Blake Butler on Nikanor Teratologen's Rolodex of Atrocities

by on Jan.17, 2012

Blake’s review can be found here.


Assisted Living, by Nikanor Teratologen, was originally released in Sweden in 1992 under the title Äldreomsorgen i Övre Kågedalen (roughly translated: Caring for the Elderly in Upper Kage Valley). The book immediately caused an uproar, due in part to the book’s endless “Satanic” parade of rape, murder, sacrilege, bigotry, pedophilia, etc., but also the author’s use of a pseudonym, which led critics to accuse a wide array of major Swedish authors as the creator, including the now goofily popular Stieg Larsson. The result was not only instant-cult-classic and controversial bestselling status for the book, which later would be credited to the novelist Niclas Lundkvist, but also a slew of varying takes on the book’s content, both praising its wild innovations in the way of language and stylizing, and predictably defaming it for its utter lack of reverence, apology, or “humanity.”

I would just add a little background. Blake mentions that it reminds him of both Aase Berg and Dennis Cooper. That’s not a coincidence. Teratologen’s books are published by the press Vertigo, which is an awesome press run by Carl-Mikael Edenborg, who happened to have once been a member of Surealistgruppen in Stockholm, where Aase was a once a member, and he’s also published Dennis Cooper’s Frisk in translation. As with Aase, Edenborg’s aesthetics are very 19th century/Gothic-influenced – he publishes Lovecraft, de Sade, Bataille, Samuel Delany, Leiris etc.

(He also has a cafe in the Old Town of Stockholm in case you’re there.)

5 comments for this entry:
  1. Johannes

    Also another former member of Surrealistgruppen is Maja Lundgren, whose blog you find linked to in our links section and whose novel Pompeji is parodic Calvino. It’s been translated into English but has not been published. It’s great (and it was a pretty big hit around Europe a few years ago), someone should publish it./Johannes

  2. Kyle Minor

    I got galleys from Dalkey, and really liked this book, too. What is it about the Swedes that makes so much Swedish literature so weird and awesome?

  3. Lara Glenum

    This looks really amazing. I can’t wait to get a more palpable sense of the language, which Blake describes so deliciously. Thanks, Johannes + Blake, for pointing this out.

  4. Ivan

    Note: It is Stig Larsson who is goofily popular. But it would have been rather fascinating if Stieg Larsson, who in fact has similarities with Teratologen, had been popular.

  5. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    I just got in the mail today. 10 pages in, it’s a meaneater.