Swedish queer writing: Eli Levén

by on Oct.21, 2011

In response to Megan Milk’s call for queer fiction below, I thought I would direct people with an interest in such writings to Eli Levén’s piece in the most recent Action, Yes:

Here’s the beginning:

Sebastian dances like a butterfly through his mother’s living room, dressed in one of her dresses. The choral music from the radio trickles out of the speakers like razorblades against his skin; he splits open. The dress shines just like the summer flowers that will soon bloom pink, orange, and red; it smells of her, lipstick and flowery perfume, something else, fleshy, rotting, something from within.

Here’s another excerpt:

The blue tits sing a melody that makes Sebastian dream. Everything seems to stop for a while; the park and the group of people revolve around an axis that is these strangely beautiful birds. His fake eyelashes want to grow and become a branch for the birds to sit on. They’re a rip in reality, a portal that extends far beyond the hell that this sexless maiden has ended up in. He is the smell of bubblegum, sloppily painted fingernails, and armpits like open graves. He hears a voice inside himself, which must belong to God or something, talking to him:

“Because you are not lovable, Sebastian, no one loves your awkwardly swinging hips, your greasy hair and short skirts, you look like a whore.

You must be cut back like a tree that has run too wild, you are entirely too much, you don’t have room in your starving body, your lungs can’t breathe properly, you can’t get air into them no matter how much you breathe and suck cock as if there were oxygen in their balls. You must cut yourself back and rise again.

Then you will finally realize that you are a!

Then you will finally understand that you are a…seal woman, a seal girl, a seal chick born in the winter, you must jump up out of yourself dressed in full armor, always close to the knives, your never-ending schizo-laugh; you are a black shining sun.”

He feels a hand slip into his underwear, up into his ass; it is the cock-sucking man’s boyfriend. A bottle of poppers runs down into Sebastian’s nose and burns holes in his mucus membranes; he is thrown forward onto the cold grass. Mascara runs down his cheeks; he’s crying like he’s puking, with a wish for mercy.

I love this obscene/baroque style.

Oh, I missed that it was supposed to be poetry. Oh well, I’ll just call your attention to this piece anyway….

6 comments for this entry:
  1. Tim Jones-Yelvington

    I LOVE this.

    If we do the Queer issue of PANK again next year, I would love to get more work in translation. Is this something you could help me with?

    I wanted to try and get Mima Simic’s original translation that Dalkey de-queered (http://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/index.php?id=3083) for this year’s issue (which should go live next week), but could not figure out how to contact her.

  2. Johannes

    Oh I hadn’t read the Simic post. Super interesting in the way it bring translation and queerness together.


  3. Johannes

    And yes of course I would help you.

    Also check out sometime Montevidayo writer Aylin Bloch Boynukisa’s story in another issue:

    I love the fact that Lee Edelman becomes a character in a rewrite of Birds.


  4. Joyelle McSweeney

    When we were in Japan we heard a similar/related thing from female-identifying Japanese writers– that male Western translators generally re- or -overfeminized their work in translation when they had deliberately avoided feminine pronouns/word tags in their work.

  5. Joyelle McSweeney

    This Dalkey thing is an imperious disaster, beyond imperious, really harmful. I’m sickened. I can’t think of any explanation for it.

  6. megan milks

    oh, i love this piece. thanks for posting.