278 pages, no illustrations
Fredrik Sjöberg's mesmerising Swedish bestseller on travel, the joy of collecting and discovering the hidden wonders of life. The hoverflies are only props. No, not only, but to some extent. Here and there, my story is about something else. Some days I tell myself that my mission is to say something about the art and sometimes the bliss of limitation. And the legibility of landscape. Other days are more dismal. As if I were standing on queue in the rain outside confessional literature's nudist colony, mirrors everywhere, blue with cold.
Warm, funny and insightful, The Fly Trap is a meditation on collecting; be it hoverflies or fine art. A fascinating web of associations, it begins with Sjöberg's own tranquil experience as an entomologist on a remote island in Sweden, and takes in heroic historical expeditions to Burma and the wilderness of Kamchatka. Along the way, Sjöberg pauses to reflect on a range of ideas – slowness, art, freedom, – drawing other great writers, like D.H Lawrence and Bruce Chatwin, into dialogue.
From the everyday to the exotic, The Fly Trap revels in the wonder of the natural world and leaves a trail of memorable images and stories.
"A rare masterpiece [...] graceful, poetic, astonishing and – yes! – absolutely thrilling".
- Jyllands Posten
"Sjöberg has a witty, erudite, incisive tone reminiscent of travellers and anthropologists such as Barlow, Chatwin or even Robert Byron"
- Swedish Book Review
"[...] The book unfolds like a leisurely after-dinner conversation, as Sjöberg meanders through the pleasures of collecting hoverflies on a summer's day, the eccentricities of entomologists and the surprising intimacy of conversations between strangers on a ferry (the end of a crossing sets a time limit, focusing the mind).
Along the way, he indulges a fascination for the life of Swedish entomologist René Malaise. Best known today as the inventor of an insect trap – hence the book's title – he was, in many ways, the anti-Sjöberg, someone who never acknowledged limits. As a young man in the 1920s and 30s, he collected insects and acquired a reputation as an intrepid adventurer and a bit of a ladies' man: Sjöberg tracks his love life by noting which women he named insects after.
But the real message of the book, published in Swedish a decade ago and now translated into English, is the quiet pleasure to be found in reading the fine print of knowledge. "A world full of highly personal mastery without petty rivalries would be a nice place to live," he writes. In this subtle book, Sjöberg provides a convincing example."
- Bob Holmes, New Scientist, 02-06-2014
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Fredrik Sjöberg is an entomologist and lives with his family on the island Runmaro, in the archipelago east of Stockholm. He is also a literary critic, translator, cultural columnist and the author of several books including The Art of Flight and The Raisin King, which accompany The Fly Trap.