When my father Hans died in 1997 he left behind a wooden box containing sixteen love letters from a woman, Mimmi (fictive name), whom he had met as a young clergyman in the 1950s. Mimmi, who was about the same age as Hans, was a well-educated woman with a university degree and a part time job at a publishing house in Stockholm. She had married well when marrying Anders (fictive name), who belonged to a welthy upper class family. The family owed several estates in the middle of Sweden and the young couple spent a lot of time in the family properties, when not working in Stockholm. Hans worked for some time in the parish nearby the manor house that Mimmi and Anders used to visit on a regular basis and Mimmi seem to have fallen in love with him. As I do not have any letters from Hans to Mimmi it is not possible say if he had fallen in love, but reading between the lines I think he must have been interested.
Five of Mimmi’s letters describe how Mimmi and Anders travelled in a sportscar through Europe for some months in the autumn of 1953. The young couple started their journey in Sweden, went through West Germany and Austria and stopped in Positano at the Amalfi coast in Italy before they went back to Sweden. Mimmi presents in a humous way the landscape they travel through and the people they meet. Villages, small towns and cities, such as St. Wolfgang, Venice and Naples, are vividly described as are, with a great deal of self-irony, Anders’ and Mimmi’s relationship and their ”conversation” with their absent friend Hans, whom Mimmi seem to long for a lot.
The letters also give information about the couple’s life style, that partly seems to be bohemian, partly bourgeoise or aristocratic. There is wine, liqeur and something called ”snow”. Snow seems to be some kind of medicine, maybe Fenedrin, that was forbidden in Sweden and several other European countries in the early 1950s.
Letters do not actually tell us what it was like to live in the past, but they give us information about the author’s everyday life, thoughts, feelings and attitudes. They reveal some truths, conceal others and are part of the writer’s construction of identity. Mimmi was a woman in love and she missed Hans during the journey through Europe, but what I think she missed the most is, in Virginia Woolf’s words, a room of her own. As a well-educated woman with no children to look after she wanted to be something more than merely Anders’ beautiful wife. In her letters she shows that she is an intellectual person with good linguistic skills and a certain interest in cultural and religious issues. For a period Hans was her listener. Mimmi did not leave Anders and in the beginning of the 1960s Hans married my mother to be.
Stockholm, 2016. no 3, 129-156 p.