söndag 26 augusti 2012

Fåglar och andra resenärer

Fler besökare i bokcaféet. Intressanta sammanträffanden. Som i förra veckan då jag fick besök av Lennart Nilsson och hans fru Gillian från Vitemölla (och Lund). Lennart är författare och översättare, och fågelskådare. Och son till Orvar Nilsson som på sin tid var redaktör för Ystads Allehanda där han en gång i världen publicerade mina allra tidigaste kulturartiklar.

Vi kom att tala om fågelböcker som Lennart översatt och han nämnde Mark Cocker och hans Birders: Tales of a Tribe från 2001 (Skådare – ett släkte för sig, 2006). Det var ett författarnamn jag kände igen, men den Cocker jag tänkte på var inte fågelskådare utan litteraturvetare. Hans bok om den brittiska reseskildringen under 1900-talet, Loneliness and Time (1992) är lysande; jag skrev om den i min bok Mannen som reste och refererar till den i Den siste resenären som utkommer i september.

Det kunde väl ändå inte vara samme Cocker?

Jo, faktiskt, det kunde det. Och han var alltså Lennarts kompis!

Så snart Lennart kom hem till det gamla fiskarhuset på Vitemölla mailade han till Mark Cocker i Claxton, Norfolk. Han sände mig en kopia av sitt mail och Cockers svar. Jag föreslog att jag skulle lägga in alltihop som en del av nästa bokcaféblog, vilket Lennart tyckte var OK för egen del, men han befarade att Mark inte ville få sina kritiska kommentarer om kritiken publicerade på nätet ens på en svensk blog.

Det ville han inte heller, och det blev lite mail hit och dit men till sist bestämde sig Mark för att skicka ett nytt, färskt, helt unikt mail till mig som jag fick tillstånd till att använda i min blog. Jag är honom stort tack skyldig för det.

Thank you so much for your text, Mark!

Mark Cocker har bland mycket annat också skrivit en bok om de misskända kråkorna, eller möjligen egentligen råkorna (rooks), Crow Country (2007). Han medverkar som krönikör i bland annat The Guardian och The Times. Se www.birdsandpeople.org och www.guardian.co.uk/countrydiary.

Jag lägger in min essä om Loneliness and Time som ett senare, separat blogginlägg: ”Reseskildringens revir”.

Och här nedan är en bild av Mark Cocker i fågelskådartagen, låmad från The Independent:

On 16 Aug 2012, at 19:14, Lennart Nilsson wrote:

Mark, old friend,

This afternoon I came across one of your books in an unexpected place. Gillian and I are on our own in the family cottage on the Baltic coast, our sons and their families having returned to jobs and schools. This afternoon we were out blackberry-picking and decided to check out a new sign we had spotted. It said “Bokcafé” (Book Café) and had been put up by a small road.

We drove up there and found an old farm house of a type that is common around here: four buildings in a square and with a yard in the middle. The barn had been renovated and turned into a secondhand book shop cum café cum private library. One could drink a cup of tea or coffee and buy cakes, browse the books in the library, sit in armchairs and read and, of course, buy some books.

The owner proved to be a well-known travel writer, Tomas Löfström. I had never met him before but own a couple of books he edited and knew his clergyman father, who baptized one of our sons. I knew Tomas had travelled a lot in Asia and India, and we talked about that for a while. I mentioned your name and told him about the India chapter in “Birders – Tales of a Tribe”.

“Mark Cocker, Mark Cocker . . .”, said Tomas. “I have one of his books. It is superb, definitely the best book in its genre. I have read it several times.” And he went to one of the bookcases and took down a copy of “Loneliness and Time”, obviously carefully studied, with lots of passages carefully underlined and annotated in pencil.

I shall straight away look for “Loneliness and Time” on the net. Fancy sort of coming across you like that.

All the best.  Lennart


Från: Mark Cocker
Skickat: den 16 augusti 2012 22:12
Till: Lennart Nilsson
Ämne: Re: Loneliness and Time (förkortat)

ah Lennart you have made my night.

Loneliness and Time is part of a previous life when i wanted to be a real writer. i gave that hope up long ago ... :-) when i discovered that people wanted me to write about birds. There we are.

Still think, though i say it myself, that Loneliess and Time is a fine book. And i am proud of it. But it was published in the US, as my American editor told me at the time, 'to resounding silence.

Your life sounds rather idyllic at the moment. Cycles rides and blackberry picking. Wonderful. you derserve it and have probably just finished translating or writing some new book.

warmest as ever and deep thanks once again for emailing my that very satisfying tale and please tell Tomas how much I appreciate his praise



Här följer Mark Cockers mail till mig:

Thanks Tomas

And sorry it has taken me a couple of days to get to the computer. you can use any of this below if you like for the blog. Perhaps to translate if you can be bothered :-)

I was so thrilled to hear of Lennart Nilsson's serendipitous encounter with you. To find a reader of Loneliness and Time in a bookshop amid the lovely southern Swedish countryside is one of those wonderful coincidences and moments of uplift that i call the author's 'spiritual royalties'.

And I am thrilled that you enjoyed Loneliness and Time. Authors are, in a way, like parents to their various books and they hope that all their literary offspring will flourish and make their way in the world like true children. Alas that doesn't happen evenly. Some go on to success and some don't. And as the parent one always feels an extra amount of concern and affection for the books that don't prosper quite as you hoped. So to find someone who has a soft spot for L&T is doubly special.

At the time of writing it (it was published in 1992) in my late twenties, I was really interested in travel writing and there was a huge boom in travel publishing in the UK. But the authors and readers of travel books didn't seem to wish to reflect on the genre and what its purpose or special strengths might be. i hoped Loneliness and Time would fill that gap and when first received by my editor and agent they were very excited. Alas the public reception was not quite so supportive.

But I was not very lucky with regard timing. Secker and Warburg had landed a massively lucrative deal with the American popstar Madonna and her big illustrated book titled simply Sex. It was basically an individual trawl through sexual perversion by an oh-so-shocking pop superstar. Now, if you can even find a copy, it is little more than tawdry pornography with graphic images of bondage and bestiality. But the good old British public, probably the world public, lapped it up and it sold in millions. Alas Loneliness and Time was published in exactly the same week and I probably suffered as a consequence. The press people at Secker were stoking the nation's taste for weird sex, rather than their interest in the travel book as a literary genre. And it never recovered.

I still think my chapters on Greece and the role played by Greece in British travel writing is a good piece and my chapter on Tibet and the the psychology of British-authored travel books about Tibet is among the best things I've written. But, alas, as i said, not everyone appreciates your children quite as you do.

However i occasionally get a little uplift in spirits to hear some lovely anecdote such as your exchange with Lennart Nilsson at Österlens Bookcafé. And to find a reader in another country who is himself, like Lennart, a distinguished writer, is particularly satisfying.

Lennart also translated another of my books, which is a sort of anthropological but rather tongue-in-cheek, humorous account of my own tribal identity as a birdwatcher. It was called Skådare - ett släkte for sig in the Swedish edition by Elleströms.

Perhaps the best spiritual royalties I ever earned from that book was an occasion I was contacted by one of its readers. But he was a Somali living in Djibouti City and he picked up a copy of it in Cape Town in South Africa. Abdi Jama - he has since become a person I talk to by email - had read it 11 times!

Of course, it is these moments of serendipity and delightful strangeness that make the enterprise of travel itself such a wonderful activity. I look forward, Tomas, to the day when we bump into one another in a hotel in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Until then, however, your email from Österlens Bookcafé was just great!

Warmest wishes


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