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Karolina Ramqvist (1976) is one of the most influential writers and feminists of her generation in Sweden.

Ramqvist has written five novels to date and had her breakthrough in 2009 with the critically acclaimed book The Girlfriend, which has also been adapted for the stage. Her 2012 generational coming-of-age-novel The Beginning  rocketed into instant cult status and placed Ramqvist in the national spotlight as a powerful literary voice with the ability to provoke quiet yet fierce questions rather than provide loud and easy answers. In her skillful hands, contemporary issues of sexuality, commercialization, isolation and belonging become highly charged and, at the same time, completely unaffected. Her style is at once stripped down and lyrical, suspenseful yet meditative.

In 2014, Ramqvist made her screenwriting debut with the award-winning short film Cupcake. In 2015, she published the greatly anticipated novel, The White City, which was praised by critics and was awarded the prestigious P.O. Enquist Literary Prize or her unique and strong position in contemporary Swedish literature. Her latest novel, The Bear Woman, was published in September, 2019 and has also been published to great critical acclaim in a number of countries around the world.

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Reviews

“The obvious satisfaction of the writer or the poet who plays with the constraints of a form. This is the feeling first conveyed when reading Karolina Ramqvist. Her Bear Woman appears to be the perfect example of the contemporary genre in English referred to as narrative non-fiction, but, as it happens, isn’t exactly what we see a little too much of in France at the moment: literary journalism. Because The Bear Woman is everything at the same time: an essay, a story, written in an autobiographical style but at the same time novel-like, in essence, a text where all the tools of the author are summoned together, and intertwine to bring out both the extraordinary and the banal, the facts and their literary representation. /…/ The book convinces with its freedom of tone – this so natural way of going from one era to another – from one reference to another. (The story) transports the reader at its own pace, in an almost friendly gesture, through the extreme fates of men and women – and this tactfulness is infinitely precious.”
Le Monde (FR)

“But when she discovers (the story of Marguerite), the author understands that Marguerite’s incredible adventure is not going to be just another book, or even the occasion for a political essay on the genre, but an invitation to probe her own depths as a creative torn between her family and her work. Isn’t writing in fact an abstract motherhood? What is most fascinating about this hybrid story at the intersection of essay and novel is the freedom with which Ramqvist moves from century to century and from universal to intimate. It’s an understatement to say that we are moved.”
Le Figaro (FR)

The Bear Woman is a forceful, political novel about gender that explores both the position of the author and how women have been portrayed throughout history. Ramqvist navigates between fact and fiction and finds her form in a beautiful hybrid of both genres.”
Vårt Land (NO)

The Bear Woman hides a grotesque story about being abandoned but surviving, told in an unsentimental way and with masterful restraint, keeping the reader in a tight grip. The brutality of the story is brought to life by statements about Marguerite, that she for example did not exist before Jean-Francois de la Rocque de Roberval tried to kill her […] The Bear Woman is like a Russian doll that always has more underneath the current layer, and then even more under the next one. This gradual revelation, with dense focus on the writers’ life, is a gripping and different journey into a distant past that to this day, seems highly relevant.”
Stavanger Aftenblad (NO)

“The text is an elegant mix of essayistic passages on writing and gender and more typical fictional sections […] I thoroughly enjoy this tempo, it’s like sitting and watching the fog lift.”
Dagbladet (NO)

“Brilliantly intellectual about writing guilt and motherhood – The Bear Woman can be read over and over again. Karolina Ramqvist’s new novel kicks off in an implausible female destiny, while at the same time it depicts the inner writing process. […] The Bear Woman begins with death and darkness, but is really about life when it burns at its hottest. It is a multi-layered portrayal of survival, motherhood, and the true motives of a text. […] Similar to authors like Ariel Levy, Sheila Heti, and Maggie Nelson, Karolina Ramqvist portrays life’s components in so many layers that The Bear Woman deserves to be read over and over again. […] Ramqvist’s story – it’s shattering, one that pierces both mind and heart.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“A beautiful and unforgettable tale of women, history and survival.”
Västerbotten Kuriren (SE)

“In her new book, which is a fusion of novel and essay, Karolina Ramqvist breaks new ground in an ambitious story about a woman who lived during the 16th century. It is spontaneous, beautiful and captivating.”
Skaraborgs Läns Tidning (SE)

“Together, the different themes of the novel create a taut and beautiful story, and I realize that the story has become its own – as is the art of great fiction – and it does so brilliantly.”
Gefle Dagblad (SE)

“In The Bear Woman, Ramqvist creates a sensitive balance between the essayistic, autobiographical, and auto fictive, which results in a suggestive and thought provoking synthesis.”
Vasabladet (SE)

