‘The Fur Coat’ by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated by C. W. Storck

Until I was 12 years old, I lived in Sweden and read exclusively in Swedish. It wasn’t until we moved to France in 1993 that I became starved for books in a language I understood (it took a while to get the hang of French), and so began frequenting the many fantastic English bookstores in Paris. One of the stories I read before the move was this short, bittersweet, story of a borrowed coat.

I was never much for the canonical Swedish authors, their parochial concerns and preoccupations seeming completely alien to me. But Söderberg (1869 – 1941) is altogether excellent: grappling with genuine moral issues, his flaneurs wander around early 20th Century Stockholm trying to figure out how to live a good life while their author cynically gazes down on them. This was the first time I encountered a twist ending that did not seem cheap, but rather gave depth to all that had come before.

Collected in Modern Swedish Masterpieces, E.P. Button & Company, 1923. Read it online, in a PDF of the whole collection, here