Kerstin Ekman

1994 Kerstin Ekman, Sweden: Händelser vid vatten

About the author

Photo: Cato Lein

Kerstin Ekman (1933 - ) - Sweden

Kerstin Ekman lives in Valsjöbyn in Jämtland, but grew up in Katrineholm. She made her literary debut in 1959 with a detective novel – a genre of many of her publications. Kerstin Ekman was elected member of the Swedish Academy in 1978, but did not take part in its work after the Salman Rushdie affair in 1989. She has written a suite of four novels about Katrineholm where the story centres on selected women’s destinies. In addition to being interested in the circumstances of women, her novels often have a vein of natural mysticism and a fascination for the hidden powers of people.

About the winning piece

Händelser vid vatten (Händelser vid vatten (eng. Blackwater))

Published by: Albert Bonnier's publishing company
Publication year: 1993

Blackwater is a detective novel set in the town of Svartvattnet in Norrland. It depicts a woman from Stockholm, who moves in with her boyfriend in the town to work as a teacher in a commune. However, events revolve around a double homicide that remains unsolved and the consequences of this trauma for the people in the town. Kerstin Ekman’s story invites many reading styles; it can be read as a Bildungsroman, as a critical analysis of gender roles, as a mythical story with symbolic elements, but, of course, also simply as a thrilling detective novel.

This is what the Adjudicating Committee had to say

"Blackwater" is a modern alarm clock. The tension is created around how humans break each other down – and nature – in rough times of structural transformation. The healing powers become apparent when the good in the fathers replaces the excessive motherly love which locks the characters in a fateful tragedy. This is a book which constantly reveals new secret rooms – also in the reader.


Huset stod tomt med smutsiga gardiner i fönstren. Vallen hade börjat växa igen. Längre fram på sommaren skulle det bli svårt att ta sig fram för tolta, stormhatt och älggräs. När de kom ner i myren såg de stöveltramp i den våta stigen. Efteråt skulle Birger minnas att han velat föreslå att de skulle gå vid sidan av stigen för att inte förstöra spåren. Men han tyckte det var en besynnerlig, nästan osmaklig sak att säga. Särskilt när Mia var med.
Han fick aldrig nån ordning på sina tankar denna långa söndag. Motbjudande idéer om vart Annie kunde ha tagit vägen flimrade till i hans skalle och var borta. Rätt som det var gick han och funderade på vad de skulle ha till middag och undrade om Annie hade hunnit handla innan hon gick. När de kom ner mot vadstället över Lobberån märkte han att Mia var mycket illa till mods. Hittils hade hon varit sansad fast hon börjat inse att saken var allvarlig. Nu stannade hon och ville inte gå längre.
- Jag gillar inte det här stället, sa hon lågt.
- Det gör väl ingen, sa Birger.
- Dom där jävla fåglarna.

(s. 333-334, Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1993)

English translation by Joan Tate

The old house was empty, the curtain in the windows dirty. The pasture had begun to grow again. Later in the summer it would be difficult to get through all the sowthistle, monkshood and meadowsweet. When they got down to the marsh, they saw the print of a boot in the wet path. Later, Birger remembered that he had wanted to suggest they should walk on the side of the path so as not to destroy the tracks. But he thought it a weird, almost distasteful thing to say. Especially as Mia was with them.

He never did get his thoughts straight that long Sunday. Revolting ideas about where Annie might be kept flickering through his head, then were gone. Suddenly, he found himself thinking about what they would have for dinner and wondering whether Annie had had time to do any shopping before she left. When they got down to the ford across the Lobbet, he noticed Mia was now very uneasy. Hitherto she had been quite composed, although she had begun to see the situation was serious. Now she stopped and didn’t want to go on any further.
‘I don’t like this place,’ she said quietly.
‘No one does,’ said Birger.
‘Those bloody birds.’

(p. 316-317, Vintage, 1996)

See all nominated in 1994  


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  • Vigdís Grímsdóttir - Stúlkan í skóginum
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  • Tove Nilsen - Oyets sult
  • Arild Nyquist - Ungdom


  • Werner Aspenström - Ty

Faroe Islands

  • Jóanes Nielsen - Kirkene på havets bund


  • Frederik Kristensen - Blandt mennesker mig nærmest

The Sami Language Area

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