Interview: Sofia

Sofia is one serious student. She grew up in Helsingborg, Sweden (under the lidless eye of Hamlet’s castle‘s lighthouse), and has since lived in Malmö, Paris and the States. This fall, she’s decided to endure elitism incarnate and move to Stockholm.

1. What is it about American men?

Although I’ve encountered many a benevolent French Person and even some in all ways attractive French Men, I’ve never experienced a basic sense of cultural cohesion with them. Having lived in a different country when I was young, I acquired a persona that can’t be attributed to Swedish culture. I’ve forgotten about it for long periods at a time, but I think that one of the fundamental reasons I was attracted to Mischa (other ones being his height and that he was wearing a most handsome blazer at the time) was because he offered me a possibility of accessing that part of myself, a part that was absent from my life and which I had almost forgotten about. The combination of proximity and distance to me was enticing, since I’d spent my more adult years almost completely without what I internalized from that culture. My particular American also has a wonderful understanding of Swedish women, as can be read in the answer to his question.

2. According to the last census, there are 4.5 million Swedes, half the population of Sweden, living in the United States. How do you explain such a significant diaspora?

If I may, Greg, it is actually an approximate third of the population of Sweden, as we in the homeland have recently attained the impressive number of 9,208,324. Should one count the amount of Swedes settled in Australia, Argentina, Japan, European capitals and that country within a city, Le Pop-in, it’s possible that number might be doubled. Swedes are prolific travelers – maybe it’s the cold winters, the lack of sunlight, the statistic possibility of every countryman you know killing themselves sooner or later, or maybe it’s just a healthy curiosity in the outside world. Of course, the bulk of those 4.5 million traversed the Atlantic during the second half of the 19th century, and for them I think the impossibility of surviving in their native country was the driving force. We were pretty slow to adapt to industrialization and farming potatoes may have gotten us cheap vodka, but it didn’t make us rich. There is a quite well-known and well-loved saga by author Vilhelm Moberg called The Emigrants on the subject which I’m sure explains it better, if you’re looking for in-depth description.

I should add that, contrary to my previous suggestions, Swedes don’t seem at all anxious to escape the Nordic climate, as most of them settled in even more hellish places, voire Minnesota, Michigan and Delaware.

3. And why do you think everyone is so gaga for Swedish music and fashion? (Are Cheap Mondays still cool?)

Because a lot of it is so very good. Sweden has produced a disproportionate amount of good music over the past decades (attributable to state funded music schools), and since the mid-nineties that phenomenon has spread to fashion as well. Possibly due to the fact that it has such a small population it’s less easy for Sweden to rest in its own culture. It’s very sensitive to trends, something that led to good things, such as the skinny jean’s introduction to society approximately seven years before its appearance in France, and bad things, such as everyone sweating in the same 20-euro H&M sundress in July. The success of H&M is very much a result of the sensitivity of Swedes to the outside world, and has in itself led to a fashion-friendly climate, where many young designers are hired by H&M, or where the absence of the heavy tradition of native ancient haute couture houses leaves more space for innovation.

Cheap Mondays are not uncool. Like most normal jeans, they are a good foundation for a cool look, and are tight and cheap enough to have the potential to be cool in their own right. This all depends on the make and is provided that you don’t buy them three or four sizes too small, which is an unfortunate trend in many young men of the twee orientation. Also, one must be careful not to fall for the treachery of cheap clothes and buy one of the following makes [one, two, three] in the search of immaculate irony.

4. When you were an adolescent, you read Margaret Mitchell’s epic, Gone With the Wind, nearly a dozen times. How close is Rhett Butler to your ideal man?

To be able to answer that in the earnest manner you have asked for, I must correct your question somewhat: I certainly read Gone with the Wind during my adolescence, but the first time I opened the book I was seven. I wasn’t able to finish it until a few months later, but, to make up for lost time, I reread it five times before I turned ten. At the time, I read the book not as a study of Rhett but of Scarlett, with whom I was very impressed (willful, mischievous, lacking in the emotional department but the owner of a 16-inch waist, et cetera ). The best part of the book and my strongest memory connected to it was being able to ask my classmate in second grade, Billy Conover, how many pages the longest book he had ever read held. I forget his exact answer, but I remember it being none too close to reaching even a tenth of the 1024 pages my tattered copy of Gone with the Wind originally spanned.

But I digress. Rhett Butler was of a quick-witted, sensual and self-interested nature, who liked to see women dance, had a good sense of humor, didn’t mind dating a financially independent alcoholic, was evolved enough to recognize superior moral qualities in the mousy Melanie and was foolishly romantic enough to stick around while his county belle was quite obviously trying to seduce a helpless and hapless Ashley Wilkes. Maybe because I read the book so many times (not ‘nearly’, but more than, a dozen) these qualities began to grow on me and I recognized in Rhett the true hero of the story – the outsider who reunites strength and emotional intelligence, a task at which all the others fail miserably. He also had incredibly shiny hair. However, I must confess that I would probably have snubbed him had I met him outside the Popin, seeing as how both panama hats and the excessive tan sported by Clark Gable on the front cover (which stuck around longer than the back cover and the last five pages, falling off my copy but four years ago) are not on any of the lists of desired qualities in a man that I composed between twelve and twenty.