The Bear Woman is not a book to passively consume, but rather one to reflect on. At its best, it will make readers turn their focus back on themselves. Through it, I can see my own stubbornness. Feminism as a concept is just over 100 years old, though the women’s movement is of course older. Why should I let the word be defined by its abuse in recent years? It is a feat to write a novel rooted in a contemporary age that makes our time feel like a piece of history. Ramqvist excels with her thoughtful distance.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist writes openly and with crystal clear precision. […] The Bear Woman is a meta novel which is not like other meta novels, and at the same time a historical novel, which is not like other historical novels. The central protagonist is the author herself, and it is both captivating and touching to follow her passionate relationship with the elusive and remarkable Marguerite de La Rocque.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s The Bear Woman is an outstanding novel. […] After just a few pages, I am hooked and am forced to constantly moisten my thumb to turn the pages quicker. The novel, the book, grows into a complex and philosophical work about life, death, body, soul, femininity, power, money, the past and present, parenthood, truth, lies and how writing ties to truth-telling and honesty relates to all this. Karolina Ramqvist’s prose is exact and transparent. The text is full of tangible details and it is a luxury to read this dense and thought-provoking book.”
Värmlands Folkblad (SE)

“It has been a long time since I read a novel that was as stylistically on point as The White City. […] Karolina Ramqvist handles this small, frozen thriller masterfully in every detail. […] Ramqvist has developed into one of Sweden’s truly interesting young writers. Conscious of what she has and what she does. It feels like she dares to do anything right now, and that she pulls it off.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“Brilliant about the nature of emptiness.”
Upsala Nya Tidning (SE)

The White City is rich in language and ambience. Moody, mysterious, maternal and magnetic . . . it is a haunting novel of a woman adrift yet firmly attached to romantic memories of her lover and the simple needs of her daughter . . . Like a Madonna of the tundra, Karin is a resilient and irresistible protagonist, and Ramqvist is a serious contender for the Swedish literary limelight.”
Shelf Awareness (US)

“The ghostly Scandinavian setting and Karin’s closely narrated sense of impending doom, baby cooing patiently at her hip, make Swedish star Ramqvist’s English-language debut an atmospheric and suspenseful read.”
Booklist (US)

“Though the plot of Ramqvist’s English debut may make it sound like a crime thriller, the pace is lulling, the writing sensuous and patiently observed. So much of the book, in fact, consists of long scenes of Karin nursing Dream or spending hours watching the infant play that the book feels, more than any thriller, like an allegory of parenting. […] as Karin, quite literally, works to keep Dream alive against a backdrop of violence and deception, readers root for both characters to find their way. Delicate and unsparing.”
Kirkus (US)

“It’s been a long time since I devoured a book so quickly – I simply couldn’t put it down!  […] This book is like a magic being which at first seems very small and inconspicuous in your hand, but suddenly unfolds into a flock of white doves, flying in every possible direction. […] Rarely have I ever read such outstanding language. Without superfluous embellishments the author creates a dense atmosphere, capable of absorbing you. With great precision and a clear gaze – almost as if viewed through a microscope or a magnifying glass – Ramqvist dissects social situations.”
Pink Stinks (DE)

“This is a contemporary, atmospheric and gritty book […] Whilst primarily this book is candidly written about isolation, there is a huge amount to consider and examine. It is one of those books worthy of a second read, since you will no doubt draw out more from it.”
Nudge Books (UK)

“An incredible novel that you experience with all your senses. I love how Karolina Ramqvist makes me devour the text with sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and in a very bodily way feel Karin’s experience. […] In The White City, it becomes apparent that Karolina Ramqvist’s narrative voice is unique in contemporary Swedish literature. Through her language, the story’s focus on the details of the female experience, but also through the themes she chooses to explore. […] I thank her for that, thank her for Karin. I thank Karolina Ramqvist for a heroine that I don’t really like, but whose experiences reverberate through my entire body.”
Borås Tidning (SE)

“With a vulnerability that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Karin walks with Dream in the stroller on the icy streets of a city where she is forced to beg for alms. The one who used to be on the inside, suddenly finds herself out in the cold. […] The White City is a seamless and controlled novel vibrating with subtext that cements Karolina Ramqvist’s position as one of Sweden’s most interesting writers.”
Expressen (SE)

“Ramqvist crafts a story of sparse detail that moves at a rapid pace. […]  This page-turner shows one young woman’s struggle to face harsh realities.”
Library Journal (US)

“It’s odd that it should feel so provocative to read about a young woman who’s lost control of her own life. But it really does. Part of the uneasiness is due to how indolently she has let her boyfriend support her. […] Do the explicit female experiences make the book interesting only to the part of the population that shares these experiences? By no means. I think it brings an insight into existential experiences for both sexes, in the same way women through all time have read about and learned from male experiences. […] I believe that these meticulously portrayed physical experiences makes for precious literature.”
NRK (NO)

