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Cecilia Cervin’s speech to Eija Hetekivi Olsson


In the forties, over 70 years ago, I was a child in Haga in Gothenburg. Then I had a childish daydream.

I saw the old, damp, dilapidated houses with lavatories in the yard, deliberately left to decay by the municipality long ago.

My dream was to move everyone who lived there, to large, new high-rise buildings with balconies! The best I could think of! The houses would be made of concrete, for the sake of the rats. There were plenty of rats in Haga! Then the rough Haga, whose unique qualities I did not understand as a child, would be annihilated, burned, and thus also the poverty and destitution that existed there.

In the time of the People’s Home visions, the Million Programme became the answer to my childish dreams. It also answered many others’ dreams: hot water, bathroom, modern kitchen, light and space. But even there, maintenance was neglected over time. The main character Miira in your book Ingenbarnsland experiences it as a shabby concrete hell, in Gårdsten, in Bergsjön, and the other suburbs.

The class differences did not disappear, no. They followed to the suburbs. But you are not content to just describe the relocated class society. You also do not let your reader fall into any kind of sentimentality. Your story is just as raw and brutal as reality, and your main character Miira, as a true refractory and increasingly a class-fighter, makes a wild and violent resistance.

Miira has a strong personal integrity and defends herself against any form of intrusiveness: unwelcome physical touch, ugly upper-class men and degrading charity.

She sees her parents’ bodies torn apart by hard and ungrateful work; she feels the class injustices under the coercion disguised as goodwill to go to a home language class. She herself wants to be among the cool pupils in the Swedish-speaking class, even though she eventually becomes aware of their disadvantage as well.

She sees through the school, which reinforces the class differences, and she resists with the means at her disposal: the fights and the language, the raw, genuine and deliberately underclassy Gothenburg accent. She meets one wise and understanding teacher, one who sees her talent and strength, but he is only a substitute and quickly disappears from view.

Over time, the tiring and disgusting cleaning job she shares with her parents awaits after school. But staircase cleaning will not be her future: she will be prime minister or brain surgeon. When choosing high school orientation, she therefore chooses neither “children and youth” nor the boys’ “vehicles” but the most difficult orientation: “nature”.

At the end of secondary school, she gets to win at the sports competitions at Slottsskogsvallen. It becomes a symbolic victory in the class struggle where Miira has become more and more aware. And so, your book becomes a child’s class depiction in modern times, in an environment that needs its refractories, such as You and Miira.

Thanks for that book! Keep writing!