The Christmas Oratio by Göran Tunström is one of the
richest and most treasured Swedish novels in the last 25 years and has been
translated to many languages. The author has received significant recognition
for it. The Christmas Oratio has been performed on stage several times and
Kjell-Åke Andersson has received great recognition for his film version.
The Christmas Oratio begins in the Swedish town Sunne,
where people are getting ready to sing and play the glorious Christmas Oratio
by Bach. From there the novel begins to expand, spanning across three
generations. It starts in the 1930s and finishes in our day. The story is set
between Värmland and its geographical opposite, New Zealand.
Even though The Christmas Oratio is a story about
grief and longing the author does not lack any conviction about the power of
love, which “is to give another person a vigour of life” and to recognise life
for what it is. Like a thread through the story with its potent and shifting
situations, Sidner Nordensson searches for a balance betwen perpetual grief and
the life-affirming and healing power of love. Sidner’s son becomes a musician
and he returns to Sunne to conduct Bach’s Christmans Oratio The final words of
the Oratio itself are: "You shepherd folk, be not afeared,/because the
angel tells you:/this weak babe/shall be our comfort and joy,/there to subdue
the devil/and bring peace at last."
The Christmas Oratio is a book which we would call
timeless. It is a celebratory shout to the mysterious ability to express joy
and to carry pain, whatever the lot in life may be.