Karlsson-on-the Roof (Lillebror och Karlsson pa taket, 1955) was illustrated by Jan Pyk and translated by Marianne Turner. It is listed on Astrid Lindgren’s site as “Smidge and Karlson on the Roof,” although in my translation the main character is neither Lillebror or Smidge but is named . . .
wait for it . . .
Dear Translators of Astrid Lindgren’s Works,
Why do you insist upon translating all these names she chose into the name “Eric”?! Lillebror (“little brother”) sums up lots of things about this character, but by naming him Eric you wipe all that away. And even if you were going to change the name, do you always have to pick “Eric” . . .? Are there not other names you could use occasionally? I am actually surprised that Kajsa Kavat was translated into Brenda Brave rather than Erica Brave.
A disgruntled reader
Well, now that that’s out of the way, let’s continue.
Karlsson is a strange flying man who, frankly, is a total bully. I wanted to like him more than I did. I love the idea of a strange man living on roofs and visiting people and playing tricks. But . . . Karlsson is mean. Pippi plays tricks, but more often than not she does it without meaning to, and always without meaning harm. When she does play mean tricks they are always in self-defense. Emil plays tricks, but his heart is always in the right place. Karlsson, however, is a selfish, egomaniacal control freak. I kept waiting for “Eric” to have enough of his garbage, but “Eric” never does. It made me sad. Poor “Eric.”
Not that there aren’t moments of humor in the book; it’s a quick, fun read. “Eric” hasn’t quite figured out how it all works when he begins this conversation:
“Mommy! I was born in Stockholm, wasn’t I?” said Eric.
“Yes, of course you were,” said Mommy.
“But Bobby and Betty [siblings] – they were born in Malmo?”
“Yes, they were.”
“And you, Daddy, you were born in Gothenburg, you said.”
“Yes, I’m a Gothenburger,” said Daddy.
“And where were you born, Mommy?”
“In Eskilstuna,” said Mommy.
Eric threw his arms around her neck.
“Wasn’t it terrifically lucky that we all met!”