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for Books and Writers
by Bamber Gascoigne

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Anne Marie Appelgren (1956-)


Anne Marie Appelgren was born in Tammisaari (Ekenaes), a small town in the south of Finland. Her father was a journalist and her mother a teacher. The family, part of the Swedish speaking minority of the country, moved often and lived in quite a number of towns, including Helsinki (Helsingfors) and Pietarsaari (Jakobstad), where she first went to school before the family moved to Sweden in 1964, to the industrial town Eskilstuna. Appelgren has also lived in Stockholm, Mariefred, Venezuela and Spain and is now living in Straengnaes with her family. She has worked as a journalist, shop-keeper, translator among other things.

Her life has been conditioned by the traumas of the second world war. Both of her parents were sent to Sweden when Finland was under attack, as part of a program designed to save children. Nevertheless many emotional traumas were caused by this and Appelgren's father also lost his mother in a German airstrike on Turku (Åbo) in 1940. Appelgen's maternal grandfather was German, from Mecklenburg, and her mother was born in Germany. Appelgren's uncle Kurt Moeller was injured outside Stalingrad and died in 1941, only 19 years old. Her second novel Skuggan av Saturnus (The Shadow of Saturn) deals with the glamorization of Nazism as opposed to its grim and gruesome reality, she is also trying to explore the philosophy of German romanticists such as Schelling and somehow connect this with the Finnish national epic Kalevala, and the Nordic love of nature. Skuggan av Saturnus is also the story of a troubled woman who is torn between two lovers, Robert, the wounded hero and the man of power, Max. The storyline combines Rosemary's Baby - one of the characters is even called Rosa - with elements from Anna Karenina. In first chapter, in which an anonymous woman draws a picture, Appelgren summarizes her narrative strategy. From the start the story proceeds in picture-like scenes. The effect of 'stilleleben' is emphasized by the use of present tense and short sentences.

In Skuggan av Saturn Appelgren asks "what created Adolf H." "Vad var det som gjorde Adolf H. till Adolf H. Vilken kraft bar honom fram för att sedan störta honom i avgrunden. Vilken gud tjänade Tysken..." Behind the question echoes Carl Jung's theories of German mentality. Jung saw Wotan, the ancient German God, as the personification of the moving spirit behind Hitler. "Wotan is the noise in the wood, the rushing waters, the one who causes natural catastrophes, and wars among human beings. He is the great sorcerer." (from Jung's Seminar on Nietzsche's Zarathustra, ed. by James L. Jarrett, 1998) Max, the mysterious, beautiful, and devilish figure of the story, has a strange power over Anna and other characters. She and Robert are finally destroyed by Max, who has a winning smile but no conscience. Skuggan av Saturn also continues the debate about narcissism and Nazism, which the journalist Yrsa Stenius started in 1981 with Jag älskar mig (1980), a portrait of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. Speer spent twenty years in Spandau, never really feeling guilty. He was talented, handsome, well-educated, and intelligent. Nevertheless, he was lured by Nazis' grandiose architectural schemes, and was condemned in Nüremberg.

