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Red cabin
A traditional red cabin.
Photo credit: Doris Beling/Folio/

A Mainstay in Swedish Culture

Ingmar Bergman, the best advertisement for Swedish melancholy, spent a great deal of time in his writing cottage on the barren islet of Fårö off the island of Gotland.

Out there, his imagination had free rein and was interrupted only by daily trips to the kiosk by the ferry landing to buy the evening papers. With his back to the world, he could allow his works to take shape.

Bergman died in 2007 at the age of 89, on Fårö. He had stopped being afraid of death and chose to meet it in solitude.

A more overt expression of our bittersweet relationship with our summer homes is found in Swedish singer Barbro Hörberg’s “Summer Island” (Sommarö), from 1973. This is a touching scene from a marriage, but still more a dispute about the cut-off point between wanted and unwanted solitude.

The “I” of the song, a housewife in her prime, is abandoned on the summer island by her husband, who travels to take up a well-paid bank position in London. Beneath descriptions of beautiful natural surroundings, the subtext screams her frustration and silent accusations: “And I found some pretty stones at the water’s edge down on the beach/We could – what did you say? – no, they’re worthless, of course.”