5. Your native language is Skånska, which lets you communicate with Norwegians, Danes and other Swedes. You also speak flawless French and English (and, while we’re at it, intermediate German and a little Russian). That means you could communicate with Viggo Mortensen in five different languages. What would you say to him?

I’m curious to know if he read Fonelle’s blog where she spoke of him, herself, a horse, and boys with a lot of hair, and what he thought about it. I didn’t quite understand it. It was something sexual. I might also ask him where he was when Heath Ledger died. I think their appeal is quite similar, although the late Ledger’s not having starred in Lord of the Rings does have an impact on their respective statuses with me. For a third question, just to prolong my moment in the presence of fame, I would possibly inquire as to why a it is that a man of nearly fifty years old who is able to communicate in seven languages, who has acted well enough to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, who is a musician, photographer, poet and – above all – is SCANDINAVIAN would not be able to sound less dense and doltish on the extra material on the special edition of The Two Towers when little Gimli, son of Glóin, spoke so well.

But then again, I might not ask him anything at all. I was always more into Legolas (he can walk on snow) and all I know about Viggo comes from an often inaccurate internet encyclopedia.

6. You study something called ‘intellectual history.’ If we don’t study intellectual history, are we doomed to repeat it?

I think we are more likely to repeat it the more we know of it.

7. You live, in sin, with a man of very strong opinions. How does that affect your relationship dynamic?

We actually have a common law-marriage, according to the Swedish classification system. Your assessment of Mischa is correct, and I, as you might have gathered from me correcting most of your questions, am rather argumentative. In the beginning of our relationship, I was reduced to wrath, tears and the need for some very long, solitary walks due to my boyfriend’s lack of either the will or the capacity (the reason I usually favored) to understand my own views. After a while, I grasped that the best strategy for any continued, cheery carousing in our relationship was just to talk about things I knew we agreed on – the joys of drinking and dancing being a recurring topic. With accumulating wisdom, grace and serenity I understand that we most frequently think the same thing but express it differently.

That said, it would be very frustrating for me to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t have strong beliefs. I’ve liked to argue my whole life. It makes up a great part of my communication with my family, and although I try to minimize the amount I carry this tendency over into relationships with people that I’ve chosen to spend time with, a good amount has always been present in my more intimate bonds. If I couldn’t have a heated discussion with my beau once in a while about the things that are important to me, my life would be lacking.

8. What’s an alcoholic?

Oh god. It could be people who, at five in the morning, having consumed nine bottles of wine and thirty beers, while watching the garbage men and the first dogwalkers exiting their houses, call a 24 hour delivery service for a fourteen year old boy to come riding an angry scooter to deliver three more wine bottles and ten more beers, so they won’t have to go home.

Having been an appreciative but moderate drinker until my move to the country of 89 cent vintages (with ED offering the highest quality at that price) I have found myself setting new records every now and then for how much cheap white wine I can soak my insides in and for how long. I would classify myself, along with most of the people I enjoy hanging out with, as occasional dipsomaniacs. Drinking is one of my favorite things to do, not only for its own merits but for enhancing other things I love – dancing, punching, swimming, kebab.

It’s difficult to set a standard for a disease that affects so many people. Having read both AA guidelines and women’s magazine confessions à la ‘I was an alcoholic teen mother on crack,’ I don’t believe the field requires any more lists or theories, but I have been able to set one standard for abuse of the finer things. After a particularly exerting Parisian bacchanal some years ago, I slept over at my friend’s house together with her and her cousin. The next day, the three of us woke up in the late afternoon and went to the Père Lachaise cemetery. I was too hungover to do much else but stroll around aimlessly, wandering into the odd tree and longing for a cup of coffee. When we reached the point of the ineluctable visit to Jim Morrison’s grave, I caught a glimpse of the cousin finishing a bottle of vodka that he’d brought with him. Having nearly drained it, he splashed some drops on the tomb as a sacrifice to, ‘The Lizard King.’

This is my own vision of hell. Should I ever be degenerate enough to not only polish off 37.5 centiliters of firewater before the official start of martini hour but also to donate the rest to a dead druggie in leather pants, may a higher power take my liquor license away.

9. We used to go dancing three or more times a week at Le Pop-In. What’s changed?

I don’t know. I’m trying to figure this out. All I know is that the last couple of times I’ve tried to forcibly drag someone down that slippery staircase, they’ve held back, often with the phrase ‘Don’t you like just talking?’ Also, I think Mischa’s realization that a full-time semester included five and not four courses contributed something to it.

10. JAG… HETER… GREG!

Ska vi ta en simtur vid motorvägen, din alika?

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~ by ohkrapp on September 1, 2008.

4 Responses to “Interview: Sofia”

  1. göteborg!

  2. challenge met!

  3. ah göteborg – i used to live there too, you know.

  4. […] I’m having a meal and drinking wine with Ben and Sofia at an outdoor restaurant in a park. Sofia has a serious allergic reaction to the wine. I’m […]

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