Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared by Andrew Brown
Sweden holds a powerful allure for British men, which I used to see for myself every Friday in a departure lounge of Heathrow airport. I was part of a group of weekend commuters who met for a beer, en route to see our girlfriends in Stockholm, in Terminal 3. Every so often one of our number would disappear, being swallowed up by this beautiful country for good. There would be no goodbye or explanations. It was taken for granted each one of us, sooner or later, would succumb.
But not Andrew Brown. After eight years as a Swede, where he not only dreamed in Swedish but learned to distinguish trees by the smell, his marriage collapsed and he returned to Britain. It got worse, as he kept returning to find his socialist paradise becoming more corrupted. His book, Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared, is a remarkable tour of the country, its people and their mindset.
Brown was made all the more vulnerable to Sweden by his love of fishing. The pike-filled lakes seduced him as much as the women or socialism. For him it was the perfect form of communion with his adopted country. His personal bait was a Swedish girl he met while working in a Welsh nursing home, and he decided to emigrate with her. He’d been thrown out of public school, for an annoyingly undisclosed offence, and decided to start again as a labourer in a timber factory in a town north of Gothenburg.
It was 1977 and he found there everything he thought socialism ought to be. He attended evening classes organised by the trade union, he read socialist newspapers and went on workers’ holidays.