I haven’t been blogging much recently because my mind has preoccupied with the on-going novel project. Its Swedish name is Ökenvandring (the Desert Wandering), but I might have to change that title. It is simply not enough desert in the story. The novel belongs to the same alternate Earth as Iskriget, a dieselretro vision of a different 1940 in which the republican rebels in northwest Europe fight against the oppressive Habsburg empire.
Iskriget sent the protagonists across the ice-covered southern continent of Alba. This novel takes the reader to the hot and arid continent of Magalhana, the stage for the two concluding short-stories in Iskriget. (Both short-stories are actually prequels that take place several years before the rebellion.) Afghanistan and India have been some of my sources of inspiration — two countries in which I have lived — but Alba and Magalhana are fictional testing grounds where the protagonists face social, natural and moral challenges.
One recurring underlying theme in my stories is Cain’s question in Genesis: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The scarred and reclusive marshal in The Road has to respond to it and the consequences get more far-reaching than anyone would imagine. The world forces everyone to choose — taking the narrow path may cost the wanderer much trouble, but out of those hardships comes inner growth, too. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.”
When I worked in Kabul in 2008, I watched the movie The Journey of August King* on a satellite channel. North Carolina 1815, a widowed white farmer helps a runaway slave woman. The consequences are harsh, because that state’s law shows little mercy for such behavior. But what is morally right and what is legal may differ significantly. At the movie’s end, Mr King, simultaneously facing one victory and one defeat, concludes: “I have never felt so proud before in my life.”
*The movie is well worth watching, being unsentimental and understated.