Published in 2004. Translated from Swedish in 2014 by Thomas Teal. Paperback by Vintage Books, 2014. 278 pages.
This cheerful book delves into two of my amateur interests, entomology (the biology of insects) and art history (with emphasis on art theft and forgery). I hang out with entomologists, and visit art museums casually.
The Fly Trap is both memoir and biography. As Sjoberg’s personal memoir, it is the first volume of a trilogy. The next two books are The Art of Flight (2016) and The Raisin King. One reviewer suggests that these three books might also be categorized as travel, natural history, popular science or even poetry.
The “fly trap” of the title is a collecting device used by entomologists and called the Malaise trap. It is named after it’s inventor, Rene Malaise (1892 – 1978). According to Wikipedia, Malaise was an eccentric Renaissance man, and little was written about him before Sjoberg produced somewhat biographical this book.
Sjoberg is described (by Wikipedia) as
- literary and cultural critic
- translator (If you are Swedish, do you have any choice?)
- explorer (Siberia)
- art collector
- geologist (one time defender of the Lost Continent of Atlantis)
With a mix like this, the book was bound to be interesting. It is enhanced by Sjoberg’s whimsical, non linear style. While studying Malaise, Sjoberg “caught” the art collecting passion, described in the book’s final chapter.
I pay attention to authors mentioning other authors. In one chapter (entitled “Slowness”), Sjoberg mentions (at least) three authors:
- Lars Noren – Czech born French writer, still living
- Milan Kundera – Swedish playwright, still living, best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- D H Lawrence – English, 1885-1930, best known for Lady Chatterly’s Lover
I recommend this book if you like the out of doors, natural history and/or bugs. Also books, art and travel.