Yeah, and that’s what happens to any thinking person while reading Kristian Lundbergs Yarden (The Yard; my translation). It tells the real-life story of the authors fall from the pinnacles of the literature-world to the humiliating, wearing and tearing day-to-day existence as a … yeah, you guessed it: day-labourer in the port of Malmö in southern Sweden. It’s a world where making a tiny mistake will get you fired, where not admitting your mistake will get your entire team fired. A world where a complaint, or an attempt to demand such simple things as respect and a fair salary will get you … fired. A world where brain-dead office-clerks refuse to speak to you because you lack ”style” (whether or not you are an immigrated doctor from, say, an arab speaking country). It is, in short, a world where righteous anger is repressed by keeping people hungry, tired and scared. The world that Marx identified more than a hundred years ago, the world that Lenin and the boys put up against a brick wall in a basement almost a century ago. We thought we were rid of it, well, here’s a news-flash: the rich and powerful will ALWAYS exploit people, if given the chance. The libertarian trend today, with privatizations of hospitals and tax-cuts, is a strong current towards giving them the chance, serving mainly to enrich the few at the expense of the many. Believe me, the few will seize the opportunity, and then one morning you will ask: How could this happen?
Lundbergs fall from grace is possibly at least partly self-afflicted; after writing a derogatory comment about a book he hadn’t read (a book that wasn’t even published) he ended up in the cold. Well, most of the people in The Yard haven’t made any other mistake than escape from poverty and violence to seek a better life in Sweden. How base do you have to be to exploit such people? I mean, you don’t have to give money to beggars, fine, but if you offer them a short-term job and then refuse to pay them, that’s a different story. The world is full of base people, crap-people, shit-people who abuse others even when they don’t have to. People who would do well to remember that brick-wall in the basement. And yes, I’m talking about spoiled westerners in general, myself included.
The Yard is a book to be angered by, an important book, especially if you think you will disagree because that’s when you absolutely need to hear the other side of the story. I read the sequel first, Och allt skall vara kärlek (And everything should be love; Amazon’s translation, I think And all shall be love is much better) and was deeply touched by the parts in that novel that dealt with Lundbergs time in the Malmö-port. I had hoped for much more of it in The Yard and was a bit dissapointed when large portions of it deals with Lundbergs childhood. Then again, that childhood is a pretty important aspect, even though it didn’t touch me as much. I believe that’s because it is harder for me to identify with the son of a schizofrenic than with the day-labourers. The problem is mine, in other words, for this is an exceptionally well written book, poetic and pulsing with rage. Being a fantasy-writer I can only dream of ever reading a fantasy novel this powerful. Unfortunately, there is a reason why some genres are not taken seriously.
Buy The Yard! Borrow The Yard! Read The Yard! And, if you’re a Swedish citizen, get off your ass and vote to get rid of this libertarian government of ours, ‘cause you don’t want the future they’re building. Storing up rage in the masses only to get a little more comfortable yourself spells disaster for everyone in the end. And after all: There are alternatives.