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Agneta Pleijel

Snails and Snow

She is the first female to be appointed Editor-in-Chief of the culture pages at a Swedish daily newspaper. It is the middle of the political 1970s and at Aftonbladet’s editorial office in the old Klara quarters, the smoke lingers dense, and the pub crawls run into the early hours of the morning. But she must get home to the townhouse in suburban Farsta. Her marriage is strained, and having to take care of both work, husband and child is a difficult equation. She ventures out to explore her own self, as well as men and sexuality. At last she finds the love of her life, and passion. Something that will reveal itself as far more complex than anticipated.

Snails and Snow is the third part of Agneta Pleijel’s auto-fictive memoirs – a journey through deceptive memories and the longing to write. In A Fortune Foretold, Pleijel sought out the girl that was once her, in her childhood Stockholm and Lund. In The Scent of a Man, she closely followed the young woman during her student years in Gothenburg. Snails and Snow begin with her first years as a professional, leading up to the authorship we see today. Agneta Pleijel follows the trail of the snail through life as a daughter, mother, working woman and lover.

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About the author

Pleijel

Agneta Pleijel is one of Sweden’s most cherished authors. Since her debut in 1970, she has been active both as a novelist, poet and playwright. Pleijel’s books have been translated into a number of languages and she has been awarded several prestigious literary prizes. Her latest books are the bestselling and critically acclaimed A Fortune Foretold and The…

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She is the first female to be appointed Editor-in-Chief of the culture pages at a Swedish daily newspaper. It is the middle of the political 1970s and at Aftonbladet’s editorial office in the old Klara quarters, the smoke lingers dense, and the pub crawls run into the early hours of the morning. But she must get home to the townhouse in suburban Farsta. Her marriage is strained, and having to take care of both work, husband and child is a difficult equation. She ventures out to explore her own self, as well as men and sexuality. At last she finds the love of her life, and passion. Something that will reveal itself as far more complex than anticipated.

Snails and Snow is the third part of Agneta Pleijel’s auto-fictive memoirs – a journey through deceptive memories and the longing to write. In A Fortune Foretold, Pleijel sought out the girl that was once her, in her childhood Stockholm and Lund. In The Scent of a Man, she closely followed the young woman during her student years in Gothenburg. Snails and Snow begin with her first years as a professional, leading up to the authorship we see today. Agneta Pleijel follows the trail of the snail through life as a daughter, mother, working woman and lover.

Reviews

A Fortune Fortold, The Scent of a Man and Snails and Snow together form a masterful personal project that will delight many

Like in previous novels, the author moves between the auto-fictional “I” and the third person: “she”. The flashbacks (written in the historical present) revolve around “she”, and the one who remembers, who documents her life, who is piecing together photographs and old letters, diary entries and dream fragments, is the “I” in this novel. Still, Pleijel insists on labelling the books novels. It begins with the author, now in her eighties, as she is looking at photographs of herself as a child. How she describes and tries to interpret. How she puts everything in context: the family, but also the world events: what is called history. Agneta Pleijel was born in 1940, so there is a familiar backdrop. And the world continues to be a towering presence throughout life, a relentless reminder. Also, because the author is a dedicated citizen. In that sense, her books recall Annie Ernaux /… / A Fortune Fortold, The Scent of a Man and Snails and Snow together form a masterful personal project that will delight many.

Göteborgs-Posten
“One’s entire life, this pursuit to attain something unreachable. The urge to play a part. To be seen. To live in love.” In four simple sentences Pleijel brilliantly summarises fundamental human desires, and thereby elevates the story to a universal meditation on human existence.

What Agneta Pleijel is occupied with is auto-fiction rather than auto-biography, and she has found her own tone: subdued yet powerful, deeply intimate yet serenely contemplative. The story’s main protagonist is described as “her”, which creates a distance between her and the “I” that occasionally appears. It is an excellent way to protect oneself as a storyteller, and to remind the reader about the permeable border between auto-biography and fiction. Through fragmentary re-takes, Agneta Pleijel brings us on a journey beginning in the early 1940s when “she”, the firstborn child of a pianist and a mathematician, is captured in several photographs. To see pictures of oneself as an infant is like spectating someone else. The narrator, however, detects signs how ”she” will later come to life her life: “One’s entire life, this pursuit to attain something unreachable. The urge to play a part. To be seen. To live in love.” In four simple sentences Pleijel brilliantly summarises fundamental human desires, and thereby elevates the story to a universal meditation on human existence.

Norrköpings-Tidningar
a relentless memory quest in search of life’s most painful parts

I know that we are many (…) that have longed for the next instalment in Agneta Pleijel’s auto-fictive memoir, following the previous book, The Scent of a Man. Snails and Snow is finally here and it’s a relentless memory quest in search of life’s most painful parts /… / The now eighty-three year-old Agneta Pleijel recently blurted out in an interview that one of her dreams is to be universal. And she admirably achieves this with her private, intimate memories. It’s as if oneself as a reader – just like the woman in the book – undergoes painful psychoanalysis, what became of that female life? In addition, everything is executed in such a crystal clear and sensual prose. Agneta Pleijel has also said that she will not write any more novels. If that’s the case, she ends things at the literary height of her life with this book.

Sveriges Radio Kulturnytt
I can’t quite comprehend how Agneta Pleijel’s seemingly simple shift between the personal pronouns “she” and “I” can be as striking as it is

”I can’t quite comprehend how Agneta Pleijel’s seemingly simple shift between the personal pronouns “she” and “I” can be as striking as it is. Snails and Snow is the third part in a series of literary memoirs where she uses this device, but its power does not subside. Quite the opposite. Pleijel smoothly drifts between the I that remembers and the She that is the object of all memories; the first and the third person narrator can exist in the same sentence. It adds a particular intensity to the text /… / It is not difficult to understand why Pleijel has chosen the snail as a symbol for this novel about an often-strenuous female existence, with an elegant self-deprecating wink to the common notion about the corporal, slimy female genitalia. But above all, the snail is a writer: writing life is a struggle, but one where you leave a distinct trace. It’s only that with Agneta Pleijel, these traces are not slimy at all, but completely and utterly crystal clear.

Svenska Dagbladet

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