a book blog about reading all of lindgren's books in 2015

Posts tagged ‘kati series’

Kati in America

Astrid_KIAKati in America (Kati i Amerika, 1950, translated by Marianne Turner) was the final book I read about Kati, although it is first in the series.  I feel that this edition ought not to be read last, for my very favorite part of the series has been Kati’s best friend Eva, and Eva is barely mentioned in this book.  Instead, Kati’s aunt provides the comic relief.  Eva is much cooler.  Had I read this book first, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing.

Kati decides to blow her inheritance on a trip to America, partially because her dumb boyfriend Jan won’t shut up about it.  She leaves him in Sweden and goes wild and crazy in America, dancing with men and hitch-hiking and, far more dangerously, taking a Greyhound bus.

The Kati and Aunt Show begins in New York where they end up moving in with some rich guy who needs help cooking for a few days (what? crazy things happen in America!).  There she ends up meeting Bob, a loser who she roadtrips with.  She also dares the bus, saying, “If you want to see a good cross-section of the American nation, all you need to do is to go and sit down in the waiting hall of one of those big Greyhound coach depots.  The numerous ticket offices are besieged by an endless stream of people of every colour, size and age.”  Yup.
But wait, Kati’s not done waxing poetic about the bus: “I felt there was a pretty good chance the the bus I was travelling on might go astray, and it does break the monotony of life when things don’t go according to plan.”
Well, Kati/Astrid really nailed Greyhound with that!  Nothing has changed on the bus since Kati took it.  Well, except segregation.  Astrid Lindgren does not shy away from describing the situation for African-Americans during that era.  Her language is not always comfortable, at least not for this day, referring to blacks as “the coloured race,” “young negro girl,” and, embarrassingly, “darkies.”  How much of this is just a rough translation, how much of it is accurate translation, how much was totally acceptable back then, how much did Lindgren want us to feel uncomfortable . . .?  Yeah, things sucked back then (*cough*even more than they do now*cough*) for African-Americans, and it shouldn’t be comfortable to read about it.

I enjoy how sometimes in Astrid Lindgren’s writing, she fakes a reader out.  This happens a lot in the Emil series and it happens in this book too when Kati is at a wishing well: “I sacrificed five United States cents, and wished that I . . . No!  I won’t tell you what I wished for.”  We can only guess.  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with boys.

Kati’s worldview, especially about men, is a little laugh-inducing sometimes: “You must admit there’s something rather wild and wayward about menfolk after all,” she informs her aunt.  Her crotchety aunt points out that it’s Kati flying across the ocean to go to America.  Kati, 0.  Auntie, 1.

Anyway, Kati and Auntie end up in New Orleans and then Kati has a brilliant, amazing idea!

“Do let’s make a pilgrimage to Minnesota. After all, it’s practically a Swedish colony.  Why, you can’t turn a corner without bumping into the son of an offspring of a Swedish Immigrant.”  GOOD THINKING, KATI.

And so they go to Minneapolis, taking a MNbus to the Falls of Minnehaha, seeing the Mississippi again (first visited in Louisiana), and they go to a cemetery.  Kati goes on and on (and on) about all the Swedish names, inventing histories about the hard times they had coming to America and dying young.  This makes her homesick so they go to the Swedish Institute and enjoy a concert.  Well, Kati doesn’t enjoy it because she’s so sad.  Don’t hang out in cemeteries then.
“To sit there, so far from home, and hear a male voice choice, the members of which had, perhaps, never set foot in Sweden, and yet were so aware of the land of their origin . . . ”

Then boom, they are in Chicago, Kati ditches Auntie, and reflects: “Most of us, at home, have no idea of the unrequited love and loyalty the Swedish-Americans have for their Homeland.  If we had, we would try to keep in touch with them and show our appreciation of their achievements.  But no, we wander about underneath our pines and fir trees, oblivious of the waves of longing which flow across the Atlantic in an easterly direction.”

Kati can’t leave America without poking at least a little bit of fun at us: “People [in the park] were lying about in groups all over the place, especially around the notice boards which said: ‘KEEP OFF.’  Because the Americans love their liberty.”

Damn right.  ‘Murica!

Kati in Italy

Kati in Italy tells of the time when Kati and Eva won a small fortune and decided to blow it all on a trip to Italy. Astrid_KiI (That’s pretty much always the right thing to do.)  This story is titled Kati pa Kaptensgatan in Swedish, which is something like Kati on Captains Street.  And yes, some of the story does take place in Kati’s place on Captains Street.  However, for once I’m not going to quibble about title changes, because the story is really about Kati in Italy.  So there.

