Review of Smålands mörker (2012)

Sequential art with text

Henrik Bromander (writer-artist).

Read in 2018.

A boy born in 1982 grows up in small-town Sweden. His parents belong to the working class and are in questionable mental health. The boy skids into science fiction and classical Italian fascist ideology, making few friends. Even from a humble starting point, there is a long way to fall. In prison, the man writes in a comic book, “The punishment is life itself, the crime is having been born into this world of commerce, exploitation and foolishness.” (Straffet är livet självt, brottet är att ha fötts in i denna värld av kommers, exploatering och enfald.)

A reviewer on Goodreads called this book “mångfascetterad”, meaning “multi fasceted”. If that’s a pun I hate it. If it’s a typo I love it.

This graphic novel is a successful application of autobiographical zine and heta-uma techniques to a fictionalized narrative. In particular, there is a sense of honesty about the seemingly small things in life: little details that grind the protagonist down in the breadth of human experience permitted by an uncaring universe, as in Doing Time (1998). The protagonist’s own comics are embedded in the novel to provide a psychological interiority not afforded by Bromander’s largely emotionless drawings and Erik’s general lack of affect and direction in life. I grew up in Växjö, Småland, not far from the protagonist’s Nässjö; it’s easy to empathize. Him placing a copy of Fahrenheit 451 (1953) on Annika’s grave is very moving, she being the only really sympathetic character. The ending is pastoral, suggesting the protagonist is merely an introvert.

References here: Wage Slaves (2016), “Undercover in the Alt-Right: My Year in Kekistan” (2018), En klump i magen (2020).

sequential art text fiction