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A warming book about how Sweden really was

Images of the Swedish people

The book Images of the Swedish people by Jane Fredlund is a few years old. Published in 1978, it is arguably more relevant today than it ever was - today, when the threads of our history have become worryingly thin, we need books that provide authentic accounts of Sweden's past.

The origin of the book Images of the Swedish people was when the weekly magazine Saxon in 1976-77 invited its readers to send in pictures from the "good old days". A flood of photographs poured in, many of which had been tucked away in drawers and boxes for decades. Black and white and yellowed, they told of people and ways of life that had long since disappeared: of big boxes of children, spring washing in streams, chimney sweeps and life in the mountain pastures. In many cases, personal memories of the events depicted were attached. The harvest of images was such a treasure trove of cultural history that parts of it were eventually collected in Jane Fredlund's book.

Most of the photographs presented are from the late 19th or early 20th century. The environments depicted are very diverse. Readers will meet the farmer and his family outside the humble dwelling, the lumberjack in his hut and fine ladies on a bicycle ride. Among the book's most poignant content are portraits of orphans, snapshots of farm workers in the fields and farewell pictures taken before leaving for America. The photographs are accompanied by cultural and historical commentary and stories about the people portrayed.

This is a book that is easy to get caught up in. The photographs convey a message that goes straight to the contemporary reader and in many cases shakes them up. Its greatest strength is that the material is completely unadulterated. This is what Sweden looked like. This is how the Swedes of the past lived. This was their everyday life, their celebrations and their living conditions. They are presented without embellishment or bias: the pictures are allowed to tell a true story about our country.

Images of the Swedish people cannot be found in a new edition, but several older copies are for sale at Book exchange. It can also be borrowed from libraries. So getting hold of it requires a bit of work, but in return it offers the reader a very special reading experience. I highly recommend it.

via Cultural memory

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