Westö, Kjell 1961-

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Westö, Kjell 1961-

(Anders Hed)

PERSONAL:

Born 1961, in Helsinki, Finland.

CAREER:

Writer. Founder of Bokassa (literary magazine).

AWARDS, HONORS:

National Prize for Literature, 1990; Young Finland Prize, 1996; Thank You for the Book Medallion, 1997; Shadow Finlandia Prize, 2001; Helsinki Medallion, 2002; Svenska kulturfondens kulturpris, 2004.

WRITINGS:

Tango Orange (poetry), Alba (Stockholm, Sweden), 1986.

Epitaf över Mr. Nacht (poetry), Alba (Stockholm, Sweden), 1988.

Utslag och Andra Noveller (stories), Alba (Stockholm, Sweden), 1989.

(As Anders Hed) Avig-Bön (poetry), 1989.

Fallet Bruus: tre Berättelser (stories; title means "The Bruus Case"), Alba (Stockholm, Sweden), 1992.

Drakarna över Helsingfors (novel; title means "Kites over Helsinki"), Söderström (Helsinki, Finland), 1996.

Metropol, Musta taide (Helsinki, Finland), 1998.

Vodan av att vara Skrake (novel; title means "The Perils of Being a Skrake"), Söderström (Helsinki, Finland), 2000.

Lang (novel), Loisto (Helsinki, Finland), 2004, translation by Ebba Segerberg, Carrol & Graf (New York, NY), 2006.

Där vi en Gång Gått, Norstedt (Stockholm, Sweden), 2006.

ADAPTATIONS:

Drakarna över Helsingfors was adapted for film and stage.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kjell Westö, who was born in Finland, is a writer of poetry, short stories, and novels. Books from Finland reviewer Bror Rönnholm wrote that Westö "has to a large extent converted the needs and dilemmas of his own generation into material for his own writing. It was a generation that came too late for the wave of politicisation of the 1970s, but it was strongly influenced by the reaction against it: individualism and postmodernism, the delirium of the ‘casino-economics’ of the 1980s and the crash that followed."

As a Swedish speaker in Finland, Westö experienced the persecution heaped on the characters of his second novel, Vodan av att vara Skrake ("The Perils of Being a Skrake"). The Skrake men are Bruno, an executive who becomes the author of fishing books; his more bohemian brother, Leo; Bruno's son, Werner; and Wiktor, son of Werner. World Literature Review contributor Thomas DuBois wrote that Westö "writes of a world he has witnessed, and his choice of generic framework—the family chronicle—contributes admirably to his project." Although Wiktor narrates, it is Bruno who best expresses Westö's intent, saying: "History is but a cruel and irresponsible tale," to which content and meaning must be added. DuBois wrote: "Westö appears intent on doing just that: writing for his community and his times an ironic, ambivalent, but ultimately warmhearted history at the close of a millennium."

Westö's first novel to be translated into English is Lang, a story of obsession, love, and murder, set, as are his previous two novels, in Helsinki. Twice-divorced intellectual writer Christian Lang rises to popularity through his talk show, The Blue Hour, but is now, in midlife, out of step with contemporary culture. A beauty named Sarita falls in love with Christian, but she is unable to extricate herself from an abusive relationship with her former husband and father of her child. Christian is enchanted with the young woman and he decides that he will do anything to save and keep her. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted the author's talent "for describing the existential vertigo that leads his bookish characters to alarming acts." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Smoothly and unobtrusively translated, this debut grabs, holds, then plunges you into a world pervaded by a kind of mundane grimness, dark in its own signature way: Nordic noir."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 2005, Frank Sennett, review of Lang, p. 29.

Guardian (London, England), May 14, 2005, Michael Dibdin, review of Lang.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2006, review of Lang, p. 20.

Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Joshua Cohen, review of Lang, p. 106.

Publishers Weekly, December 19, 2005, review of Lang, p. 40.

Rocky Mountain News, January 13, 2006, Peter Mergendahl, review of Lang.

World Literature Today, spring, 2001, Thomas DuBois, review of Vodan av att vara Skrake, p. 382; July-September, 2003, Helena Darnell, review of Lang, p. 130.

ONLINE

Books from Finland, http://dbgw.finlit.fi/fili/bff/200/westo1.htm (October 24, 2006), Westö, as Anders Hed, interviewing himself; http://dbgw.finlit.fi/fili/ bff/105/Ronnholm_1.htm (October 24, 2006, Bror Rönnholm, "The Nearness of the Past."

Hour Online,http://www.hour.ca/ (November 20, 2003, T.S. Warren, review of Kites over Helsinki (film).

Swedish Book Review, http://www.swedishbookreview/ (October 25, 2006), author's biography.

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