Ida Linde

- Sweden -

Ida Linde was born in 1980, grew up in Umeå but now lives in Stockholm where she is a teacher of Creative Writing at Biskop-Arnös Writers School. She debuted in 2006 with the poetry collection/poetic prose novel Maskinflickans testamente/The Machine girl's will that revolves around football and personal loss. Linde has written a variety of critically acclaimed novels, among them En kärleksförklaring/A declaration of love and Norrut åker man för att dö/You go north in order to die. Her second collection of poems Räkneboken/Counting book, is as much a collection of aphorisms that it is a veritable textbook. She also writes and directs for theater.

Whatever the genre, Linde has been known for a linguistic density and an alarmingly poetic suggestion.

Her first collection of poems was translated into Icelandic in 2014.

The Loneliness of the Penalty Taker

The year was 1998, or perhaps 1999? And the location was a small theatre in a northern Swedish coastal-town. Four to five girls, and maybe a fuzzy guy as well, read their own poems with fear in their voices. The exception was Ida. Ida Linde read with a sure voice, making contact with the 10-15 listeners. I don't remember a single line from this occasion, but I remember why I went. The contrast with the culture of motors and sports in my small-town hole was deafening and beautiful. There and then I realised that poetry could be something you worked with, were forced to relate to.


With time, the people who read poetry on that stage became artists, teachers, and published poets. It began, as everyone predicted, with Ida Linde's debut. I read it when it came out in 2006 – and understood nothing. The collection Maskinflickans testamente (The Machine girl's testament) seemed to be about motors and sports; more specifically, about motorbikes and football. Were these subjects for poetry too?


Much later, I heard about Ida Linde's footballing history and the metal parts that she had had, after many injuries, surgically inserted into her knee. Perhaps it's from here that the poetic “I”, alias “the machine girl”, should be understood?


On the book's cover, a deserted football field is drenched in spotlights. And in the background, a lush deciduous tree with a wide trunk. None of the birch trees mentioned in the poems, but instead an obviously south-Swedish tree. The parables from the world of football are, however, confidently deployed.


Linde uses them to untangle the great incomprehensibility of life. No one is ever so lonely and vulnerable as when taking a penalty kick. “one will never experience / as many World Cups / as one thinks during one's lifetime.” And further: “The final's ninety minutes plus extra time / is nothing other than waiting for death.”


The father of the poetic “I” is someone who always runs around with red cards, reminding players that they only play on sufferance. One day he dies, and the machine girl, who harboured a desire to die first, is overcome with grief. She becomes gloomy and begins to imagine the home help who will eventually find her lifeless. The book's opening poem is a kind of motto, which covers all this melancholy and original desire.


Today, Ida Linde teaches at one of Sweden's most prestigious writing schools. Behind her is a series of critically acclaimed works. But long before that, in her youth, she lived like me in the city of Umeå. Opposite her old apartment lies an easily undersized gravelled area, squeezed between the low tenements. This is the place itself; Ida Linde's original football field.


“Others have been added to it, been layered over it: Gammliavallen, Malmö Stadion, Camp Nou, but when I write, it's always that one I see”, she's said.


Behind one of the goals are two birch trees. They look harmonious. The atmosphere in Ida Linde's opening poem doesn't come automatically. To get to the loneliness of the penalty taker, you have to take a run from the penalty spot, close your eyes, and read the opening lines to Maskinflickans testamente with a sure voice.


Only then will you understand how this little area of gravel can be a stage for one person's sorrows, hopes and ambitions, all of them.


“The Loneliness of the Penalty Taker

A birch

just sloughed its bark:

White and vulnerable.

I give it to the home help.

And I am the Machine Girl.

We'll all die but I will die first.”


by Erik Jonsson