Christian Lenemark. The Phenomenon Carina Rydberg on the field and as text: Den högsta kasten.
Den högsta kasten [The Highest Caste], Carina Rydberg's fifth book, caused a lot of debate when it was published in 1997. Some were upset by the way Rydberg used people's real names and that she openly claimed the book's content to be autobiographical. Others saw it as a heart-rending, honest story about what it means to be a woman writer in a man's world. The intention with this essay is partly to throw light on Carina Rydberg's conscious attempt to influence the literary field (i. e. readers, literary critics, and debaters) to read Den högsta kasten as an autobiographical piece of work. It is argued that Rydberg's marketing campaign of the book as autobiographical can be compared to what Philippe Lejeune has called "the autobiographical pact". The majority of the literary field's actors, however, the essay shows, is to a large degree reluctant to accept this pact with Rydberg. Instead of reading Den högsta kasten solely as an autobiography they tend to vacillate between different reading strategies, not really sure of what label would be appropriate to describe the book. Consequently, the analysis of the reviews and the debate concerning Den högsta kasten do not only show how the literary field works, but also prove how problematic the term autobiography is in the postmodern aesthetics of today.
The second part of the essay consists of a close reading of Den högsta kasten as text. Den högsta kasten is itself revealed to play with different reading strategies. Through its use of shifting narrative perspectives Den högsta kasten lures the reader to read the book as a novel. On another level the book indicates that it ought to be read more as an autobiography, which strengthens Rydberg's assertion in media that Den högsta kasten should be read as if it was a direct transcription of her life. Finally, it is argued that Den högsta kasten, on account of its oscillation between different generic conventions and its use of postmodernist devices as metafiction; repeated short-circuits of the ontological structure: the breakdown of the boundaries between the fictional world and the "historical" reality; the illusion of collapsing ontological levels within the fictional world etc., best – for the time being – can be characterized as a "postmodern autobiographynovel".
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2002. Vol. 123, 200-231 p.