Summer reading, 2016

Oh dear, summer is almost over, it seems. Anyway, I got three good books read this summer, to wit:

  • Tod in Breslau (Death in Breslau, Śmierć w Breslau) by Marek Krajewski
    Since we spent a weekend visiting the European Culture Capital during the summer break, I wanted to read this thriller that takes place in Breslau in the 1930s. We had a lovely weekend in Breslau, but I was unable to place much of anything except the cathedral in this thriller, as the translator translated all the street and place names. Anyway, you got a good feeling about how the place slipped into Nazism in the 30s. At that time, Breslau was a German city with many Polish inhabitants. This story of intrigue on top of intrigue on top of lies and murders and more lies will keep your head spinning as it finally loops back to start where it began.
  • Eleanor Rigbyby Douglas Coupland
    I love Doug Coupland! So why has this book, published 12 years ago, been sitting unread in one of my piles??? No idea, but this is a typical Coupland, trudging along at a slow and steady pace until it takes a wacky, zany leap, then continues plodding, while asking you to suspend your disbelief as it romps towards the abrupt ending, leaving you screaming to know how the story continues. Pure joy, makes you forget there were other things you were planning on doing during vacation as you read just one more page.
  • Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
    WiseMan picked this up last year in Reykjavik. It was written in English, translated into Norwegian and first published in Norway. Then some adjustments were made and it was published in English in 2013. There are a lot of stereotypes inhabiting these pages (Americans, Norwegians, Jewish Americans, Serbs, Albanians, Marines, snipers, Norwegian cops, Swedes, Vietnamese, drug dealers, did I miss anyone?) and some of the characters are not well developed. The main character, an elderly ex-Marine Jewish-American retired watchmaker just moved to Oslo. We keep shifting times, drifting back to remembrances and then onward to current happenings, and the end comes rather in a rush leaving me a bit concerned as I am not sure exactly what happened to everyone. But it was a good read, and even if the names of the places around Oslo were mostly in English, at least the parts of town were left in Norwegian so I had a vague notion of where they were. 
Maybe I can get another one in the last few days, it's supposed to rain.....


The holy personnr, part II

In 1998, after we bought the house in Sweden and I was spending my sabbatical at Malmö högskola, I wrote this article called "The Holy personnummer" about the run-around you get when you attempt to live in Sweden like a Swede, something that should be normal in the EU.

It is now 2016, and a few strange things happened in the past year. For example, some mail sent to us got returned to sender. Banks don't like stuff like that. Some mail that did get delivered had our ancient address on it. The house hasn't moved, but Hörby has experimented with four different ways of naming the place the house is located at. Suddenly the address from way back in the 90s was showing up on letters. But we had written to all of these important companies (insurance, sewage, garbage) years ago to inform them about the new street name and house number that we had. Why was this different?

Come tax time, I didn't get a tax form like I have for the past 20 years. We have to pay property tax on the house, I owe half and WiseMan owes half. He got his tax form in Germany, but mine was neither in Sweden nor in Germany. I called the Swedish tax hotline, waited for ages in the queue to be told that they would be sending me out a new one. Except it never came. I paid the tax anyway, and hoped to be done with it.

When we came up this summer there was a nasty letter waiting for me. I hadn't filed my tax return! This would cost me lots of money! I needed to file asap. This time I wrote an email, which was actually answered within two days. The bureaucrat had the following surprising information for me: Since I no longer lived in Sweden (and I haven't for 16 years) they have revoked my personnr and returned me to the old tax number they gave me when we first moved to Sweden. And so, I deduce, they just rolled back to the old address that old number had.

This was confirmed the next day by the insurance company - they update their address data every month by comparing it with the records at the tax office. So they are unable to fix my address, I have to convince the tax people of the new address in order for the insurance company to have it stored correctly.

Not that the tax office sent me any letter about this change of status, although any letter they sent would probably be addressed to the old address and get itself returned...

I just had coffee with a friend from Berlin who is also German and had lived for many years previously in Sweden. Thus, she had a personnr and still owns property here. She tried to book a Sunday-Taxi (they send these out instead of running regular busses in the rural areas here) and they wouldn't let her, because her personnr was not valid. Good thing she has nice neighbors willing to get up early Sunday to ferry her to the bus from the county seat. You are no one here without that number.