Summary and book reviews of The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg

The Fly Trap

by Fredrik Sjoberg

The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg X
The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2015, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

A mesmerizing memoir of extraordinary brilliance by an entomologist, The Fly Trap chronicles Fredrik Sjöberg's life collecting hoverflies on a remote island in Sweden

"The hoverflies are only props. No, not only, but to some extent. Here and there, my story is about something else."

A mesmerizing memoir of extraordinary brilliance by an entomologist, The Fly Trap chronicles Fredrik Sjöberg's life collecting hoverflies on a remote island in Sweden. Warm and humorous, self-deprecating and contemplative, and a major best seller in its native country, The Fly Trap is a meditation on the unexpected beauty of small things and an exploration of the history of entomology itself.

What drives the obsessive curiosity of collectors to catalog their finds? What is the importance of the hoverfly? As confounded by his unusual vocation as anyone, Sjöberg reflects on a range of ideas—the passage of time, art, lost loves—drawing on sources as disparate as D. H. Lawrence and the fascinating and nearly forgotten naturalist René Edmond Malaise. From the wilderness of Kamchatka to the loneliness of the Swedish isle he calls home, Sjöberg revels in the wonder of the natural world and leaves behind a trail of memorable images and stories.

Chapter 3
A Trap in Rangoon

Many years ago, before the island and the theatre, I took a passenger barge up the mighty Congo River. What an adventure! What stories I would tell! About freedom! But it didn't happen. I never managed to say much more than that the forests were vast and the river as broad as Kalmar Sound. And that I'd been there. So it goes when you travel for the sake of something to say. Your eyes go weak. All I could have written were endless disquisitions about homesickness. So I kept my mouth shut.

It's a different story with Ladäng Creek, I thought aloud to myself one morning among the bird-cherry blossoms. Then something remarkable happened.

I was in the process of rigging up my big California fly trap between a couple of over-blooming sallow bushes down by the creek—a complicated manoeuvre—when suddenly a complete stranger appeared as if from nowhere. He just stepped straight out of the lush June greenery and addressed me politely and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Sjöberg’s keen eye and effervescent tone are infectious, you can’t help but be carried along by his boundless enthusiasm for nature’s many wonders. In many ways this memoir reads like Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, like summer trapped within the pages of a warm and nourishing book.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (665 words).

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Media Reviews

The Financial Times (UK)
Sjöberg traces a sort of erratic flight path of ideas and associations, at once whimsical and yet laden with erudition and a deep feeling for the natural world and our place in it.

The Independent (UK)
[Sjöberg] writes with infectious passion.

The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
An intriguing defense of the selfish, even hedonistic pleasures of natural history. Thomas Teal's translation captures Sjöberg's quiet, hypnotic style, his deadpan jokes.

The Guardian (UK)
Wry, digressive and packed with fantastically clipped observations.

The Times (UK)
Full of charm, the insects are almost incidental... it's really a book about how to find meaning in life. (A Times Nature Book of the Year)

Kirkus Reviews
In sharing the experience of solitude and reflection, Sjöberg invites readers to see through his eyes, in language that is often poetic, sometimes inscrutable.

Jyllands-Posten (Denmark)
A rare masterpiece.... graceful, poetic, astonishing and—yes!—absolutely thrilling.

Author Blurb Tomas Tranströmer, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
I often return to The Fly Trap, it remains close to my heart. The minute observations from nature reveal sudden insights into one's life. Sometimes I almost think that he wrote it for me.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Hoverflies as Expert Masqueraders

In his memoir, The Fly Trap, Fredrik Sjöberg writes: "hoverflies are meek and mild creatures, easy to collect, and ... appear in many guises. Sometimes they don't even look like flies. Some of them look like hornets, others like honeybees, parasitic ichneumon wasps, gadflies, or fragile, thin-as-thread mosquitoes so tiny that normal people never even notice them."

If you're "meek and mild" in the natural world, it helps to pretend to be bad and bold which explains hoverflies' expertise at Batesian mimicry, a natural process where species take on the threatening behaviors or looks of more offensive counterparts to ward off predators.

Around 6,000 species of hoverflies have been described. They are common throughout ...

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