Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The unusual ones

"Östlyan" Photo: Åke Mokvist

"De ovanliga" ("The unusual ones") is a book by Swedish photojournalist Åke Mokvist about people who live, well, differently. Some of them are eccentric aristocrats, but a fair share of them are (ahem) crazy woodland hermits.

The little cabin "Östlyan" (above) was built in 1964 by the woodsman Sven Nilsson on land owned by his employer. He asked for permission to build it, using only stuff from the surroundings, and lived there for thirty years. Note how the exterior walls are made of birch bark, the insulation was dried moss.

Mokvist reflects on how most of the people who fit into his category of being "unusual" are either really old or very young. The baby boomers, a group which he technically belongs to himself, he dismisses as simply too conformist for their own good.

Incredibly, "De ovanliga" sold 100 000 copies in Sweden, and a follow up, "De ovanliga 2" has recently been published. Obviously, there's some kind of thirst for reading about people who chew their oatmeal slowly while looking at squirrels running up trees.

To the best of my knowledge, the book has never been translated. Though available from assorted Swedish online stores, these usually demand a Swedish postal address.

Even doing a Google images search mostly renders pictures of the photographer himself, looking vaguely gnomish.

Still, these are massively inspiring books. Rather worryingly Mokvist writes in "De ovanliga 2" about receiving a letter from a "man who said he had lived like the people in my book, but had been civilized by the woman he loves and no longer knows how to return".
Oh well.

Emelie Cajsdotter: She says scary hippie stuff like "I learned more from a leave of grass in New Zealand than I learned at school." But still. Photo: Åke Mokvist


Valentina said...

How do i get in contact with Ake Mokvist? is this book in english or even better in spanish?
is someone intersted in a traslation to other lenguages or to repeat de experience in other contexts-society?

thks very much

Northmark said...

To get in touch with Mokvist I would suggest writing to his publishers,

To the best of my knowledge the book has not been translated, and is only available in Swedish.

Yo ti puedo ayudar, talves. En castellan o, mejor, en inglés!