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Amanda Svensson

The Telegraph of the Soul

Somerset, England, 1992. Thirteen-year-old Iris and her mother live in a house with a small apple orchard, a house which they may or may not own. They lead a solitary life away from family and close friends, with only their neighbour, stonemason Hugo, as a potential confidante. In addition, Iris is homeschooled by her mother, who reads tarot cards for a living.
John Major is prime minister and British society is weighed down by recession, unemployment, and riots. In Iris’ world, the threats appear more indistinct. She is not sure which version of her mother’s whimsical stories to believe – stories involving the past, as well as the identity of Iris’ father. When a mysterious man appears on the street outside their house, asking Iris perturbing questions, things start to unravel.

Glasgow, Scotland, 1998. Iris is nineteen and living a bohemian lifestyle: sharing a flat with friends, working in Debenhams, playing her cello, and going to parties with art students. At a New Year’s Eve bash, she meets the ambitious musician Rupert. Together they form a band which becomes very popular with the locals, and which may potentially bring them fame. When the need for money becomes urgent, Iris’ newfound security suddenly turns precarious.

Amanda Svensson’s new novel is a story about love and ownership, loyalty and betrayal. About the lengths you will go to save what you love. About the impossibility to reach another human being, and the impossibility to not even try.

Amanda

About the author

Svensson

Amanda Svensson is an author, a cultural journalist and a translator. She made her debut in 2008, and her novels have been shortlisted for and awarded numerous prestigious prizes. A System so Magnificent it is Blinding (2019), Svensson’s latest novel, was awarded the Per Olov Enquist Literary Prize and Svenska Dagbladet’s Literature Prize. It was…

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France: Actes Sud, Germany: Btb/Luchterhand, Netherlands: Wereldbibliotheek, Norway: Gyldendal, Serbia: Blum

Somerset, England, 1992. Thirteen-year-old Iris and her mother live in a house with a small apple orchard, a house which they may or may not own. They lead a solitary life away from family and close friends, with only their neighbour, stonemason Hugo, as a potential confidante. In addition, Iris is homeschooled by her mother, who reads tarot cards for a living.
John Major is prime minister and British society is weighed down by recession, unemployment, and riots. In Iris’ world, the threats appear more indistinct. She is not sure which version of her mother’s whimsical stories to believe – stories involving the past, as well as the identity of Iris’ father. When a mysterious man appears on the street outside their house, asking Iris perturbing questions, things start to unravel.

Glasgow, Scotland, 1998. Iris is nineteen and living a bohemian lifestyle: sharing a flat with friends, working in Debenhams, playing her cello, and going to parties with art students. At a New Year’s Eve bash, she meets the ambitious musician Rupert. Together they form a band which becomes very popular with the locals, and which may potentially bring them fame. When the need for money becomes urgent, Iris’ newfound security suddenly turns precarious.

Amanda Svensson’s new novel is a story about love and ownership, loyalty and betrayal. About the lengths you will go to save what you love. About the impossibility to reach another human being, and the impossibility to not even try.

Reviews

Svensson steadily maintains her position as one of the most interesting writers of her generation

With her previous novel, bearing the Jonathan Safran Foer-esque title A System So Magnificent it is Blinding, Amanda Svensson took a bold leap in her authorship; a hefty tour de force with extra everything, a labyrinthine bildungsroman with a high entertainment value, which dealt with family drama as effortlessly as it did science and world politics. The Telegraph of the Soul is significantly more austere. Yet it shares the daredevilry with the previous novel, not least when it comes to the composition /… / Amanda Svensson has condensed her novel to 250 solid pages, but it feels just as rich as the latest tome. The prose is taut and exact, but still indicates the amount of research material that has shaped it; the world politics and its crises are as lucid as the depictions of Iris’ daily life. At the same time the story of the financial crisis of the early 1990s, via the collapse in 2008, reaches all the way into our present time of recession and financial woe. The importance of money cannot be ignored, even though Iris meets several people on the way who do their utmost to deny this fact. How does this impact her – over time? Amanda Svensson expands this question so that it doesn’t only involve money itself but also the broader idea of ownership – the desire to own or not to own – and its consequences in interpersonal relationships. The whole caboodle is seamlessly constructed but is also genuinely thought-provoking and Svensson steadily maintains her position as one of the most interesting writers of her generation.

