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Skärmavbild 2021-11-03 kl. 16.49.26

If food was not given the same role in the world as it held within me, I felt a sense of desolation spread. As though there was nothing there – no love, no history, no family. But it was probably the reverse. For many years, I felt that food filled my existence, but the truth is that it slowly but surely emptied it completely.

In Bread and Milk, iconic Swedish writer Karolina Ramqvist traces a girlhood through food – that which has the potential to fill her up, but also threatens to consume her. She remembers the tangerines eaten in gluttonous longing before her mother’s closed bedroom door; her grandmother’s rice pudding connecting her to a time when eating your fill was a luxury not readily afforded; the plate of pancakes left on the kitchen counter signaling that tonight would be another night spent alone.

From the carefully restricted low-fat margarine on a slice of bread to the dried grease stains on an oversized dining room table, we follow several generations of women and their daughters as they struggle with financial and emotional vulnerability, independence, and motherhood. When Karolina finds herself a single mother to a young daughter of her own, food becomes the way for her to show her love, but also to instill a complicated inheritance.

In this radiant memoir by one of northern Europe’s most notable literary stylists, a mother’s emotional absence is filled by the physical food she painstakingly provides; a daughter seeks a missing father’s approval through tomatoes sliced just the right way; and a grandmother fills the freezer with pastries like embraces for a lonely child.

The result is a gorgeous, meditative, and essayistic memoir about how what we eat is inexorably intertwined with how we love. Bread and Milk is at once wholly original and a natural extension of the brazenly intelligent and personal writing that has come to define Karolina Ramqvist’s authorship.

Extra Materials

Cover_Gyldendal_Ramqvist Denmark, Gyldendal
Brood en melk 02 Netherlands, Nijgh & Van Ditmar
Ramqvist_BROD_skiss_Gyldendal Norway, Gyldendal
Skärmavbild 2021-11-03 kl. 16.49.26 Sweden, Norstedts


“Bread and Milk could be called a novel, an essay or autobiographical depiction – the genre designation plays a minor role. More importantly for me is that it is a book I read with a kind of sanctity, a little at a time, so as not to miss anything. The text feels so fragile yet so complete, so complex and deeply universal. /… / Ramqvist’s language is effortless and beautiful, fundamentally so simple and stripped down but so enjoyable, that there are times when I think she could write about absolutely anything as long as I can just sink into the seamless movement forward.”
– Hufvudstadsbladet (FI)

Bread and Milk is unique and deeply celebratory of life, despite the problematic topic it explores. It has panache.”
 – Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“Ramqvist writes hypnotically and with utter rhetorical control. Already on the second page hints are dropped that this thing with food, it’s surely going to derail. (…) Like the masterful writer Ramqvist is, she offers the reader no answers but rather encourages them to think for themselves.
The brilliance lies in the inconsolable ambivalence that the text conjures.”
Nordvästra Skånes Tidningar (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s book has actually changed my view of life. The reason for that is her suggestive, utterly original language. To be able to write states of crisis and emotional deprivation from grain and dairy products – that demands a great writer.”
Expressen (SE)

“Ramqvist’s skill as a writer does not lie in her ability to neatly put the abyss into order, but rather in how she manages to depict the untarnished in the utterly boundless: the states that in and of themselves are neither wrong nor right, they just are.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“Razor-sharp reflections of Sweden’s poverty era and its transformation into welfare state are woven together with food descriptions that are utterly steaming with culinary-erotic delight.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“The title is too simple, the book is so much more: a gripping coming of age story, an empathic story about motherhood, a loving portrait of a beloved grandmother, and a salient analysis of Swedish class society. Everything depicted through food. What you eat, how you eat, how you cook food.vIt is profoundly original and cements Karolina Ramqvist’s position as one of the most interesting Swedish writers of today.”
Borås Tidning (SE)

“This book resembles nothing else I have read. When I was first confronted with it, I wondered how it would be possible to tell something essential about life by describing food. After reading, I weep like a hungry child.”
Göteborgs Tidning (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s book about a young girl’s problematic relationship to food is also a deeply original and rich chronicle of a family.”
Norra Skåne (SE)

“In such an associative and winding story as this, it is impressive how Ramqvist manages to keep such a steady course. At times one is lead to believe that she is taking a detour, but with safe hand she steers us back to the dinner table, and even if she occasionally leaves the kitchen, its aromas are always present.”
Västmanlands läns tidning (SE)

“The relationship between mothers and daughters appears to be an inexhaustible subject in prose. But when food enters the picture my interest is piqued.”
Jönköpings-Posten (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist excels stylistically in her narrative on eating disorder.”
Norrbottens-Kuriren (SE)

“The exposure of this existential theme [about food] is the novel’s real strength. But there is so much more to it.”
Barometern (SE)

“It is a monumental novel that Karolina Ramqvist has achieved, and for several reasons. She captivates the reader through all 333 pages without resorting to drama. (…) It is an artform that the writer masters; the clear and concise language.”
Norrländska socialdemokraten (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist experiences life through food, and this complex relationship – full of both love and shame – is depicted in this poignant text.”
Nerikes Allehanda (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist doesn’t reason or moralize around the subject of food, she merely depicts it. Everything becomes physical, palpable, all the while these people come to life and become increasingly clear as they are described in relation to their eating. (…) In other words, Bread and Milk is a very unusual novel, it doesn’t resemble anything I’ve read before. And the way in which this daring grip remains intact throughout the novel is connected to Karolina Ramqvist’s brilliant stylistic talents. She is simply a dazzling storyteller, and scenes such as the one with the rice pudding will not be forgotten by the reader in a long time.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)

