ORDEN SOM FORMADE SVERIGE – MADE IN SWEDEN – 25 ideas that created a nation

By Elisabeth Åsbrink

Scandinavia is trendy. The word “hygge” escaped from Denmark and tours the world, promoting the Danish idea of happiness and covering up for the high usage of anti-depressives there. Something similar is going on with the word “lagom”. In a race with other Swedish identity concepts of older sorts, like IKEA, meatballs, Roxette and Ibra, the concept of “lagom” has completely taken over.

The word “lagom” means enough or good enough, and is used to promote Sweden as modern, pleasant country with good taste in design, music and crime literature. But actually, Sweden isn´t “lagom” at all. On the contrary, the Swedish way of living and the basic values are extreme compared to rest of the world. Ingmar Bergman being Swedish is no coincidence, the same goes for the fact that Sweden is the country which had 63 888 of its citizens sterilized – a Swedish record not many have heard of. Only Nazi-Germany beats it. Nothing “lagom” about that.

By the way, I love this strange country in which I happen to be born. But my love isn’t blind.

First published by Natur & Kultur, August 2018

Italy, Iperborea
Poland, Wielka Litera
World English, Scribe

“Elisabeth Åsbrink takes us on a brilliant voyage of discovery to the history of ideas in Sweden.”
Dagens Nyheter

“Challenging and stimulating on Swedish words. […] In common with Orwell she condemns chauvinism, but leaves room for patriotism, as love for a specific place, or language, matters as such one would not want to force upon others.”

“Åsbrink as ever writes with clarity, sometimes incisive and poignant, and always with a great curiosity. […]The chapter on what the Swedes knew or did not know of the Holocaust is one of the most eloquent literary executions of Jan Guillou that has ever been written, this on his quite recent assertion that the Swedes did not hear of the genocide until after 1945.”

“Åsbrink’s book is a singular achievement. It reveals more about the Swedes than it does Sweden. More on values, more on language and the world of ideas than on dates, or regencies and their length.The line of thought is unrestrained, leaping between different eras as it stumbles across parallels, the broad strokes of narrative freely punctuated with anachronism and digression, and as a work of reference for those of us who mostly spent our history lessons looking out of the classroom window, it is unbeatable.”

“I hope “The Words that Shaped Sweden” becomes a widely read book.”
Smålandsposten, Barometern

“It is well-written, often funny and it challenges the reader to respond and think up better, more personal examples.”

“At times in recent years it has seemed that Britain’s love-affair with all things Scandi would never end. We seem to believe the food, furnishings, fiction, fashion and general belief system of the Swedes and their neighbours to be more sophisticated, more admirable and more evolved than our own. We have all aspired to be Swedish. But have we invested all our faith in a fantasy Sweden? With her trademark elegance, intelligence and wit, Elisabeth Asbrink demonstrates definitively in MADE IN SWEDEN that Sweden is far less homogenous, moderate, egalitarian, self-knowing or tolerant than it would like to (have us) think. Using two dozen of the most resonant words and concepts in the language, this book will give the world’s understanding of Swedish values a short, sharp corrective shock – as the Swedish electorate might just also do this coming weekend…”
Philip Gwyn Jones, Publisher-at-Large, Scribe