Acclaimed novelist Therese Bohman, author of The Other Woman and Drowned, discusses her most recent book Eventide, an astute novel following the life of an art professor at Stockholm University as she navigates the academic world, with its undercurrents of sexuality, competition, deceit, and fear.
Eventide is your third novel. How has fiction writing changed for you since your debut?
I would say it has gotten easier and more difficult at the same time. In one way, I feel much freer than when I wrote my first novel. Then, my main focus was on the story; now I am more interested in the characters and their thoughts and feelings—sometimes I have to stop myself from telling everything that enters my mind about them. The story is still there, but there is more flesh to the bones now. On the other hand, it is difficult to write when people expect things from you—writing the debut novel is a bliss in that way; no one expects anything from you.
Yes, in some ways. Karolina in Eventide also writes for a Swedish newspaper, so it helped me with writing about the very special world that the culture-media context is. My interest in art however is mainly a result of reading a lot on my own—I am very interested in the symbolist and decadent art from the fin de siècle-era, and I loved putting it into a novel.
Karolina has what can be considered politically incorrect opinions about feminism and its place in art criticism. What do you think about the state of feminism in academia and the state of feminism in Sweden? What about beyond Sweden?
In Sweden almost everyone in the public sphere calls themselves feminists, and there is a very positive attitude towards everything regarding feminism. In Eventide Karolina uses the system for her career, the same way her nemesis at the university does—I think that sometimes is the case in Sweden: it pays to be a feminist. I also think that Swedish feminism suffers from always regarding women as victims, and fails to see the progress that actually has been made.
In what ways is the book you wrote different from the book you set out to write?
When I started writing Eventide, I wanted to write a pleasant, funny, feel-good novel. That’s the original reason for it to take place at a university: I love novels and films set in a university, and I thought I’d write like a mix of them (Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, John Williams’s Stoner, the movies Wonder Boys, Mona Lisa Smile, Dead Poets Society…). But then Eventide turned much darker than planned. Sometimes felt as if the book wrote itself and I was a passenger on the ride. I am very intuitive in my writing, and sometimes it feels like the text has a will of its own that takes the story in directions I wouldn’t have thought of.
I have lived in Stockholm for almost ten years, and I like it here, though I had to struggle a bit with it: I tried moving here twice when I was younger and hated it both times. I just felt lonely and thought people were hard to get to know and that it was a cold and hard city. Karolina has the same experience as I, coming from a small town and working-class background. Everything in her existence depends on her moving from the place where she was born, going to university, and creating a whole new life for herself.
What would you like readers to take away from Eventide?
I am very fond of Karolina, and I think she is very human. Not always a nice person, not acting exemplary, but I hope that readers will take her to their hearts, even if a bit reluctantly.