Sonntag, 31. März 2013

AN INDECENT PROPOSAL – AND A COUPLE OF MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMATIONS

The German publisher transformed the worms
into a gardener, the English publishers still
did not come to a conclusion
No. This posting (für die deutsche Version bitte hier entlang) is not about the books to the right, at least not directly. They are more like the cornerstones, if you will. First things first: a couple of days ago I received a package from Adlibris, a Swedish online book shop. The cardboard box contained reading nourishment for the near future: two novels by Håkan Nesser for me – Maskarna på Carmine Street, which means "Worms on Carmine Street" (for the German edition the title has been transformed into "Die Perspektive des Gärtners" – The Perspective of the Gardener – since the publisher apparently found the idea of worms/maggots a bit too unappealing for a title) and Himmel över London (which, as far as I know, still hasn’t been translated into German). For J. there was the third and final part of Haruki Murakami’s trilogy IQ84.

Some time ago I decided to re-read Håkan Nesser novels that I already knew in German in their original tongue, in order to prevent my Swedish to deteriorate (you can read about that here, but so far only in German). As a little help I kept the German editions nearby – but since then I’m rather proud to say that I haven’t needed any of those, except for a thesaurus every once in a while. I’m not going to re-tell, not even thoroughly describe, the story of when I met Håkan Nesser, his wife Elke and their dog Norton in New York a couple of years ago. It’s sufficient to say that it happened, as a matter of fact, on Carmine Street. And perhaps add, once again, that the photos for the resulting article were taken by Dirk Eusterbrock whose wonderful photo-blog "Emotive Pixelations"  can be found here.

No, I did not move to a gambling den,
but the next post office is located
in a lottery hotspot
No, today I wanted to talk about the address of the sender of the package. Or rather: the place from which the parcel was sent. As I walked back home my gaze fell on the sticker with the sender’s address. It said: Morgongåva. Morning gift. The gift of the morning. How poetic, I thought, and decided to ask J. if he knew about the place and then I thought about other things. When J. got home I tapped on the package and said: “Look where this comes from”. He nodded and replied: “Do you know what that means?”.  I shook my head and said: “Tell me!”. So J. explained that, since the bride’s family had to pay a dowry, a morgongåva was a gift that her future husband should give her on the morning of the wedding day. It was supposed to be valuable and it would belong to her alone, as a form of security in case things went wrong in the future, and the groom usually paid for it with a part of the dowry.

However, that wasn’t the whole story. Several folkloristic theories circulate about how the place actually got its name in the first place. One version has it that a large estate owner in the region of nearby Uppsala in the 17:th century had an affair with one of his maidservants. And it happened, as it usually does, that the maid got pregnant. The estate owner got scared stiff - probably not without reason – that his wife would give him a proper, loud and thorough piece of her mind and promptly expel the maid from the household in case the truth would surface. What to do? Yes! He got hold of an unmarried farmhand and bribed him to marry and care for the maid, including the child to be, in return for a small piece of land that he could give the girl as a morgongåva. The boy happily accepted the deal and I presume that no one asked the girl, but what was she to do, after all? Maids with means to sustain themselves and their illegitimate children were few and far between in those days. In any case, the little homestead grew into a village and eventually came to be known as Morgongåva – today a little hamlet with a couple of thousand inhabitants. In another version of the story the unfaithful husband was a duke, no less.

Which version comes closest to the truth – if any of them do  – or if it’s simply sprung out of the need for gossip among the populace as the boring, actual truth – husband gives wife homestead as wedding present – turned into a juicy ménage à trois (which is my insider’s tip on this explosive issue) appears to be forever lost in the mists of time. No matter what, I can’t help thinking of Christmas gifts. What if Joseph was actually bribed by some unknown man who preferred to be anonymous, using the alias “Holy Ghost”? Food for thought …

Translation from German o English by Joakim Montelius

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