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Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future That Disappeared Hardcover – 1 Jul 2008
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'A beguiling account of one man's absorption in and by a country' -- Jeremy Paxman, Guardian
'A deft writer with a real descriptive talent and a humorous touch ... this is an affectionate and insightful portrait' -- Financial Times
'A marvellously seamless fusion of personal memoir and politico-cultural survey ... This is a brilliant book' -- Independent on Sunday
'A story of modern rootlessness and the search for something to believe in'
-- Sunday Times
'An extraordinary book ... part memoir, part quest, part travelogue ... It is in every sense a fascinating journey' -- New Statesman
'Deftly weaving rhapsodies of fishing in Swedish waters with political observations, he has written an idiosyncratic and highly enjoyable memoir.'
-- Literary Review
'He writes eloquently about the Swedish countryside, the shining lakes the long summer days.' -- The Observer
'Mr Brown's prose is as clear and bewitching as the lake waters which he learns to fish.' -- The Economist
About the Author
Andrew Brown was born in 1955 in London. After writing for the Spectator from Sweden, he returned to London and joined the Independent in 1986 and for the next decade was its religious affairs correspondent, parliamentary sketch writer, and other odd jobs. In 1995 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for the best religious affairs correspondent in Europe. He now writes regularly for the Guardian and contributes to Prospect, Salon, and the New Statesman. His previous books include The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man (Simon and Schuster 1999) and In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite (Simon & Schuster/Columbia University Press 2003). He lives in north Essex, and is married, with two children.
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in his 20's when he was married to a Swedish woman,and working
in a timber mill.When his marriage broke up ,after the birth
of his son, he moved back to England.In this wise and balanced
book he returns to Sweden to explore his relationship with the
country.As he endeavours to define Sweden we learn of his childhood experiences,his working class life in the timber mill,his fishing,
and of the desolate beauty of Northern Sweden.He considers
Sweden's 'social experiment' portraying its faults as the country,like many others in Europe tries to come to terms with immigration and the disintegration of rural life.He does this -respectfully-and despite its shortcomings ,he regains his affection for much of what is Swedish. A wonderfully written fascinating read.
It's an entangled journey. Andrew Brown's very English childhood in Oxford, interjected by two years in Stockholm. A chance meeting with his future Swedish wife in a North Wales care home. A seminal period near Gothenburg, metamorphosing into a Swedish family man, while trying to discover himself. Followed by a self-launched writing career, bouncing between London and Scandinavia.
A journey threaded by a literary trail of fishing stories and experiences. A passion for angling that pumps like a main arterial vein. A passion that demands visits to silently desolate, engagingly surreal, forest bound lakes and rivers - described in poetic-like prose.
The time-travelling chapters and reflective nature of the first-person narrative, induce an awareness of a life passing by. Never really feeling at home in England or Sweden, this conflict adds a distinct objectiveness and sense of detachment when musing on the world around him. Yet he's undoubtedly in touch with the Swedish mindset, culture and deep rooted history.
Unsurprisingly, I found the writing references particularly interesting. His tentative and rather inauspicious start being transformed by some highly newsworthy stories, leading to a new life as a freelance journalist, columnist and author.
Sweden's enviable global status in the 1960s and 70s disappeared during the 1980s - suddenly and seemingly irreversibly. In the end he seems torn between a love for the country and the people and a despair for the future of them both.
It was evident from The Darwin Wars that everything Andrew Brown wrote would be worth reading, but I was unprepared for this, an extended essay or meditation on the rapport - if you can call it that - between man and fish, and of man with his fellows, and with the wider world. 'I understood I had no business there any longer.'
Brown is that refreshing creature, a writer who is neither novelist, poet nor critic - and boy can he write! Made privy to duets performed on a strange Swedish stringed instrument at midsummer 'I felt as if I was watching pterodactyls mating'. He describes 'customers at the state off-licences, shuffling forward like customers in a brothel where attendance was compulsary'. The last chapter illuminates why 'fishing journalism.. felt like reviewing porn videos in which one was oneself an actor', while for sheer novelistic flair the short (six-line) para on page 14 ending 'we slept deeply on the uneven rock' would take some beating. What initially appears eccentric is in fact organic, thus neatly illustrating Brown's thesis. (The best memoirs have a habit of beginning in medias res - something bad ones never do.) For once I agree with all 14>blurbs<14 (count them!) in my paperback; only the Spectator ('as perceptive as Bill Bryson - and, often, just as funny') sells it short. Though isn't 'wrestling' on page 40 an error? One would hate to see wresting going the way of prised, now frequently 'pried', a quite different verb
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