Saturday, July 27, 2002

Finding books in English is little trouble in Stockholm - Hedengren's has a great selection, and NK, the big expensive department store, ("kompaniet," as all the little old blue-haired Östermalm matrons call it) has an English Bookshop that is excellent. So while the husband was gone a week ago, I took the opportunity of browsing leisurely for a couple of hours, and ended up buying Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.

Now, the Mitford girls were one weird contradictory bunch. Diana still likes to say when interviewed that what everyone forgets about the Nazis is that Hitler had exquisite manners (thanks, Simon and Alex, for the link); Jessica, who happened to have been communist, wrote scathing books about America, on the, er, mortuary industry for example.

But Nancy, she wrote about what it was like to be a member of the English upper class between the wars. There is no denying that Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love possess a certain precious charm. The characters, most of whom are based quite explicitly on her own family, are a zany lot with some interesting priorities. Most remarkable is a hero who happens to be a, well, screaming queen; he even actually wins it all in the extraordinarily pixilated ending of Love in a Cold Climate. What is a bit dissimulating, however, is the way she imputes Nazi sympathies not to her own fictional family, but rather to villainous rich in-laws who have the misfortune to have a German surname.

Of course it is a bit hard to pick out what might and might not be irony from the distance of more than five decades since the books were written. So in the end, I'm not sure what to make of it all.

The Swedish word for the day is märkligt. It means peculiar.

- by Francis S.

No comments: