With a Name like Mine

Back to Carola Hansson

The year after the release of Carola’s novel Andrej, about Lev Tolstoy’s son, she unexpectedly received a letter from Andreys’, for her unknown, grandson in Moscow. An article about the death of his father, also unknown to Carola, was attached to the letter as well.

From the article, she understood that Ilja left the Soviet as a twenty-one year old to live in exile in the United States. But why, Carola wondered, had the son – and without a word for explanation – sent the her this article? How much did he really, in view of the iron curtain, think about his father’s loss at three years of age? And Ilja, she thought, had been abandoned by his father, Andrej, at almost the same age. What are the forces that control our choices? she asked herself. And how much is it possible for us to decide our destiny ourselves?

Strange occasions caused Carola, just a year later, to follow Ilja’s very dramatic living, from the turmoil of the Soviet Union to his lifelong exile in the American upper class. Ilja turned out to be a charismatic adventurer, was engaged in a wildlife film among North American Indians, in the founding of the world’s first deep sea aquarium, he went on a spectacular expedition to Dalai Lama’s Tibet. But eventually Carola also thought he was a deeply lonely person, the bearer of the heavy Tolstoy inheritance – of living on the border between fiction and reality.

Carola has chosen to call this novel With a Name like Mine – because it’s exactly what it is. That is to say: the focus of the story is, in addition to the facts she received, above all the search for them and the questions that it all raised. In other words, a kind of memory process – and as we all know, memory is not always a true testimony of the past. In addition, as a narrator, she has reserved the right to choose and interpret what she meets during the trip.

For a trip it has been, both in outer sense – to countries such as Russia, Portugal and the United States – and in the depth of memories and souls. Carola, of course, has an insignificant truth about the facts about Ilja himself – but, of course, not as far as the storyteller’s own experiences are concerned. And the most important thing for her has been to be true to the thoughts, the thoughts and the existential questions raised during the time of creating this novel, not so much to the people who came in her way, in what order everything took place or even in what way.

With a Name like Mine, was awarded the Albert Bonniers Prize and the Övralid Award.