Similar to Kati in Paris, if you don’t already have some affinity for Italy, this book might drive you nuts.  Astrid Lindgren paints beautiful descriptions of Venice, Rome, Florence, Naples, etc., but you might just want to smack Kati for not enjoying it as much as she should be, because she’s too busy mooning over the stupid boy she goes on to marry in Kati in Paris.  Get a grip, Kati.  Seriously.  Don’t invite this girl on vacation.  Unless you like having your trip ruined.

Also similar to Kati in Paris, Eva is the true highlight of the book.  If I can bend reality a little, I can pretend that Eva-Lotta of the Bill Bergson books grew up to be this Eva.  “Don’t read so much, Kati,” Eva tells her best friend, “Live, instead.”

The scene where Kati and Eva accidentally crash a party for an old lady they’ve never met is pretty special.  Kati muses: Eva has a clear, high soprano voice, and my little alto voice is very pretty too.  We sometimes play the Andrews Sisters, and here we had a wonderful opportunity to show what we could do.

Astrid_Andrews

Kati aspires to be this cool.

Why is that special?  Well, it isn’t for anyone except me. The Andrews Sisters are from the town where I live and where I’ve read every Astrid Lindgren book so far.  The Andrews Sisters are from here!

So is Kevin Sorbo.  I will be way more impressed if Kevin Sorbo makes a cameo appearance in an Astrid Lindgren book.

Astrid_Sorbo

Nope.

Final words of wisdom from inside Kati’s head: There is no dainty, elegant way to eat spaghetti – it just isn’t possible.

Final words of wisdom from Eva: “I don’t want to criticize contemporary males, but they aren’t especially magnificent,” said Eva.

And to prove her point, below are some Kevin Sorbo memes.  Why?  Well, you try reading 60 books by the same author in a month and a half and then you’ll understand.

Sorbo

Nope.

Sorbo2

Nope.

Kati in Paris

Astrid_KiPThis is the forgotten series by Astrid Lindgren(besides that Children of the World series which everyone has been trying to forget).  There are three Kati books that chronicle a young woman’s life. The edition of Kati in Paris (Swedish: Kati i Paris, 1953, no translator listed) that I read included a handful of pictures by Daniel DuPuy, all in color and on glossier paper than the rest of the book.  I mention this because the book feels and looks different from anything else Lindgren wrote — and the subject matter follows suit. These were obviously written for an older audience and they read like teen fiction. Astrid Lindgren’s official site sums it up: Today these three Kati-books appear to have their own special genre, of which this is the last: books for girls with a combination of reporting, portrayal of a woman’s business-life and in this last “edition”, a love-and-marriage novel.

Yes.  This is the only book I’ve read by Lindgren that by any stretch of the imagination could be called a romance novel or a “love-and-marriage” novel, though all of Astrid’s books deal with love in some form.  I enjoyed seeing this side of Lindgren’s writing.  Although I jumped into the series at the end due to a quirk in the library system, I loved the depth of the characters she created.

There’s Lennart, Kati’s fiance, of whom she says, “Lennart was far from the first man in my life.  He was the second, and I hoped he would be the last.”

There’s Eva, Kati’s BFF, who she describes like this: I was thinking of the list Eva had in her desk drawer in the office: ‘If I get rabies, these are the people I’m going to bite.'”

And then there is Paris: “Old cities are strange.  Human beings crowd together, live their brief lives, work, love, laugh, and cry for a time in this city which they call Paris.  Gradually they die, and their places are taken by other people who work and love and laugh and cry; and then they, too, are gone.  But don’t they leave behind something of their joy and their pain, their desires, their thoughts, their sorrows and their longing, their hates, their fears?  Isn’t that what I feel when I walk around in their city?  Don’t the cobblestones murmur a quiet account of those who lived here before?  I can go anywhere in Paris, and those who live here. . .can’t outshout the cobblestones.”

Of course, there’s part of me that chafes at the fact that Kati gives up her job which she is fond of in order to have a baby.  But there are also progressive ideas in this book, like the fact that Kati and Lennart move next door to Kati’s friend Eva.  Eva is such a part of Kati’s life – a part that Lennart just has to accept and love.  Indeed, it seems that Lennart gives up more for the marriage than Kati does, straining his relationship with his mother.

In the end, you can tell that this book was written in the 1950s and not in the 2000s, but its tone is, if anything, quaint – far from oppressive or offensive. As a stand-alone book, I enjoyed it, although descriptions of Paris would be tremendously tedious if one has not been to Paris and already developed a love for it.  The Kati books are very rare, though, so finding a copy to read will be a challenge.  I was only able to read Kati in Paris because my boyfriend Peter finagled it from an out-of-state library.  Major thanks to Peter.