Siw Malmkvist's memoirs - the details

Published August 16, 2010

[Jag vill läsa den här texten PÅ SVENSKA]


Siw Malmkvist is one of Sweden's top artists, with a career that began in 1955 and continues to this day. Starting out as a singer, she developed into a stage performer and actress and is something of a living legend in Sweden.

The book tells the story of Siw's life and career from childhood up to the present time. Born in 1936 and growing up as one of nine siblings in financially poor circumstances, she stumbled into a career as a professional singer when she won a talent contest at the age of 18. Her accomplishments as a singer and actress since then are manifold, and the book aims to tell not only her personal story as a woman, but also put the spotlight on her memories of her career and what it has meant to be an artist in the 20th and 21st centuries.


The idea that she should write her memoirs originated with my former agent, Bengt Nordin, who was in touch with Siw in the mid-Nineties, trying to get such a project off the ground. Bengt suggested to me that I should help her write the book, which I thought was a lovely idea. However, at the time Siw didn't feel that the time was right for a book about her life and so nothing came of it.

Flash forward to 2008 when I felt perhaps the time was right to ask Siw if she wanted to publish her memoirs. This time, the situation was different. I spoke to Siw who told me that she had started to write a bit herself, mostly about her childhood and youth and stories connected with her family history. She felt that it could be useful to have a collaborator, and after some discussion back and forth our agent secured a publishing contract with Norstedts and we could finally began our work for real in September 2009.

Siw came to my place a total of 11 times during up until December, at which time I recorded lengthy interviews with her, which I then transcribed and tried to make into a readable book. When starting on a project like this one never knows how it will turn out. Would Siw and I get along? Would we be able to communicate in a way that would help us write the book? To what extent would she be willing to open up on certain subjects, and if I encountered resistance to do so, would I be able to convince her to change her mind? Happily, I found Siw to be a truly unpretentious human being and very easy to get along with. Throughout the project our communication was open and honest and there were no problems that couldn't be easily resolved.

Parallel with the interviews I conducted extensive research; I was fortunate enough that Kjell Norström, a collector who has followed Siw's career since the Sixties - and who has become a personal friend of Siw's - lived nearby. He generously allowed me to borrow freely from his enormous cuttings collection, which was a great help in pieceing together the what, where and hows of Siw's life and career. Among the hundreds of articles I plowed through, I also found quotes and other information that helped me come up with questions to ask her. This was of invaluable help to the book. 

Siw herself contacted relatives, friends and acquaintances to help us sort out fact from fiction, and that was of course also of great help for the book. Some of the texts Siw had written about her early years also came in useful, strengthening the personal feel of the book, and I worked them into the main text.

Now that the book has been out for a while, my impression is that most readers have enjoyed it, and I'm glad that I was able to help Siw have her memories published in book form.