Sydsvenskan
The Telegraph of the Soul is a maze-like novel about love, secrets and trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. It’s a very moving story, with an impressive structure

Svensson’s story zigzags through relationships, anecdotes and memories. The outset is an interplay between two timelines, Somerset 1992 and Glasgow six years later, and she allows Iris to convey everything through a vigorous first-person account. Here we find a heartfelt sensibility for nature and a careful documentation of intimate details, but also a comprehensive reflection on the political and financial status. Iris is permitted to be both curious, emotional, and inquisitive, but also disobedient, crass and despondent /… / Several of the scenes that Svensson portrays are both dramatic and absurd, influenced by the characters’ desire to, even if they can’t do everything correct, at least be accepted for their choices and actions. Iris’ occasionally harsh tone contributes to this. When Svensson towards the end adds yet another timeline, decades later, my immediate impression is that it becomes too elaborate. Yet she quickly finds details that stretches all the way into the apple-scented childhood paradise and elevates the whole story. The Telegraph of the Soul is a maze-like novel about love, secrets and trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. It’s a very moving story, with an impressive structure.

Svenska Dagbladet
In The Telegraph of the Soul the prose is equilibristic

In The Telegraph of the Soul the prose is equilibristic /… / It is composed with perfect pitch and is a joy to read. In addition, the authorship’s usual buoyancy has been abandoned in favour of an alarming pessimism. The verbal incapacity to capture an enduring truth becomes the book’s main theme. Is it even worth trying? /… / Svensson’s portrayal of the unfamiliar time and place is laid-back, almost carefree. Hence why it works so well. There are no unnecessary time markers. The reader is not constantly reminded about where and when the story takes place. Everything is commonplace and normal. But surely it can’t be a coincidence that Iris and Rupert’s band Soul Telegraph shares so many traits with Belle & Sebastian? The boys meet through a municipal music project for jobseekers, Iris plays the cello, Rupert is raised a Christian and according to a student magazine, their music is comprised of: “the same amount of gentle folk music, low-key 1960s psychedelia, catchy pop and lyrics reflecting a self-referential, sometimes acerbic, but always remarkable lyrical humour.” Occasionally I spot what may be a translated sentence from the band in the text. Iris’ dark and peculiar fate feels like it came straight out of one of their songs. Perhaps the entire Anglo-Saxon literary tradition that Amanda Svensson belongs to, can be compared with Belle & Sebastian. Much like their music, it often balances between intelligent shrewdness and cheerful commercialism.  With The Telegraph of the Soul, Svensson takes a large and wonderful step away from the latter. I personally hope it will be permanent.

Göteborgs-Posten
She writes with effervescence, in a candid and commanding manner, with a sense of style that rapidly shifts between bold humour and colossal urgency

Ever since her debut with Hey Dolly (2008), Amanda Svensson has possessed a rare dynamic energy that incites happiness. She writes with effervescence, in a candid and commanding manner, with a sense of style that rapidly shifts between bold humour and colossal urgency /… / With the monumental family epic A System So Magnificent it is Blinding, Svensson saw her big breakthrough four years ago. It’s a matter of taste of course, but I was more impressed with the craftsmanship than I was moved. The Telegraph of the Soul is smaller in scope, but closer to the heart /… / And the novel can definitely be read as pleasurable entertainment. With the darkness and agony of a fast-drumming pop song, where love is ignited and extinguished while the music keeps flowing.

Dagens Nyheter
The Telegraph of the Soul is a tender yet fierce novel

The Telegraph of the Soul is a tender yet fierce novel. The human desire for companionship and love are some of the strongest driving forces in our lives. There is a large portion of humour, colourful imagination, but also a stroke of melancholia and acuteness. Life is far too short, it’s difficult to find time to enjoy it. Svensson writes an engaging and very vivid prose, yet unsentimental despite the many powerful emotions. Her prose can be obstinate but also charming and quirky.

Skånska Dagbladet

More titles by Amanda Svensson

A System so Magnificent it is Blinding
Ett system så magnifikt att det bländar
All Those Things I Said to You Were True
Allt det där jag sa till dig var sant

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