The Practice of Murder
The Practice of MurderKerstin Ekman
Kerstin Ekman, former member of the Swedish Academy and one of Sweden’s greatest living crime writers’ latest collection of essays, The Practice of Murder, is a meditation on unresolved issues in the classic Swedish novel, Söderberg’s Doctor Glas. Still startlingly relevant today, Doctor Glas is a fascinating and moving examination of love, loneliness, morality and societal expectations. Entering Söderberg’s world, Kerstin Ekman evokes the atmosphere of Stockholm at the turn of the last century, bringing its people, streets and buildings out of the shadows once more.
“In Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas I read about the shadow on the wall, greedy for experiences, which takes the man’s life and starts to live one of its own. A life of evil. You can also take another person’s life with potassium cyanide. As Tyko Glas did. How do you reach that point? Do you do it with the help of Hjalmar Söderberg, or have you been prepared in advance by a life of dirty celluloid collars, lovelessness and a disgusting profession?
There is no guilt, says the doctor who is the main character of my book. I am the person of the future, he also claims. He writes it in his diary. How strangely persuasive it sounds when the one telling the story is an ‘I’.
Has anyone the right to take the life of another human being? No, we say. Yes, out of helpfulness, says Söderberg. Has anyone the right to take a person out of one book and put them in another? My doctor does not think so. But literature lives on literature and characters from Söderberg’s books occasionally revive. This time, he himself has come back to life, on the margins of my book. He needs help with a practical matter. But why is he so frightened?
He had an idea when he was crossing the square at Norrmalmstorg one November day in 1901. But perhaps he did not mean to take his notion quite so far.