Johanna Boholm

Johanna Boholm
Rasmus Westerback
Johanna Boholm: Bygdebok. Prose story, Ellips publishing house, 2013

There are debutants who step forward with words that feel amazing finished, as if the words were just waiting for their liberation.

Johanna Boholm (born 1976 and lives in Jomala on Åland) is such a debutant, who, with her first novel "Bygdebok", is the autonomous territory Åland's nomination for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2014.

"Bygdebok" is not very easy to characterise in general terms.  There are few pages, barely 80, but Boholm's prose is so dense that after reading it seems as if you have lived through an entire lifetime.  Strictly speaking it is not a novel, more like a lyrical narrative prose that very cleverly allows external and internal landscapes to correspond. The apostrophised countryside has its geographic attributes, but is at the same time a reflection of movement under the surface of consciousness.

It is about remembering, about finding yourself again to achieve acknowledgement. With a sister - or a reflected image? – as recipients the narrator tries to map out the impressions of childhood and difficult experiences.  One of the key scenes is a 70s house with thin walls made of chipboard. A grandfather clock ticks like a heart. Outside darkness broods over a small community centred round a stream. An elusive father figure sits rooted in his swivel chair, a gathering of flighty aunts come to visit and fiddle with the silver spoons and other things.

The sisters' recollections are woven into each other, but can one ever be sure of reaching the reality that is the truth? And how does one master the feeling of guilt that is the very core of existence?

 "Bygdebok" has an ingenious rhythmic composition in which certain key words, quite often fanciful neologisms, recur like the theme in a sonata: 'groblad', 'hjärtslag', 'guldskvätta', 'klapperbarn', 'fladdernätt'. The text contains a riddle that constantly tempts you to new reading while the narrator burrows deeper into the meanderings of your memory: "The June wind, goose bumps on my arms, silence. Song".

Gustaf Widén