Jonas Örtemark and Leif Holmstrand, Svalget, Rojal, 2021
Svalget is a large experimental book that has emerged over ten years from a swallowing, incorporating, uncontrollably voracious attitude. Semi-quotes from contemporary online quarrels, recipes, blogs and angry discussion threads have mutated, been processed and joined together with dreamy visions, branching stories, poetry, extremely prosaic outbursts and rhythmic cut-up collages. Everything is dirt, sadness and hunger, everything is beautiful and fun.
Svalget is an almost 3,000-page experimental book that grew out of a swallowing, incorporating, unrestrainedly voracious attitude that the authors Jonas Örtemark and Leif Holmstrand adopted during more than a decade of work. Half-quotes from contemporary online squabbles, recipes, blogs and angry discussion threads have been mutated, processed and stitched together with dreamy visions, branching narratives, poetry, utterly prosaic ramblings and rhythmic cut-up collages. Everything is dirt, sorrow and ravenous hunger, everything is beautiful and fun. Jonas Örtemark and Leif Holmstrand's previous literary collaboration, Darger Reviderad (Drucksache Förlag), had similar but milder claims, and wrapped these claims carefully around the mythic artist Darger and his imaginary family of girls. The new book, Pharynx, thinks it can eat all of human civilization with its ill-conceived baby mouth.
https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/71377 (bx Google Translate)
It was early in June that the culture editor's Ulrika Stahre came to me traveling with Leif Holmstrand's and Jonas Örtemark's Svalget.
In a taxi.
the summer is coming to an end and I don't know how many times I've
packed the book into the family's rusting Ford, and then pushed it as
far into the trunk as possible, next to the jack and other things you
don't want to have on your neck during cross braking.
2,800 pages. 8 kilos. A4 format.
I haven't taken it to the beach exactly, but at times, like now, I've kept it on a porch where it's also been given double duty as a breakfast table.
Towards the end of July, it was persistently courted by a small leafcutter bee, and there are probably leaves to cut out.
Sometimes people would come by, but most of them didn't even seem to notice that it was a book. If it became too quiet, it was enough to point to it for the conversation to start:
"Oh! Did you read the whole thing?”
Well, I probably have, but in retrospect it feels like a dream somehow. The opening 500 pages are mostly a blur. There was something about policemen, I want to remember, some kind of testimony about excessive violence, cut to size à la Åke Hodell and sprinkled with rambling headlines: "Do you dare serve refrigerator leftovers?", "Papers are taken from the day one at a time", "Vårdpatrull banned the others' parties”.
An overall typical feature of Svalget, whose overall method appears to have been taken from Marco Ferreri's film The Grand Bouffe from 1973. Holmstrand's and Örtemark's work, which is said to have started around 2010, has figuratively speaking involved swallowing as much text as possible, of all imaginable types, and then throwing it all up again, in a split or twisted form.
The effect may not be
immediate, but gradually there is an experience of floating freely in
a black hole that has absorbed the upheaval of the realm's digital
Clear as a sausage shovel, one might think. Nevertheless, I remember that the people on the porch often questioned the contents of the book, but that their objections were of the kind that a vane lyricist shakes off like dandruff:
"Here it's sort of blurred and just 'xxx', it looks very strange!"
“Why is it in alphabetical order here but not here?”
"I do not understand anything."
After all, I personally felt or still feel at home in Svalget. Here there is a slightly old-fashioned sniggering playfulness that can be taken back to the domestic concretism of the sixties, but also a grotesqueization of contemporary babble that is quite close to the now ingrained experimental literature that has emerged in the span between the magazine Oei and, say, Åsa Maria Kraft or Pär Thörn .
As a reader, you have to take part in a relatively homogenous but somewhat unbridledly entertaining flow of things like half-chewed or re-chewed fitness forums, porn novels, dating sites, newspaper articles, cookie recipes and flashback threads. Here and there cascades of what could be pure improvisation or automatic writing occur.
Newsmill may also be included in a corner, if anyone now remembers that site, and also in other respects it is noticeable that Svalget has a history of creation that spans more than ten years. After all, similar idioms have stood as sticks in the hill for at least a decade and a half, and it is not without the fact that the book appears in parts as something of a toolbox of tried and tested literary techniques.
The weight is there, so to speak, and that's actually exactly what appeals to me most about Svalget. The format is so flawed that the reader has to make himself the work's personal assistant (payment is not made), and not since Mats Söderlund's monstrously large collection of poems Årorna i Flocktjärn have I come across a literary work that intervened so tangibly in my everyday life.
The scope, equivalent to ten Svenbanan novels, also does something with the reading itself. An overview is hardly possible, nor is it desirable, in my opinion. Rather, it is for the reader to put themselves in some kind of sleep-like present through which the text can pass undisturbed, without the influence of things like super or sub-ego.
The effect may not be immediate, but gradually there is an experience of floating freely in a black hole that has absorbed the upheaval of the kingdom's digital garbage. It's a bit scary but not completely unpleasant, and can perhaps be compared to forest bathing.
So, when Svalget finally reaches its event horizon one quiet evening in early August, that is, ends, it is with mixed feelings that I close the book. I'm proud and a little relieved, but also disappointed with the sound. Just a little joke.
The overall incredible amount of chatter in these almost 3,000 pages would definitely have needed something other than cardboard and fabric for binding. Matte black steel had been superb, and had given fruitful associations to the monolith in the 2001 film.
Then I tell myself that, after all, I'm happy with Olle Essvik's cover with a map image stained by random ink blots. Each cover is unique, and thus makes my copy something of a pension insurance in the same class as Lars Norén's gold-leafed. - Petter Lindgren