Sten Wistrand, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Örebro University
Astrid Lindgren’s “most problematic book”. Ontology, genre, and function in Sunnanäng (Astrid Lindgrens ”mest problematiska bok”. Ontologi, genre och funktion i Sunnanäng)
Sunnanäng (1959) has been described as Astrid Lindgren’s “most problematic book”. The reason for this is its ambiguous status, critics being uncertain whether it is to be regarded as a work for children or adults. There are not that many interpretations of it, and it is obviously hard to deal with. Recurring questions when it comes to the tales of Lindgren are genre and ontology. Are for example the adventures in Nangiyala, in The Brothers Lionheart, to be seen as only existing in the mind of the sick and dying Karl or not? The same type of question, which could be related to Todorov’s concept of the fantastic, is often dealt with when discussing the four tales in Sunnanäng. It is common to suggest that we are to naturalize them in a realistic way, i.e. as dreams or fantasies within the minds of the protagonists. This, however, often proves not to be so easy, even though Lindgren’s text itself at times hints at this kind of interpretation. In this article I discuss these questions, exemplifying them with the “problematic” tales of Sunnanäng. Lindgren treats similar motifs in different ways in different narratives, and she also puts different genres into play, making a special genre more or less dominant in each tale: myth, Christian legend, local legend, and medieval allegory, respectively. The article is grounded in a view of fiction which highlights the rhetorical strategy of a work, focusing on how theme is generated and on the effect and function of the narrative and its motifs and devices.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2014. Vol. 135, 163-203 p.