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CULTURE

Welcome to The Local Sweden’s Book Club

The Local Sweden's Book Club is a place to learn about Swedish culture through reading, and we want you to be involved.

Welcome to The Local Sweden's Book Club
In a country with libraries this beautiful, how could you not be inspired to read more? File photo: Jann Lipka/imagebank.sweden.se

If you love books, want to learn more about Sweden, or to connect with like-minded people, The Local Sweden's Book Club is for you. You don’t need to speak Swedish or even be located in Sweden to take part, and it's free to join.

So how does it work?

Each month we read a different book with a connection to Sweden (chosen by Book Club members) and chat about it in person and in our dedicated Facebook group, which you can join here.

We're doing this because understanding a country doesn't just mean following the news, but also discovering its culture and reading its literature. For 15 years we've been reporting the news in Sweden, and our community of readers includes long-term expats, new arrivals, Swedes living abroad, and people who have never visited the country. This is our chance to read and talk about Sweden together. 

We cover a range of genres, going beyond Nordic noir to read fiction and non-fiction by a diverse range of writers, and we began with the wartime diaries kept by one of Sweden's most famous authors, Pippi Longstocking creator Astrid Lindgren.

This variety allows us to explore different parts of the country, and even different periods in its history, from between the pages of its best books.

Reading might be something we usually do in solitude, but something special happens when people come together to read, as you'll know if you've ever read a child's favourite story out loud to them, or read a book on a recommendation from a friend and found it helped you understand them in a new way.

In June we'll be reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling.

Our previous books are:

2019
April: A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45
May: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito
June: The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
July: Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
August: Never Stop Walking By Christina Rickardsson
September: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck 
October: A Sister in my House by Linda Olsson 
November: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
DecemberFishing in Utopia – Sweden and the Future That Disappeared by Andrew Brown

2020
January: 
The Serious Game by Hjalmar Söderberg
February: Beartown by Fredrik Backman
March: 
The Circle by Sara B Elfgren & Mats Strandberg
April: 
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
May: 
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Click the links above to read what those books were about, and what Book Club members thought of them.

Throughout 2019, we held five events in Stockholm, and kicked off with a talk about Astrid Lindgren and discussion of her wartime diaries on World Book Day, April 23rd. 

We also send out two to three newsletters a month with reflection on the month's book, and you can sign up for that by entering your email address below. 

And each month we try to interview the author and translator of the book we read where possible, putting Book Club members' questions to them. You can find all the interviews we've done so far below:

Above all, this is a community, and we're keen to hear from readers about your preferred genres or any book or event suggestions. Let us know what you'd like to get out of the Book Club! We do our best to select books that are widely available in translation and as e-books and audiobooks so that as many people as possible can take part, and will announce each title in advance so that we all have time to track down the book. 

If you'd like a say in how the Book Club is run and what we read, fill out the short survey below. You can also get in touch with us directly through email or, if you're a Member of The Local, by logging in to comment. The Local's Book Club is run by Catherine Edwards, and in 2019 has been supported by the European Journalism Centre's Engaged Journalism Accelerator.

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SWEDEN AND INDIA

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”

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