As a part of the Popsugar reading challenge I’ve been reading Det grönare djupet by Johanna Nilsson. Nilsson is not a new acquaintance; I’ve read a few of her novels and especially enjoyed Rebell med frusna fötter (Rebel with frozen feet). It is one of the reasons I selected this particular book for the challenge: I knew and liked the author. This novel was published in 2015 and it’s a dystopia set in a future where there’s a war between a totalitarian world state and a state where liberalism has been taken to its extreme. This book is the ‘a book’ part of this category.
My interpretation of this category of the reading challenge is quite liberal. If it was translation, it’d be a case of free translation for sure. In 1940, Swedish novelist Karin Boye published the dystopian novel Kallocain, she died the following year. This novel is a continuation of Boye’s novel. I’m reading Kallocain later on, as the prequel. I’ve read it before and I liked it, so another reason I picked this particular novel to read was because there was a fair chance I’d like it. And I did. Which I consider a personal success, considering the past 6 months of reading a total of 1 book. I’m in constant fear that I’ll become a non-reader, as a result of just not liking any book ever again.
I love the idea of this novel, I love that someone would be brave enough to use Boye’s story as a starting point. It’s a bit like claiming the story for their own. Thank god it was Nilsson and no one else, I keep thinking. I can think of a number of authors who would dare do this and who’d ruin it for sure. If only they ever thought of it. Fortunately, they didn’t.
That being said, I don’t find myself madly in love with this novel. I don’t care what happens to the characters, the only thing keeping me reading is curiosity, the wanting to find out what will happen next. Which is a rarity for me; I’m one of those readers who don’t mind knowing the end. I’ll read any story just to find out how they get to the end. In this case, not sure I’d kept reading had I known the end. Maybe, maybe not.
I also like it better in theory than in practice; it pits one extreme world order against the other, communism against liberalism, arguing that it doesn’t matter which, in its extreme neither is a viable option. This idea is certainly interesting. However, as it turns out, not the focus of the story.
So I’d like to discuss something else. I’d like to discuss the concept of hope. The following exchange takes place between two of the novel’s main characters, Linda Kall and Edo:
“What, in addition to air, water, and food is a life necessity?”
Suddenly it is clear to me.
He nodded and said:
“Yes, hope is important. But hope for what?”
“That you’re not alone. That there is someone or something out there who knows that you exist and isn’t indifferent to it.”
“Yes, or another human being.”
I’ve been thinking about hope. Because I’ve been listening to All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. (Oh yes, I can fit this record into any context, that and Nick Cave.) Well that is sort of the reason. When it comes to music, I don’t usually listen to lyrics, I just want the feeling, words are irrelevant. But because I use Twitter, and mainly for band news, I was made aware that a line in Gone with the Wind is “Hope is a prison”.
I don’t know about you but I started out thinking that was kind of a dumb statement. What do you mean hope is a prison? How can hope be a prison? If there is no hope there is only despair and where does that lead to? Despair is freedom? That doesn’t make any sense.
Until suddenly it dawned on me (or maybe I just really wanted it to make some sort of sense) that hope is basically the American dream. I.e. the hope that you will be the one exception to the rule, that which keeps you from seeing that there is a system, and in this system you are a loser and what you should be doing is breaking out of the system, not playing by its rules – and in that way hope is in fact a prison. I am so convinced of this interpretation that I refuse to listen to the explanation coming from the writer camp (the line has since been explained by a member of the band in an interview, forget which or what was said, but I know there is an explanation out there). Also, if you’ve ever studied literature you know better than to listen to the author’s interpretation. S/he doesn’t have the answers; the answers are in the text, or possibly other texts. It’s called analysis, or so I’ve been told.
My conviction does, however, not work well with the idea expressed by Nilsson. What does this mean? There are different types of hope? That it’s a matter of perspective? Could you argue that from a philosophical perspective hope is one thing, but from a political perspective it is something entirely different? Or is one interpretation simply invalid?
I can’t not agree with Nilsson. Hope does strike me as a necessity. If there is no hope, there is no point and then why bother? I struggle to see a different response to ‘there is no hope’. I mean, consider Nilsson’s scenario; you’re alone, there is no one else, or, everyone is completely indifferent to your existence. There is no hope. Actually, come to think of it, this, having no hope, strikes me as a prison, or at least a dead end. How do you move forward without hope?
And do you even have a choice? Can you decide that you no longer have hope?
We could go down the language route; hope can be explained in a number of different ways, suggestion that there are in fact different types of hope, but I’m not convinced that it’s a relevant perspective. So I will leave this discussion here with the following:
1) May have to reconsider my interpretation of “Hope is a prison”; if I’m going to accept that statement at all.
2) I love it when one text makes me think of another, especially when it leads to having to reconsider a previous reading.