“Ramqvist’s exciting English-language debut…[is] full of suspense and beautifully written dreamlike sequences. […] Karin’s emotional journey will have a lasting impact on readers.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“Karolina Ramqvist is extremely precise and totally superb in slowmotion. Does anything at all happen? Not much, but in return what happens does so in detail. There’s for example a passage in The White City, which plot-wise only portrays the main character Karin walking with her baby in a car seat from the parking lot to an apartment. But Ramqvist writes this passage over five pages, and now I feel as though I’m the one walking there in the Stockholm cold in ankle boots with slim heels and shiny soles on the icy footpath carrying a car seat on my arm, ‘even though the baby made it too heavy to carry that way. It would leave a bruise.’ The slow pace is not only a literary device or a certain style, it is also a way of developing a mental state, Karin’s state of emergency or lethargy.”
Information (DK)

The White City is an incredibly skillfully written novel, despite the fact that it feels as though it was jotted down with a nonchalant shrug. It bears witness to a writer who knows her craft, who doesn’t need to complicate things. That is high art.”
Arbetet (SE)

The White City is a tricky little gem of a book, that ought to be read both for its spare and beautiful language as well as for the sense of unease it creates in the reader.”
Skånskan (SE)

“Ramqvist has a great talent for creating images and building atmosphere. She immediately establishes the cold and the isolation that characterizes Karin’s existence. The white city outside the walls of the house, beautifully portrayed through winter images that mirror the cold on the inside. […] The White City portrays a hardened Sweden, and a woman’s vulnerability and struggle. The book well-deservedly won the prestigious PO Enquist Prize, and it’s well worth the few intense hours it takes to read it.”
Dagbladet, 5/6 (NO)

“Ramqvist masterfully depicts the conflict between the necessity of action and the draw of passivity’s false security. […] The end serves up a serious twist. But the question is if it really is a turning point, or if it is a matter of an eternal recurrence – everything beginning over and over again, unchanged.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“Rarely has the late winter appeared so bleak, heavy, and ominous as in The White City, and it’s even more rare that a novel manages to tie me to my armchair from the first to the last page. […] From the very beginning a suspense is established that never yields. […] The White City shows that Karolina Ramqvist is a strong voice in Swedish contemporary literature.”
Vårt Land (NO)

“A well-written and saturated story about Karin, who has been abandoned by her lover […] The novel is extremely well told and full of vidid sensory impressions. […] The novel writes itself into the wave of contemporary literature that portrays women who are not perfect in their roles as mothers.”
Litteratursiden (DK)

“With The Beginning in your hands, there is nothing to do as a reader but rejoice. […] The Beginning is an incredibly refreshing dive into a woman’s psyche and her way to maturity and self-awareness, told in such a disarming, carefree way you want nothing more than to reread it right away.”
Nerikes Allehanda (SE)

“Ramqvist’s language is stylistically perfect.”
Litteraturmagazinet (SE)

“This makes for extremely smart and thrilling literature.”
Femina, 5 Stars (SE)

“Brilliant.”
Yukiko Duke, Gomorron Sverige, SVT (SE)

“Read this because it’s so good and is begging to be devoured from cover to cover.”
QX (SE)

“As a document of the era and a generational novel, it’s completely outstanding.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad (SE)

“I close Karolina Ramqvist’s The Beginning and think: Hallelujah, my generation’s novel is here.”
Sydsvenskan (SE)

“Not a single word in excess.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“A forceful and urgent book about a woman held hostage in her own life.”
Gomorron Sverige, SVT (SE)

“Ramqvist herself takes a step back, lets Karin stand there naked with her desire for a love and affirmation beyond the bounds of morality, in the middle of the filfth and ugliness. It’s bravely done, and her worrying book deserves what the mythical gangster bosses never stop demanding: Respect.”
Sydsvenskan (SE)

“As a portrayal of our time, it’s both credible and problematic, since it so elegantly and anxiously floats around on the surface.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“This is a book that raises the question of the untold side of the mafia-story, and thereby has the potential to shatter the romance surrounding the genre. […] Ramqvist portrays repetitive, everyday events in a way that gives them a strangely suggestive power.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“I read The Girlfriend from cover to cover in one sitting, and put it down with a feeling of emptiness.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

More Fire is taut and filled to the brim: there is not a single sentence without substance.”
Vestmanlands Läns Tidning (SE)

“Ramqvist has a power of observation that is out of the ordinary, and she delivers without pointing fingers, without analyzing and explaining what is right and wrong.”
Borås Tidning (SE)

“What is most remarkable is that a twenty-six year-old Swedish writer is able to conjure a completely un-self-involved first person narrator who is at least half journalist and public educator.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“A kick in the balls of the Western world.”
Expressen (SE)

“When Ramqvist takes a swing at the Western world, delivered in rock-solid facts, it makes our bad conscience burn.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad (SE)

Books

Press Images

inram_39B3075 copy Photo by Jasmine Storch
KR 1 (C) Jasmine Storch Photo by Jasmine Storch
KR 3 (C) Jasmine Storch Photo by Jasmine Storch
ramqvist_karolina_9 Photo by Alexander Dahl

Awards

2015 – Awarded P.O. Enquist Literary Prize

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