"Seemingly endless halls cluttered with innumerable technical innovations, some modern and others more or less obsolete. The development of the mining industry demonstrated with the help of oversized models, cars of all sorts and ages, motorcycles, aeroplanes, typewriters, machines to make paper, photographic equipment, elevators, scales, lamps, windows without a view, everything being watched over by men, busily taking care of all paraphernalia, clad in grey cotton robes.
He took the elevator to the top floor and arrived just in time for a demonstration of the Planetarium, he sat down and leaned back in his chair, allowing his mind to be sucked into the black, star spangled heaven up there in the ceiling.
He imagined an army of engineers marching in the service of humankind or political power, armed with compasses, rulers and other pieces of technical equipment, and they all kept marching right into an immense void, into nothing.
Many of them did march along with the man who enjoyed quoting the words of Nietzsche: "You are travelling along the path of your greatness. May it be your highest courage and let no prayers remain. The weakest in you must become the hardest. The one who tries to spare himself shall fall ill from it." Adolf H. leading hordes of polar people en route to the Polar star. He had to laugh at the thought as the Munich night sky during the month of July was being demonstrated.
A name came to his mind. Hörbiger. Hörbiger had provided the Nazis with a metaphysical superstructure to words like annihilate, liquidate, extinguish, erase, special force, purification, chicken-hearted. Robert sensed that the ghost of Hörbiger, astrologer and world ice prophet, was still on the search for the new Man among desolate show-cases, amongst all these untermenschen gaping at the products of a monumental and mocking laughter throughout cosmos, echoing through the big halls.
Hörbiger had predicted that the Moon shall draw nearer to the earth, thereby increasing its power of attraction and that the waters of the oceans shall rise and become a huge flood, inundating the tropics and immersing even the highest mountains. He also said that people would become increasingly liberated from the heavy load dragging them down, they shall grow as the cosmic radiation multiplies, affecting genes and chromosomes and thereby causing mutations.
New races, gigantic plants and huge animals. Giants who, equipped with unprecedented powers, alone possess the potential and capacity to stall the deluge, after defeating the cunning and shrewd midgets.
A blood memory of the inner eye of man, the living soul turned hard and ruthless world conscience, saviours of the world and cosmos... Unrelenting in the struggle between ice and fire, between hot sap and cold reason.
The latent world power, in reawakening the magic dwelling in the post Christian soul, the power of the blood. Power, which came with the spear, the spear which poured the blood of Christ, the blood being gathered in the chalice by Joseph of Arimatea, the chalice Himmler claimed to have located in Montsegur, France, the chalice which would soon become the self-evident central relic in the new Reich of Bayreuth.
The shimmering golden chalice of legends, cornucopia, sacred well. Could it be that it was being filled with the semen of the beast in order to, when the time had come, sow dragon seeds in pure Aryan wombs, a thousandfold immaculate conception soon breeding pale greyish muscular creatures nourishing themselves on hate and vengeance. A bonfire of incessant wrath, the dead returning to avenge their agony. Despairing emptiness and anguish over living death.
Transient consolation through battle, aggression, war, the only recollection of life, of pain and sorrow. To tear to pieces or be shattered. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the God and the one making the sacrifice has been chosen. The only way to silence the reverberating echoes of moaned lamentations is to kill anew. Kill, kill and kill again. To risk being eternally damned and condemned, to release a flood of light over an ocean of blood."

Appelgren's first novel Salto Mortal takes place in Andalusia, where she lived 1980-82 and where her first son was also born. It is a dreamlike story, testing the borders between prose and poetry. Salto Mortal is the story of two young women, Rita and Marina, seen from the perspective of Marina. The story begins gloomily in Stockholm, manifesting the psychological equivalent of alchemical lead. The book is partly built upon alchemical premises, the colours being grey-black, sanguine red and mother-of-pearl white. Appelgren is trying to achieve a sense of "emotional alchemy" in all her writing.

The language and story heats up when the two young women come to Spain, as the story becomes more erotic and emotional altogether with jealousy, lust and hate.

"In the yellow sand lay a heart - pulsating, little grains of sand clinging to its tight pink skin, like a cockle, rooted in a deep secret well. Something claimed its birth right here and now - breathing silently, softly, gasping and frail, embracing the earth within its dreams and slowly strangulating the swirling space.
The meat of the sea lay washed ashore. Fish silently swimming through bloodstained glass and endless corridors. Blood sticky blood, on the soles of my shoes. Blood of the womb - absorbed into white sterile compresses. Blood of my womb - already washed off the sidewalks, shimmering in the first light like pearls of purple shadow."

In the end, Marina is alone, and it is as if though her emotions have been cleansed and purified. She has crossed some kind of border.

The exploration of borders and boundaries and the crossing of these is almost an obsession with Appelgren. This also applies to how she makes use of different styles to reach an almost surrealistic effect. In her soon to be published third novel she deals with the wall or perhaps it is only a veil, separating the dead from the living. This story takes place in the lovely and lush landscape of Soermland in Sweden, where the writer is currently living, and deals with issues of midsummer mystery, redemption and reconciliation. Anne Marie Appelgren is currently writing a novel in English.

Appelgren has also published a journalistic book about astrology, in English the title would be Astrology Today - Self-knowledge through Symbols, which received good reviews: "Here is the broader picture; astrology is regarded as a way to reach psychological understanding... Firstly astrology is discussed in general, the role of the astrologer, the connections to Jungian psychology etc. (...) The result is a versatile and illuminating picture of how the students and savants of astrology regard their subject."

Published works:

  • Salto Mortal, 1990, roman, ISBN 91-7964-057-5
  • Skuggan av Saturnus, roman, 1992, ISBN 91-7964-102-4
  • Astrologi i dag. Självkännedom genom symboler, 1994, ISBN 91-534-1573-6
  • Ellen Bass, Laura Davis, The courage to heal. - Incest och andra sexuella övergrepp. Handbok för överlevare, 1996, ISBN 91-534-1759-3, 91-534-1765-8
  • translator: John Hudson, Instant meditation for stress relief. - Meditation för alla sinnen. Andningstekniker och tankeövningar för att uppnå lugn och välbefinnande, 1999, ISBN 91-534-2031-4
  • translator: Richard Craze, Practical Feng Shui. - Feng shui. Konsten att leva i harmoni med sin omgivning, 1999, ISBN 91-534-2020-9

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