Sagor för barn över 18 år by Tage Danielsson (1964)

Book review: Sagor för barn över 18 år [Tales for children over 18] by Tage Danielsson (1964), from Tage Danielssons Paket (Wahlström & Widstrand, 1992)

After having seen Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons jul on telly on Christmas Eve, for the umpteenth time (it’s a Swedish telly tradition), I went for the collection Tage Danielssons Paket, to look the story up, as the short story the animation is based on can be found in there. And then I decided to read it. Not just the story of Karl-Bertil, but the whole book it’s from, Sagor för barn över 18 år (“Tales for children over 18 years”).

Tage Danielsson (1928-1985) was one of the big Swedish comedians from the early 1960s until his death, one half of the very successful comedy double act Hasseåtage. He did more than just write for the stage, film and TV – he was also a director (his last film being an adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Rövardotter), a poet and an author. His writing style in these tales for grown-ups is intellectual and clever, witty, and even though the tales are not for little children, he uses the same sort of tone, as if he was telling a story to children – just that the topics and the words are too difficult for kids.

Some of the tales are very short, just a few sentences, others span two or three pages, some even more than that. Karl-Bertil, I’ll go into in a separate post. There’s a story about an ape who gets caught in Africa and taken to a lab to show humans how apes can think in steps and think ahead, and how he outwits them all. Another story is about a girl who just wants to be famous, but doesn’t quite appreciate it when she is.

Another one is a story about a bus driver who is stuck in a rut (or on bus route 144, to be precise) and decides to drive away for a bit and see the world. There’s a story about words you can’t say and one about two very powerful best friends who have big buttons that could annihilate the other. There’s a take on Cinderella, but with an ugly man in her stead, and so on.

While the tales are amusing, there’s always a feeling of there being a lot of things behind them. That’s the clever part. They have many layers, like an onion. I really do wonder what he would say about the Internet.

4 out of 5 sniffs of Father’s glögg.

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