In “Tone tur och retur” there is a fine balance between journalism and cultural criticism
Through Tone Schunesson’s Book Tone round trip I am reminded of an old annoyance: the infatuation with the upper class. It has always been laughed at disproportionately Carl Bildts joke. Tweed blazers and red socks or whatever is popular in these circles, elicits excitement rather than analysis.
You don’t have to turn class hatred into a journalistic method, for example. It’s fine not to succumb to fascination.
This is why I cringe when Tone Schunesson, in one of the texts in the book, makes such a reasonable observation during the election vigil with the Moderates:
“The bourgeois good taste is famous and on the second Sunday in September it arouses my disgust. An older man stands with a younger one at the bar. The men appear to be related. The older one has a heel ring on the little finger and the younger one has blond bangs in soft waves at the forehead. Both are impeccably dressed but it doesn’t matter. Here they stand waist-deep in the Sweden Democrats’ shit and pretend neither the grief nor the stench.”
“Tone round trip” collects articles from 2016 to 2022, mainly from Then24 and Schunesson’s reportage on Swedish politics in the year leading up to the election. Anyone who has read her novels Trip reports (2016) and The days, the days, the days (2020), know that the author takes money, power and facades with all the seriousness the subjects deserve. Exactly what does the two well-dressed moderates with heels and soft bangs mean in this context? An admired bourgeois dignity as a fig leaf for right-wing extremists.
In addition to politics and the election campaign, the articles are about everything from fillers to Jane Eyre, about violence and death – and a small gem for text that celebrates the punctuation mark period. The spread feels organic and, after reading, not even particularly spread. Through everything run questions about death and violence, about violence against women, against boys, and about a society that wants to make violence appear foreign.
Not least, she puts herself on the line, and with dejected humor
I’m in somehow taken when I’ve finished reading, even though I’ve read several of the texts before. There is a great sadness in this collection. Not least when Schunesson goes to his old hometown of Malmö and depicts murders of teachers and children; remembers a friend who died too soon. The horror of gang violence is noticeable, while she also points to a great shame: how the broad narrative, in the media and in debate, tries to turn killed children into something else. By associating them with criminality, dead 15-year-olds can be turned into people less worthy of mourning.
Attention to the ugly in life is a separate theme in the collection. Schunesson takes it in, without indulging in entertainment violence. On the contrary, she is fascinated by failure (it recurs in the lyrics). But she doesn’t let herself be fooled by the world’s ongoing struggle to decorate herself, like when she senses something deep beneath the Almedalen’s summer-fresh and high-paying surface. Not least she puts herself on the line, and with resigned humor: “I had intended to be sober tonight, but it won’t work.” Being sober at Stordalen’s mingling is a task too big for me to take on.”
There is also tenderness in the look at a reality that masks itself, as when she describes a meeting with a guy who offers drinks lavishly – and who pays with Klarna – a tender clarity of recognition.
The author as reporter is a difficult genre, but Tone Schunesson finds such a fine balance between journalism and cultural criticism, between thinking for oneself and trying to see without evaluation. Anglo-American literature has quite a lot of young, talented cultural critics in the field. In Sweden they are fewer. For the next collection of articles, the publisher may also like to put more care into the publication, now there are far too many proofreading errors to be able to ignore them.
I hope that Tone Schunesson can continue to develop in the genre, she is simply very good at it. There is a calm in the voice that takes on this troubling, slipping contemporary; a blessed absence of coquetry in the speaking self.
Since Tone Schunesson writes for Then24 kultur, her book is reviewed by Malin Ullgren, literature editor at DN.