Wedding Worries (Bröllopsbesvär)

Wedding Worries (Bröllopsbesvär, 1949). Translation by Paul Norlén with Lo Dagerman. David R. Godine, Publisher, Boston (2018).

Wedding Worries, set in his childhood village of Älvkarleby, is Dagerman’s compelling account of the Palm family’s celebration of their young daughter Hildur’s marriage to the village butcher. The novel begins on the morning of the wedding day with a mysterious knocking on the bride’s window, and ends twenty-four hours later after a bacchanalian feast filled with unexpected drama.

Narrated in turn by a multitude of characters, Dagerman uses Hildur’s wedding to explore themes of loneliness, longing, love and deliverance. There is Hildur’s father, the Snail, who refuses to leave his second floor hide-away; his wife Hilma, whose secret love is the Singer, a once celebrated artist. There is the bombastic groom Westlund who endlessly tells everyone about his time in America. There’s Mary, a guest from a nearby small town who fancies herself an urban sophisticate; and three tramps, staying overnight in the hayloft. Like a kaleidoscope, the shifting perspectives offer a richly textured tale that ranges in mood from tenderness to burlesque to transcendent wisdom.

This time my goal was a different type of novel: uncontrolled, wildly colorful and loud – filled by an array of characters … real people who through the power of their authenticity did not lend themselves to simple psychological analysis. – Stig Dagerman on writing Wedding Worries

Dagerman conceived of his novel while on a journey back to Sweden from Australia via the South Seas and San Francisco. He lets us in on his writing process in the essay “Wedding Worries and Other Upsets” .

"Her shoulder is bare. Shines white as a sheet in the light from the crack. Cold? Now Hilma stills the chair, gets up and puts the blanket on. Sees how her girl is sleeping with white arms under her head. Sees how the black hair lies like a mourning veil across her forehead. No lines yet, no wrinkles. Oh God. Caresses her a little with a fingertip. The forehead, the nose which is cold, and the down on the chin. Then Hildur sighs. But Hilma drops her shawl. She can’t wake up yet. Children should sleep, they’re only yours when they’re sleeping."

—Stig Dagerman, Wedding Worries

About Wedding Worries

Book cover of Bröllopsbesvär. Bröllopsbesvär, Swedish cover.

"Today, Dagerman's last novel, Wedding Worries, emerges as his masterpiece thereby making his early death all the more tragic. He was still on the rise."

—Olof Lagercrantz, postscript to Stig Dagerman biography, 1985

"As I slowly read Wedding Worries, I rediscover what fascinated me in Dagerman's The Snake, A Burnt Child, or the strange A Thousand Years with God. The same fascination I felt when I first read Ulysses, Light in August, or Journey To the End of the Night; when I felt a towering wave wash over me, carrying all the force that had unleashed it on the other side of the horizon."

—JMG Le Clézio, review of Ennuis de noce , Le Monde May 14, 1982 (translation by Nancy Pick)

"In all his novels, Dagerman explores possible paths from a sense of imprisonment to freedom. So also in Wedding Worries, but here he uses somewhat new means. The characters of the novel, all following their own paths, arrive, more or less directly, at the same conclusion: to accept what is given in the here and now. … The novel disqualifies a dream of freedom that means an escape from the lived life, or in the extension, from the self. Seen as the dream of the still unaware individual, its freedom is only illusory. … The key to liberty, and the insight of the awakened individual, becomes the motto of the novel: to accept what is. … A dream of going away or a hope for a life somewhere else only gets in the way. There is only the here and now."

—Lotta Lotass, Freedom Conveyed – Studies in Stig Dagerman's Writing, pp. 142-143 (translation by Lo Dagerman)

"I grew up with the writings of August Strindberg and Stig Dagerman, my father Olof Lagercrantz was the biographer of both. In Wedding Worries , Dagerman's existentialist tour de force with echoes of Faulkner, a young woman finds a way to transcend her suffering. A marvelous novel!

—David Lagercrantz, journalist and author of The Girl in the Spider's Web

Film

Screenshot from Bröllopsbesvär.

Bröllopsbesvär. Feature film, B/W, Sweden, 1964. Directed by Åke Falck. Starring Christina Schollin and Jarl Kulle.

Movie poster for Bröllopsbesvär.

Theater

Bröllopsbesvär. Stig Larsson, Adaptation. Johan Wahlström, Director. Göteborgs Stadsteater, Göteborg, Sweden, 2007.

Wedding ceremony. Woman resting her head on a man's shoulder. Scenes from the 2007 production of Bröllopsbesvär in Göteborg.

Editions and Translations

  • Swedish: Bröllopsbesvär. 1949, 1954, 1962, 1964, 1970, 1975, 1978, 1982, 1991, 2014, 2018 (Norstedts)
  • Czech: Starosti se svatbou. 1963 (Mladá Fronta)
  • Danish: Bryllopsbesvær. 1966 (S.Vendel Kær)
  • French: Ennuis de noce. 1982, 1990, 2016 (Maurice Nadeau)
  • German: Schwedische Hochzeitsnacht. 1965, 1984 (Limes Verlag); 1974, 1984 (Verlag Volk und Welt); 1986 (Piper)
  • Lithuanian: Vestuvių naktis. 1994 (Alma littera)
  • Polish: Weselne kłopoty. 1978 (Posnan)
  • Portugese: As sete pragas do casamento. 1995 (Relógio d’Água)