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Lovtal.

The essays in Per Wastberg's Lovtal (Words of Praise) fall somewhere between the categories of scholarly treatise and panegyric. The majority are speeches composed for the ceremony in which the Pilot Prize is awarded. The Pilot Prize is sponsored by the Japanese Pilot Corporation and is intended to recognize the literary contributions of a living Swedish author. The award winners are chosen by a five-member jury of Swedish authors and critics. The award is presented under festive circumstances, and the recipient is present to respond to the words of praise delivered by Wastberg. Recipients of the Pilot Prize have included Birgitta Trotzig, Sven Delblanc, Lars Gyllensten, Tomas Transtromer, Olof Lagercrantz, Willy Kryklund, Werner Aspenstrom, Lars Forssell, Karl Vennberg, Lars Noren, Kerstin Ekman, and Lars Gustafsson. Wastberg also includes five additional eulogies to other authors he admires: Verner von Heidenstam, Artur Lundkvist, Gosta Gustaf-Janson, Bengt Soderbergh, and Carl Fredrik Reutersward.

Wastberg is himself an author, and for many years has also served as a literary and cultural critic. He has certainly been very attentive to the Swedish literary scene over the past few decades and possesses a strong enthusiasm for Swedish letters. (With his recent appointment to the late Aspenstrom's chair at the Swedish Academy, his views on literature have suddenly become of considerable topical interest.) Even though the essays are not meant to be scholarly, the themes that Wastberg identifies in the authors he discusses are worthy of note if you happen to be a scholar doing research on any of those writers. The essays are studded with gems of information, such as Sven Delblanc's endorsement of "trivial literature, which supplies new structures and new material, sometimes on occasion an unintentional masterpiece," or the tidbit that Delblanc stayed at Karen Blixen's Rungstedlund. Wastberg is personally acquainted with a number of the authors he praises, and his essays can be profitably mined for anecdotal information about the various prizewinners.

As Wastberg himself admits, these speeches are quite subjective. Wastberg's enthusiasms and prejudices shine through every line. When he proclaims, "Kerstin Ekman is the heir to Selma Lagerlof," at first glance it is difficult to see what these two authors have in common other than the fact that they both write well and are women. Perhaps since the context is a discussion of Rovarna I Skuleskogen (The Robbers of Skule Forest; 1988), Wastberg has been struck by the fact that both women write about Swedish forests.

Lovtal will appeal both to the reader who enjoys reading about literature and to the scholar who is looking for inspiration about a particular author. One should not be tricked into thinking that Wastberg has added to his own corpus of fiction. (Lovtal is also available in an abridged edition from the same publisher which includes only the essays on the Pilot Prize winners and omits the additional five essays on Wastberg's other favorites.)

Susan Brantly University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Author:Brantly, Susan
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
Words:484
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