You have been in life almost as long as Jan Myrdal; you have just recently turned 80 and for that you should receive tributes and congratulations. Let me start with heartfelt congratulations and wish you many good years of work to come.
But now it is your work that it is about. Like Myrdal’s, it stretches over a long period of time and, like his, it extends over many subjects and across several continents. Together with Myrdal and a couple of others, you belong to the great teachers for my generation, those who made us look up from the narrow domestic perspectives and look out over a world full of injustices. It was not just new continents but above all new political perspectives you offered us unenlightened in my generation.
Presenting your work in detail would take far too long. Therefore, let me connect to what Lasse Diding just talked about and use a passage in one of your books, An Underground Starry Sky from 1984. It has the subtitle A Personal Calendar. In it you follow the days of the year and give for each day a one short page story with a personal comment about what happened that very day in the year… yes, there you swing resiliently and scholarly between different centuries.
Some examples at random:
on January 8, 1842, the Afghans annihilate the British occupation army.
on March 29, 1772, Emanuel Swedenborg died
on January 4, 1909, Shackleton (on his way to the South Pole) notes in his diary: “The end is imminent. We can only go a maximum of three more days, because our forces are rapidly declining.” They leave a depot of necessities behind them and the writer. comments.
Alas, these depots that you leave behind in life! They look touchingly insignificant when you turn around and look back and soon you have lost sight of them.
The depot Ekelund – the scholarly dissertation.
The depot Hesse.
The China depot.
The India depot.
The South American depot.
The advertising depot.
“Touchingly insignificant” – yes, you, Sven Lindqvist, could modestly say that about Your work then in 1984: Ekelund – the scholarly dissertation. China – just a year or so from Jan Myrdal’s Report from a Chinese Village came China in Crisis about China during “the Great Leap Forward” and under the difficult conditions you yourself experienced.
Jan Myrdal stayed in the village of Liu Ling and you at the University of Beijing. It gave slightly different perspectives, both informative.
The South America depot was the reasoning and analysing travel reports that included so much of both observed and read material, about current robbery policies of American corporations and old domestic injustices: The Shadow, Land and Power in South America and the Dawn of the Land. (It did not get worse from a parallel book by Cecilia Lindqvist, your wife and travel companion, the book Journey with Aaron) which provided guidance in true intellectual parenting.)
The advertising depot – the book Advertising is deadly dangerous came in 1957 early in your authorship and it could almost have ended it as you in the book were considered to have damaged or at least threatened such vital commercial interests that you were shut down from the forums you could previously use. Refractory! You saw the dangers of the relatively innocent advertising of the time (if we compare with its now dominant position). Could you even in your wildest imagination have imagined advertising as its very own art form, with great artistic prizes from institutions established for the purpose? Time for a further update, then.
You mentioned these depots in 1984, but since then you have achieved much more. The exploration of more or less unknown areas, deserts and continents has given you reason to explore both the inside of man and the outer causes of desolation, namely the so-called white world’s hubris and greed, the one that has led to ethnic cleansing long before Hitler. In Terra Nullius, on Australia and the deliberately ruthless treatment of Aboriginal Australians, in Exterminate All the Brutes about racial biology and the “scientific” right, even duty to exterminate “inferior” people, and in A History of Bombing on the history of the arms industry and on the use of weapons in the service of Western greed and cruelty, you have shown dark depths – and for that you have received much criticism – what else could be expected against one who reveals as much of what one would like to forget and awakens so many sleeping consciences?
Have you taken offence by the criticism? Probably – you are human – but you have through all this remained a resistance fighter, an uncomfortable and as Jan Myrdal calls it: a refractory. For this you now get thanks from us all and Jan Myrdal’s big prize – the Lenin Award.