San Francisco, California

Jagannath

Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath is a collection of stories that I’ve been utterly obsessed with over the last couple of weeks. Although it’s a small book, I’ve been ever so slowly chewing on each and every story because I don’t want it to end.

One of the more extraordinary things about the book however is that Karin translated this collection of stories from her native Swedish into English herself and at the very end of the book she describes what that experience was like:

Writing in Swedish and English are two very different experiences. Your native language resonates in your bones. Each spoken word reaffirms or changes the world as you see it, intellectually and emotionally. Because Swedish is my mother tongue, I can take enormous liberties with it because I know exactly and instinctively how it works. English doesn’t quite allow itself to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck in the same way. As a result, I’m more careful with the prose, perhaps less adventurous, because without that gut reaction it’s hard to know exactly how something will resonate with an English-speaking reader. On the other hand, I may find paths into English that a native speaker might not, because there are aspects of your native tongue that you just don’t see, since you are standing in the middle of it.

The book is really a collection of fables rather than stories and each of them contains that scary magic I remember when I read books as a child; places unimaginable, with landscapes occupied by monsters too terrifying to describe. Instead of being frightening or moody though the stories somehow leave you with a feeling of awe and wonder that something so weird could be written on a page.