Book Review | The one who is abandoned as a child allows his loved ones to suffer as an adult: Axel Schuman made a top-class novel

Axel Schulman shows that he can write more than auto fiction, and once again the traumas are inherited.


Alex Schulman: Malma station (Malma station). Finnish Jaana Nikula. Nemo. 295 pp.

Swedish Alex Schulman has become famous for novels in which the main characters are an alcoholic mother, young brothers and a character-disordered grandfather, a famous writer. The books have drawn above all from the author’s own family history.

In his new novel Ore station Schulman still writes about difficult family situations, but has abandoned the methods of autofiction. He clearly wants to show that he can also write, as it were, pure fiction.

Schulman’s Burn these letters -the novel’s narrator-Alex goes so far as to claim that the author Sven Stolpen ill-temper, downright anger, would have been directly inherited by the grandson. That’s not a very convincing explanation.

It’s easier to believe Ore station family arrangements, when they imply that a child left by the mother or both parents will be separated all his life. And repeat it in one way or another.

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In the novel, a father and his daughter Harriet travel to the train station of a small town. Later, Harriet heads there with her husband Oskar. Eventually, their daughter as an adult, too. He, too, was left alone too soon.

Before every trip, something fatal has happened. A crucial message hidden in the urn awaits everyone in Malma.

Ore a photograph of Harriet with her father is taken at the station. When Harriet shows it to Oskar, he is confused. What exactly was Harriet’s relationship with her adored father? Is it just idealism if the father doesn’t even hug the daughter who is in a bad mood in the picture?

Harriet has happened to hear that at the time of separation, the parents have divided the two daughters between them. Neither wanted Harriet.

Much later, her husband Oskar reflects that “childhood is an incomprehensible structure, like a modern work of art. Incomprehensible and pointless. I’d like to kick the whole shit to pieces.”

Oskar has lived for a long time with Harriet, who has always seemed to be somewhere else, in the past or in the fairytale world of the movie she watched.

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The warning signs were visible right from the first meeting: the reader knows that Harriet cannot afford to pay for her train ticket, even though she assures the conductor and the police that she will make it happen. Oskar believes and pays the ticket.

A novel one of the subtleties is that it accurately tells about childhood experiences, rejections. However, it is up to the reader to draw conclusions. He often knows more than people. Still, their motives remain open.

Schulman delays the narrative and stretches the plot: what wonder draws characters to a small town station. This emphasizes the elaborate structure of the novel itself. Schulman already knew that skill in his autobiographical works.

This time there is also a protest against overly direct explanations.

Harriet believes that the events of childhood affect what a person is like now, and everything can and should be explained by that. Oskar, on the other hand, envies Harriet’s belief in such platitudes. Then you are not to blame for anything.

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Does not believe however, there is no flatness to the meaning of childhood traumas, not even in the world of this novel, where they can sometimes explain too much.

Ore station even jumps back in time. It almost collapses into its own wit, because the revelation at the end, which determines its structure, is perhaps not so essential.

What is important is what happens before that. Why can’t adults figure things out so that children don’t suffer?

In the end, there are no sure explanations. The relationship between Harriet and her father is not entirely bad, and it can be considered from several angles.

That’s why the novel leaves you feeling uncertain. It feels too thoughtfully constructed, while the narration is unusually vivid. And Schulman creates and shows his characters in a way that leaves the final interpretations to the reader. In that sense Ore station is a top-notch piece.

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