This story is part of a new series explore the world through books. We asked some of our favorite writers to recommend reading materials to help you get to know their cities and tips on literary landmarks to check out. We will travel the world with them in the coming months, from Madrid to Mexico City to Istanbul and beyond. Sign up for the Books newsletter so you don’t miss a single stop!
For starters, let’s make it clear to anyone who has read our books that Stockholm is a very safe city, usually completely without serial killers. But our capital is not harmless – at least not in the literature.
Authors wrote about the light of the snow and the winter darkness in the alleys, the melancholy of the short summer and the sadness of autumn. Courtesy of crime writers from Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and furthermore, there is probably not a street or park in the city where a fictitious murder has not been committed (and we acknowledge our extensive contribution).
Located in the passage between one of Sweden’s largest lakes and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm has been inhabited since the Ice Age. The Riddarholmen Church, from the 13th century, is the oldest fully preserved building here. It is surrounded by medieval buildings, which in turn are surrounded by beautiful houses and theaters from the 19th century.
Although Stockholm is one of the most modern cities in the world (for example, we have do not use cash), the past is always present. We live on Odenstraat. Near us, in the square next to the Royal Palace, the Stockholm Massacre took place in 1520, when about 100 aristocrats were executed. The astonishing warship Vasa, which sank after traveling just 1,400 meters on her maiden voyage in 1628, can be seen intact in the Royal National City Park. The well-preserved town of Birka, a trading center from the Viking age, is very close by, and many gods of Old Norse mythology, such as Thor, are traditionally buried in the nearby town uppsala†
Authors have always been drawn to this city, home to Sweden’s biggest publishers, the Nobel Prize and the Royal Dramatic Theatre. This is where artists come together; where music is made; where film productions with Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Ingmar Bergman once got off the ground; and where David Fincher shot the US version from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
What should I read before packing my bags?
If you can get your hands on”Fredman’s letters and songs” you immediately get a glimpse into the Swedish soul, if there is one. The author, Carl Michael Bellmanis our own burlesque, tragic, poetic version of Shakespeare.
Another warm-up reading tip is a novel by Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909:Your soul will bear witness”, a ghost story about a very bad man who dies on New Year’s Eve. He is the last person to die that year and is doomed to carry the souls of the dead in his cart until he finds forgiveness and tries to mend what he has broken.
Which books or authors should I bring?
†Doctor Glass”, by Hjalmar Söderberg, is an iconic book – a classic book that is always relevant to new generations of readers, with its cocktail of perversions, repression of sexuality, murder and melancholy in the city of Stockholm. You can even use a “audio walk” from “Doctor Glass” when you arrive, where you listen to the book in the exact places described in it.
If I don’t have time for day trips, what books can take me there?
The amazing Stockholm archipelago, with all its islands, beaches, cliffs, restaurants and sailboats, is really worth at least a day. In Sweden we have what we call everyone’s right, which is access of the general public to the wilderness, whether public or private land, which is granted by our constitution. You can camp and fish almost anywhere.
But if you don’t have time, read “Portby John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of “Let the right one inand our very own Swedish Stephen King. Set in the archipelago, “Harbor” has all the great ingredients you need for a horror story.
What audiobook would be good company while I’m walking around?
Why not a book by the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer† He won the Nobel Prize in 2011 and is considered a modern icon. His poetry seems simple, but opens doors to the enigma that is life.
Who are the literary icons I might see on street signs, statues or public monuments?
August Strindberg‘s ghost runs through the streets of Stockholm. There is a gigantic statue of the misogynistic, hateful, legendary but brilliant author, who wrote the novel”The red room” and the naturalistic game “Miss Julie,” in Tegnérlunden Park, and his words are quoted on the tarmac of Drottninggatan, the street where he lived the last years of his life in a building known as the Blue Tower† If you can, you should pay a visit: standing there and looking at Strindberg’s desk, with its pens, papers and books, gives writers a certain familiar sense of discipline, dreams and isolation.
Which literary pilgrimage destination — an author’s home or favorite watering hole, an incredible bookstore, a real-life site of fictional inspiration — would you recommend?
The Nobel Prize Banquet is held every year at Stockholm City Hall, a beautiful waterfront building in the middle of the city. In the basement of the restaurant City Hall basement you can try any of the dinners served at past banquets since 1901. You may want to try the dinner served when Ernest Hemingway was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature: smoked trout with cream-braised spinach; Tenderloin with artichokes, truffles and mushrooms; and pear with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce. Don’t forget to book your visit in advance.
In Dalagatan, a street in our part of the city, you can find Astrid Lindgrenwho wrote “Pippi Longstockingand many other legendary children’s books.
The National Library has built a space deep underground that is an exact copy of the poet’s house Nelly Sachswho won the Nobel Prize in 1966. Visiting her “hut” – a tiny place where she sat and wrote in the dark, trying not to disturb her ailing mother – is very moving and strangely horrifying.
What’s a good place to curl up with a book?
The House of Culture is a modernist meeting place in the middle of the city with art exhibitions, cafes and restaurants, theatre, music and an international writing scene that has attracted authors such as Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, Margaret Atwood, Susan Faludi. Emma Cline, Philip Pullman, Hilary Mantel, Paul Auster, John Irving, Joyce Carol Oates and Dennis Lehane. It is in a sense a socialist vision of how culture does not need grand salons or bourgeois interiors, and is the result of a desire to bring culture that workers and families pass by every day. Anyone can walk in, curl up with a book, drink a cup of coffee, play chess or visit an exhibition.