Writing Session – The Awakening of Sweden

Last weekend I went back to Maastricht to visit my cousin Gwen (who is a starting but talented journalist by the way) and we held a short writing session at a lunchroom. We took one of the magazines lying around on the table and picked out a sentence on random, and we had to use that sentence as the beginning of a story, which we had about 60-90 minutes to write. (Thanks to Thaumaturgist by the way for suggesting this method for the writing challenge a while ago. It has become one of my favourite methods whenever I’m looking for a writing prompt). The article we ended up with was an article about IKEA, and the sentence we picked out was “Zweden wordt eindelijk wakker”, which is Dutch for Sweden is finally waking up. Well, I quickly had the idea of taking that as literal as possible. What if the whole country was really in sleep for years?

It was a lot of fun to write. However, the whole piece is basically just background story. I probably would have done it completely different if I had to do it again. I would have placed the main character from at the start of the story, instead of including him when the time has almost expired. Now it seems as if the main character is merely an afterthought in this story. Still, I am quite satisfied considering the time constraint. I think it can be the start for a potentially cool storywith a lot of different possibilites, although it would be quite complicated to write correctly. Anyway, here is the English translation of what I had written (click on Read More), with the Dutch original included after the translation. Enjoy, and let me know what you think 🙂

English Translation

Sweden is finally waking up.

The country has been in a slumber for years. Literally. Twelve years ago, a mysterious virus wreaked havoc upon the land. It wasn’t a deadly virus, but it caused everyone to fall asleep. The whole country was placed under quarantine, and the virus was largely contained within Sweden, a few border areas in Norway excepted. All this time, the Swedish was under discussion within the UN, but every single attempt to combat the virus failed until finally professor Schonberg, a brilliant Swedish professor living in the States invented the antidote after years of labour.

And so Sweden is finally waking up. One by one the Swedes awaken from their slumber, and the whole world was witness to this historical event. People were partying all over the world; from New York to Tokyo and from Moscow to Teheran. For once there is a feeling of euphoria and solidarity across the entire globe. It was the first time in the history of humankind that man felt so connected to its own species.

It wasn’t long before this feeling of euphoria made place for reality, and whenever reality rears its ugly head, any feelings of connectedness and solidarity is quickly thrown out the window. Sweden has obviously stood still in its economic, intellectual and infrastructural development, and it is now light years behind the other western nations in terms of competitive advantage. In fact, many Third World countries have even passed Sweden. There are many international debates on how to bring the Swedes back on their feet, but except the usual philanthropic institutions and a few eccentric individuals, there are not many who feel too concerned with the fate of the poor Swedes.

That is not even the worst part. What is by far even more worrying is the degree of ageing of the Swedish population. It was a matter of debate even before the virus outbreak, but the problems are now aggravated beyond comprehension. There are of course no new babies born in Sweden for twelve years. Even worse, each and every single Swede has physically aged twelve years, and yet they have stood still in their mental development. Sweden is now thus faced with a triple threat. Not only do the older people make up a much higher proportion of the population, but all the young men and women now possess the mental capacities of a teenager or even a small child, while it will take years before a new generation of Swedes will come through.

It is in this somber world that Ronald Timmermans awakens from his slumber. Twelve years he left the Netherlands to spend a short holiday in Stockholm not knowing he wouldn’t leave the country again. Twelve years ago he was an ardent young man of 23 years old who just graduated from the university, and who just landed his dream job. Twelve years ago, he fell head over heels for a sweet girl called Saskia, and he was already dreaming of spending their lives together. Twelve years ago, the world was at his feet, and he looked upon his future with a confidence which is not uncommon for that age.

But that was twelve years ago…

Dutch Original

Zweden wordt eindelijk wakker.

Het land is jarenlang in slaap geweest. Letterlijk. Twaalf jaar geleden woedde er een mysterieus virus door het land. Het was geen dodelijk virus, maar het zorgde ervoor dat iedereen in slaap viel. Heel Zweden is in quarantaine gesteld, en uitgezonderd enkele grensgebieden in Noorwegen is het virus beperkt gebleven tot Zweden. Jarenlang is de toestand van Zweden het onderwerp van gesprek geweest binnen de VN, maar alle pogingen om het virus te bestrijden mislukten.Totdat de briljante professor Schonberg, een Zweedse professor woonachtig in de Verenigde Staten, na 10 jaar zwoegen eindelijk met het verlossende medicijn kwam.

En zo wordt het land dus eindelijk wakker. Een voor een ontwaken de Zweden uit hun diepe slaap en de beelden van dit historische geschiedenis gaan de hele wereld over en zijn al binnen 2 minuten terug te vinden op Youtube en Facebook. Overal ter wereld wordt er feest gevierd en hevig getwitterd; van New York tot Tokyo en van Moskou tot Teheran. Overal ter wereld heerst een gevoel van euforie en saamhorigheid. Nog nooit in de geschiedenis der mensheid heeft de mens zich zo verbonden met zijn eigen soortgenoten gevoeld.

Maar het duurde niet lang voordat het gevoel van euforie zich plaatsmaakte voor de keiharde realiteit, en als de realiteit om de hoek komt kijken, dan is het gevoel van saamhorigheid meestal ook ver weg te zoeken. Het land heeft natuurlijk twaalf jaar lang stilgestaan in haar economische, intellectuele en infrastructurele ontwikkeling. Het heeft daardoor een gigantische economische achterstand opgebouwd ten opzichte van de westerse landen, en het is ondertussen zelfs al voorbijgestreefd door vele verschillende Derde Wereld landen. Er zijn vele discussies gevoerd over de ontwikkeling van Zweden, maar uitgezonderd enkele philantopische instellingen en nog wat individualistische excentriekelingen zijn voelen maar weining mensen zich verbonden met het lot van de arme Zweden.

Een extra complicerende factor is uiteraard dat de vergrijzing ook genadeloos heeft toegeslagen. Was het al een heikel punt van discussie in Zweden voordat het virus uitbrak, nu zijn de problemen helemaal niet meer te overzien. Twaalf jaar lang zijn er geen nieuwe kinderen geboren in Zweden. En wat misschien nog wel veel erger is, iedereen in Zweden is ondertussen physiek twaalf jaar ouder geworden, maar ze hebben al die tijd stilgestaan in hun mentale ontwikkeling. Het land kampt nu dus met een overvloed van mensen die niet meer in staat zijn te werken, alle jonge mannen en vrouwen beschikken over de mentale capaciteit van een kind of tiener, en er komt jarenlang geen nieuwe generatie door.

In deze wereld ontwaakt Ronald Timmermans dus uit zijn diepe slaap. Twaalf jaar geleden vertrok hij uit Nederland om een korte vakantie te vieren in Stockholm, en hij is nooit meer weggegaan. Twaalf jaar geleden was hij een jongeman van 23 jaar die net is afgestudeerd aan de universiteit. Twaalf jaar geleden was hij net begonnen aan zijn droombaan. Twaalf jaar geleden werd hij smoorverliefd op een meisje die Saskia heet en hij droomde ervan een leven samen met haar op te bouwen. Twaalf jaar geleden lag de hele wereld nog aan zijn voeten.

Maar dat was dus twaalf jaar geleden…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Writing Session – The Awakening of Sweden

  1. Thaumaturgist

    I would buy this book! The plot seems very original. Plus the idea that the world is debating over how to wake up Sweden just sounds just super awesome.
    And I ended up “reading” the dutch version too. Okay probably not “read” because I pronounced each word the English way but I can brag about how I read “almost-a-story” in a language I have nil clues about. Random.
    This is probably a very stupid thing to mention but I can’t help rereading my name (hypothetically) on such a cool post. Again and again and again. Woot Woot!

    • Haha, glad that you’re happy to read your name in the post. But then again, I need to give credit where credit is due, right? 😉

      This one will definitely go into the ‘ideas’ file. I think this would be a very complicated story to write, so it’s not something I would tackle right now. I’m not even sure if I will use Sweden if I ever work it out – I just used Sweden because of the sentence. I might even replace it with a fantasy realm, although I can’t help but think that such a story would work much better in the ‘real’ world.

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