It was through the books of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo that I came to suspect that Sweden (and perhaps all of Scandinavia) is depressing. Previous to my encounter with these books, I think I believed a place populated by tall blondes who ski which also had all night sunshine in June would inherently be a glamorous place, far more than anyplace I happened to live. Of course, I have no excuse for this assumption as I spent my formative years watching the films of Ingmar Bergman and it doesn't take a genius to imagine the bleak life which would lead a people to create a god like Odin. Obviously, I wasn't paying attention. Or perhaps my teen years were so gray that I was impervious to the hopelessness of others. Perhaps it says something positive about me that I should think of the few days when the sun never sets and the ability to see the Aurora Borealis when I think of life near the Arctic Circle. It would be so easy, especially at this time of year, to focus on the cold and to focus on the dark.
So I see this news story and I feel overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness which is not unfamiliar to me and realize that it is the overriding feeling I get when I am forced to encounter the reality of Scandinavian life.
During the Olympics, I happened to overhear one of NBC's human interest pieces on a Norwegian skier who had won a gold medal at a previous Winter Olympics (Lillehammer? Nagano? not as recent as Salt Lake City) after which his brother disappeared. What struck me was the voice over which said that people disappearing into the Norwegian winter was not uncommon. Can you imagine living someplace where losing a loved one in a snowstorm is not uncommon? What worries me is not the idea that nature is cruel, but the far more worrisome idea that people disappear all the time and that we blame nature because, well, nature is the least disturbing explanation. Better to think your loved one perished in a snow dune than to think he just walked away without leaving word or was taken from you by human agency.