Everybody carries baggage and may need to forget the past to get ahead, “Oublier son passé” by Karin Alvtegen


This is another recent novel from Sweden. It yet has to be published in English. When it does it will carry the title “A Probable Story”, which carries a different connotation than the French title which reads like “Forgetting One’s Past”. A Probable Story sound to me like any story can be interpreted in a variety of ways and any interpretation carries a probability of being close to the truth, hence it is a “probable story”. And this may indeed describe part of the situation described in the book where a woman on the verge of being divorced has a very different interpretation of the evolution of her marriage than her husband does and is totally taken by surprise when he decides to leave. There is a lot of discussion in this book of the interpretation of facts, of narrow-minded or provincial thinking, of the acceptance of difference.

There is also a strange collision of destinies between people variously damaged by life:

–          Helena, about to be divorced and the child of an alcoholic mother, which grew up in penury (both materially and emotionally), found happiness and fulfillment with Martin, until her partially-made up world collapses when he leaves.

–          Anders, a rich self-made business man, who survives a suicide attempt and tries to find new meaning in his life by accepting a painting contract for Helena’s country hotel without revealing who he really is.

–          Anna-Karin, a childhood friend of Helena, who suffered from feeling compelled to stay in the country and has a inferiority complex because of this, which comes out in a mean negative attitude towards anyone and anything which does not conform to her established ways (including her homosexual son).

–          Verner, an eccentric man who lives in a decrepit shack in the forest on Anna-Karin’s property. He turns out to be the love child of Anna-Karin’s aunt, a former famous painter, and a former sailor.

The end of the book is fairly open-ended. I would have expected more resolution at the end, but then it is also nice to imagine how life can go on for all characters.


Alvtegen, Karin. Oublier son passé. JC Lattès, 2012. (published in Swedish in 2010 by Alvtegen production AB)

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