“While reading I am forced to reevaluate my self-perception as a person without food-interest. I am no gourmand, but for me as for Karolina Ramqvist, food is so much childhood. And memories. Food is what life attaches to, like Marcel Proust and his Madeleines.”
Södra Dalarnas Tidning (SE)

“When Karolina writes about her grandparents and the journey they made in a country that went from one of the poorest to one of the richest, it is among the most beautiful depictions of Sweden I have ever read.”
Gefle Dagblad (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist writes in unsentimental first person. In a simple, beautiful and completely unique language she depicts a lonely, oftentimes worried girl’s upbringing and adulthood with food. Food that lures and frightens.”
Västerbottens-Kuriren (SE)

“This is a book I enjoyed immensely.”
Falu Kuriren (SE)

“I have never read someone who can describe with such precision what it’s like to eat a mandarin or how rice pudding feels in your mouth. But just as much, the book revolves around the relationships which occur around food, the formative experiences of childhood and the symbolic power of specific dishes. Ramqvist’s language is so detailed and stylistically on point that you feel it throughout your whole body – and awakens my own memories of food to life.”                                                                                                                                                     –Dagen Premium (SE)

“… [Bread and Milk] is more than a linguistically elegant and sharp analysis of the psychology behind eating disorders: it is also a depiction of the relationship between three generations of women.”                                                                                                                                                                     – Vi Läser (SE)

“Not only does it take extraordinary literary virtuosity, but also wisdom and human warmth, to write about various foods so that they illuminate the whole of existence. Karolina Ramqvist succeeds: without ever having to resort to strained constructions, through a delicate detailed painting and an admirable honesty, she gives the kingdom of food a personal, life-shaping depth. She recounts from her adult perspective the story of a girl who experiences eating and the rituals surrounding it as exciting adventures, but who at the age of ten also realizes that her hunger cannot be stilled regardless of how much she spoons in. And when the relationship with food becomes a reflection of life in general, her eating disorders eventually take on a wider, more dramatic meaning in life. Ramqvist’s language is beautiful and supple – at the core simple – yet uniquely melodious. I was aware that she can write like that, with seamless shifts between different levels. But now I learned that she can make me grateful and touched just by illuminating small but life-sustaining substances like bread and milk. Her text is so fragile and yet so complete, so complex and at the same time deeply human.”
Hufvudstadsbladet (FI)

“This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. /…/ Having read, I cry like a hungry little child. Karolina Ramqvist’s book has actually changed my way of seeing life.”
– Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“The novel that I think has been most surprising and very fun to read is Bread and Milk by Karolina Ramqvist. /…/ A sharp analysis of the development of Sweden.”
– SVT (SE)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s novel about a neglected, lonely child who develops a sickly relationship to food, is realistically and heartbreakingly sad. The story is drawn as a long, elaborated confession. It begins with flashbacks, which are crucial of the girl’s, later woman’s, unhealthy relationship to food and meals, and they lead us to her situation today. […]  Bread and Milk is not only a sad story about how an eating disorder can make a person stop function. It is just as much a critical comment on a destructive view of women, and a body culture complete out of control. […]. Bread and Milk is a heart wrenching story about a neglected child, but also a culinary journey full of impressions through several generation’s food traditions in Sweden.”
Jyllands-Posten (DK)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s Bread and Milk is a captivating and original novel about food, emptiness, and 100 years of women’s history […]. The rice pudding is loaded with so much meaning and is a counterpart to Marcel Proust’s Madelaine cake, an instigator of memories, but also an expression of how we try to take the comfort and love of the past into our children’s lives by recreating the good and safe experiences of the childhood. […] Bread and Milk is by all means a contribution to the contemporary conversation about women and their problematic relationship to food, but also a sensuous and unusually well-written celebration of eating and enjoyment. Perhaps, it is also a way of describing literature as well, Ramqvist’s other passion. Because the indulgence which can arise from eating something incredibly tasty is similar to the indulgence of reading a really good book. And Bread and Milk is like that, and 46-years-old Ramqvist, who has a number of strong publications behind her, proves once again that she is one of Sweden’s most readable authors. Which says a lot.”

“To eat to live or to live to eat? That is the question in Karolina Ramqvist’s beautiful and tasteful novel about three generations and their relationship to food. […] The novel is both a literary and culinary experience with all the reflections, scents, colors, and tastes that is a part of it. It is a story about a lonely girl growing up and her struggle against the inherited generational trauma, which manifests itself in the form of desire, life crisis, and an eating disorder. And it is to a large extent also a way of processing the fear of passing the food trauma to the next generation.”
Litteratursiden (DK)

“Karolina Ramqvist’s Bread and Milk is a declaration of love for food – and a story about equating love with food. […] Bread and Milk is literally a cornucopia of food descriptions. This slows down the pace of the story, keeping the reader in an intense flashback to a stagnant childhood full of equal parts longing and pleasure. With Karolina Ramqvist’s language in front of you, it is not the worst place to be.”
Søndag (DK)

“Bread and Milk is a sensitive novel about a lonely girl growing up – full of smells, colors, flavors, and food. The adult me thinks back of piles of pancakes, toast, and black forest cake, and the people and food that filled her life, and have become her obsession.”
Eurowoman (DK)

“I have been looking forward to this book by Karolina Ramqvist, which is now available in Danish. It is about a lonely girl who is growing up, about remembering your childhood through food, and about all food that can tempt, seduce, and frighten you.”
Femina (DK)

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