In violin, history writer Magnus Västerbro was awarded the August Prize for the Svälten, a depiction of the famine that hit the country in the 19th century. In his new story of Vålnadna, he explores three thousand years of immortal souls and supernatural beings.
Although Västerbro writes about ghost beliefs, he himself is somewhat of an involuntary skeptic. When asked if he believes in a spirit world, he does not hesitate.
- No, I'm not sorry. I almost wish for it, because it is an indicator that there is a spiritual reality; that we have an immortal soul; that something in us lives on after death."Crippling feeling of anxiety"
Part of the disappointment in not believing in a spiritual reality is probably rooted in Västerbro's intense horror of death, which he has been dealing with since childhood.
- It has been there since I was 12 years old. I remember just when it started. I looked up at the sky and saw, "Oh, the universe is infinite." Since then, I have had a paralyzing feeling of anxiety towards the end, he says.
For Magnus Västerbro, writing has become a way of processing death anxiety.
- I think, step by step, I've probably gotten a little used and come across this worst anxiety, so I think I've become a calmer person in writing this book.
He believes that it is the shock and despair of losing loved ones who are behind the belief in spirits.
- The essence of many of these stories of returning spirits is about the incredible grief of people. That it is so difficult to deal with the fact that people whom you have loved have disappeared."Bright picture of the other side"
Our modern attitude to ghosts and spirits is generally positive, says Magnus Västerbro.
- In everyday meetings, where people really think they meet the other side, it is often a pretty bright picture of the other side. Those who go to the sessions often receive a very comforting message. There is no big threat from the other side but what awaits us after death is just a big warm hug. In the Christian tradition, there was an idea of purgatory or sin punishment, but that idea seems to be pretty much gone, he says.
- There are those who believe that these are signs of the modern man's will to avoid pain, that even the time after death should be a life without trouble.
See the entire interview with Magnus Västerbro in Babel, Sunday 22 September in SVT 2.