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Storytellers of Sweden: “The Circle” (Cirkeln) by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

On Thursday 22nd November 2012, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting an event to celebrate the literature of Sweden. “Storytellers of Sweden” showcases the bright new talents in Nordic fiction. The Global Herald is publishing a selection of excerpts from top Swedish authors to give readers a taste of modern North European books:

“Cirkeln” by Mats Strandberg & Sara B. Elfgren

THE CIRCLE (CIRKELN)

© Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg 2011
Published in Sweden by Rabén & Sjögren, by agreement with Grand Agency
Published in the UK 2012, by ARROW BOOKS
Translation: Per Carlsson

Excerpt from the book, pages 97 – 99

“When Minoo wakes up she’s standing in the garden in her pyjamas. She’s wearing her slippers. The last thing she remembers is lying on her bed, studying. She must have fallen asleep.

Panic bubbles inside her as her feet begin to move with a will of their own. She walks through the garden and out on to the street.

Is this a dream? No. She’s sure it isn’t. She tries to stop, turn around, run the other way, but her body moves forward inexorably.

The streets are empty, the night silent. All she can hear is the plastic soles of her slippers scraping along the tarmac and the sound of her breathing. She tries to scream, but can only produce a whimper.

It feels bizarre to try to think logically in a situation that is so completely absurd, but that’s all Minoo can do to quell her panic. She tries to remember if she’s read about anything like this, but her thoughts keep heading off in directions that terrify her even more. Mental illness. Possession.

In the end she tries to stop thinking altogether.

Minoo reaches the national road and sees a lorry hurtling towards her from the left. Her body doesn’t slow down but steps on to the tarmac. The lorry blasts its horn. Minoo screams inside herself. The ground vibrates beneath her feet as they continue marching resolutely forwards. She steels herself for the moment of impact, when her body will be crushed and smeared across the road.

But it never comes.

She can’t work out whether it’s the metal monster or just its backdraught that buffets her. The vehicle lets out a prolonged blast of its horn without slowing, but Minoo is safely on the other side of the road.

Her feet start climbing the steep embankment that runs alongside the national road. She slips on the damp grass and loses a slipper. The ground feels cold against the sole of her foot as she continues her ascent. The moon is glowing in the black sky. It is an unnatural red.

That can’t be right, she thinks.

When she reaches the top, she starts walking along the train tracks.

After a while she loses her other slipper.

The forest closes in around the railway, the harsh moonlight illuminating the lines. Minoo thinks it’s strange that the moon is red, but its light seems normal.

She listens nervously for an approaching train.

The line is seldom used at night, but sometimes long freight trains come through that she can hear from her house.

She catches sight of a little stream and alongside it the old dirt track. It’s almost never used now because the national road was built through Engelsfors. Only a few stray mushroom pickers or horse riders ever make their way out here.

Suddenly Minoo changes direction. She slides down the embankment and on to the dirt track. Her legs are stiff, but they continue moving forwards.

The gravel hurts her feet. She hears wings beating above her. Ahead she sees Kärrgruvan, the long-since-closed fairground. The wire fence that surrounds it is broken in several places. The tall bushes, once carefully trimmed into all sorts of imaginative shapes, have been allowed to grow wild.

Minoo walks through the arched gateway with KÄRRGRUVAN mounted above it, and past the old ticket office, which has been boarded up with rotting planks. She sees the round dance pavilion with the pointed roof that makes it look like a circus tent. Further away there is a dilapidated red stall with HOT DOGS in white lettering across the top of the closed service window.

Somehow this place seems even more desolate and threatening when you know that it was once full of life, laughter and eager anticipation.

But it’s not completely deserted, Minoo now notices.

Someone is standing in the shadows by the dance pavilion.”

About Sara B. Elfgren

Sara B. Elfgren
Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg are the writers of the Engelsfors trilogy. The first book The Circle was published in 2011 in Sweden and is being translated into 23 languages.

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