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Lina Ekdahl: In times of war, it is difficult to find words, but it’s important to try11.11.2022
The Swedish poet and playwright Lina Ekdal is known to Ukrainian readers, in particular, thanks to many years of work of the translator Lev Hrytsyuk, and also thanks to her publications of both poetry and children’s books in Ukraine (especially her debut children’s book ‘Ku-ku! We are here!’ in the Old Lion Publishing House).
Lina is one of the few Swedish authors who has a long-standing dialogue with Ukrainian colleagues and the Ukrainian context. Therefore, it is natural that her texts were included in the new Swedish anthology in support of Ukrainians ‘Anthology for Ukraine’.
Lina Ekdahl told Ukrainian writer Yulia Musakovska about the latest projects and the power of writing during disasters.
About the newest projects
In the spring, my newest book ‘Du är inte full du är fylld’ was published. This collection is mainly about the limits of filling: how much information can fit into a person before it all disappears. Who is at the center, who has the power, and how much information fits into the sieve. We are called to start from the beginning, even before birth. Some argue that this is not enough.
I am currently working on several projects. In particular, on cooperation with the poet Thomas Tidholm. We have been exchanging poems for more than a year, that is, we send each other poems once every two weeks. In these poems, we respond to each other, not directly, but following no particular form. Later, the poems will be compiled into a collection.
I am also writing a libretto for a choral piece based on interviews. I already have many texts like this in my work, but this time we are talking about interviews with imprisoned women. The music is written by Matilda Hedström, and the piece itself will be performed by choirs in prisons and beyond. The project is called ‘Voices from the Inside’, and its premiere will take place in March 2023.
Read also: Rose Lagercrantz, a Swedish children’s writer: on faith, hope, and truth in a children’s book on genocide
I am involved in the project of poetry on sewer manholes. In 2019, I had the honor of writing a poem, the text of which was then molded into 133 manholes and placed in different parts of the city [Gothenburg – trans.].
So far, Lina Ekdahl, Malte Persson, Anna Greta Wide and Mariam Naraghi have participated in the project. In 2023, a new poet will be chosen. This is a very interesting project that has been adopted in the cities of Umeå and Uppsala, as well as the region of Skåne. We expect the project to continue in other regions of Sweden, and maybe even in other countries!
Also, in the spring, I plan to go on a tour called ‘The Game of Sleep’. This is a poetic and musical performance that I do together with the musician Anna Gustavsson.
I am also working on poetry for a new collection. In addition to poetry, I also write drama and have just started a new play.
About problems of interest for research through prose and poetry
I am interested in writing about language influencing a person. About how and for which purpose we use or do not use language. In my opinion, it is very important that poetry stays a constant voice of society, that it lives among people and is present in conversations. So I’m interested in anything related to that.
How to get along with the immediate environment, but at the same time not fall out of the world context? I am interested in humor, seriousness and the border between them. That moment when we stop ourselves, swallow a laugh, reflect, and find the courage and will to do what needs to be done.
About the importance of communication with Ukrainian colleagues
I have been to Ukraine seven times. To be honest, this is the country I have visited the most. It all started with a tour organized by the Swedish Institute in 2007. We traveled through Ukraine in the company of poets David Vikgren, Serhiy Zhadan, and Halyna Kruk. Also, there was a translator, Lev Hrytsyuk with us, who became my close friend. After this tour, I started to visit Ukraine more often. First with the performance ‘Who cries for Emma Bloomhoff’, later at the Publishers’ Forum in Lviv.
Lev translated my poems, including a collection of selected poetry, as well as the children’s book ‘Ku-ku! We are here!’. After Lev’s death in 2020, I did not visit Ukraine. Lev was always my contact person who coordinated new collaborations, books, and exhibitions.
I miss him terribly. Not only because Lev was my friend, but also because he was a person who was passionate about literature and was an important link between Ukraine and Sweden in terms of literature.
I want and hope to come to Ukraine again.
About changes in the visibility of Ukrainian culture in Sweden
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian literature in Sweden has definitely become more visible. For example, Ukraine was the theme of the Gothenburg Book Fair in September this year. This is good, but it’s sad that the impetus was the war.
In the spring, there were many literary readings and evenings dedicated to Ukraine. Some of them were organized by the PEN club with the participation of Swedish and foreign writers. The publication of the anthology ‘Under Ukraine’s Open Sky’ was very important and necessary and it seems to have gained a lot of publicity.
‘Anthology for Ukraine’, which was published by the Korpen publishing house in August, is also very popular. There are regular readings and meetings, such as, for example, on Sunday in Stockholm, where Ilya Kaminsky will be present.
Read also: Swedish accent. Voices on the war in Ukraine
At the time when the Korpen publishing house asked me about participating in the anthology, I had already written two poems, which were later included in the collection. During such difficult and intense events as war, it is difficult to find words, but it is very important to try.
I believe in poetry and art. It seems to be the only thing to believe in and hold on to. We should be trying to express ourselves all the time. Never stop. Overcome limits in different ways, everywhere.
Meet. Socialize. Write. Create. We cannot become silent.
Photo: Lina Ikse
Translated by Maria Bragan
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