I am so, so hoping my desert island will be one of the bare, windswept islands in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland. As I am not a fan of heat (nor palm trees, nor sand), I am hoping for cool cloudy weather and big flat rocks. Then I shall be happy to sit for a long time before I do any reading at all, smelling sea and watching waves.
The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
I shall start by re-reading the magical The Summer Book by Finnish author Tove Jansson to remind myself about what is important on a small, windswept island. In the book, an old woman and a young girl come to an island every summer. The child’s mother is dead. The father is there, but strangely absent. The book is haunted by the loss of the mother, and, as we read, the grandmother and the child come to terms with death and with the brevity of things, each in their own way. The two talk. They argue. They go on small adventures. They do nothing. Just like you are supposed to do on an island. This is a book full of kindness and love; full of wisdom and of humour.
The Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman
Two other books that I would like to have with me are The Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman and The Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross, for if I shall have that kind of undisturbed time, these are the two books I would love to spend it on. The Yoga Sutras is the ancient text that defines what yoga is and how it can be practiced and Nicolai Bachman’s books is one of best for helping us to understand the sutras and integrate the philosophy of yoga into our lives.
The Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross
St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic, a Carmelite monk and The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual masterpiece of Christian literature and mysticism. The title “dark night (of the soul)” describes a crisis in the journey toward union with God.
I was raised in the Pentecostal faith and have found it problematic to rid myself of it. By principle, I don’t want to believe in a God I haven’t chosen, but the beliefs seem to be braided in with my very backbone. Wrangling with ‘faith’ is a big part of who I am. If I were on a deserted island, my outcome uncertain, I’d like to make my mind up about things.
Herzog, Saul Bellow
For the same reason, I’d like to bring Herzog by Saul Bellow. Every time I start reading it, I think to myself that, surely, this is the most brilliant book ever written and then I can’t continue reading. What if I will never find anything better? I put it back on the shelf. But I would like to finish it. I would.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Finally, something exciting. I love crime and whenever I go home to Sweden I buy stacks of pocket books by new crime authors. My favourite past time is lying on the sofa in our living room weltering in these books. The only problem with these books is, once you know the ending you know the ending…
I would thus bring Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I love this book. You can begin reading on any page and immediately find yourself caught in the story. I think I could reread this book again and again without ever finding it boring. I love the characterisations, the imagery, how “writers’ rules” are broken in a way that makes you smile, and the wry humour.
Cecilia Ekbäck was born in Sweden in a small northern town. She has lived in Russia, Germany, France, Portugal, the Middle East and the UK. She now lives in Canmore, Canada, with her husband and twin daughters. Her first novel, Wolf Winter, won the HWA Debut Crown. Her second, In the Month of the Midnight Sun is out now.