Safia interviews Anna Borgeryd, Swedish business woman and author of ‘Integrity’, a revolutionary new eco-novel, at her book launch event in ‘Tibits’, London. Published this month by New Internationalist.
Safia: You are well known in Sweden as an entrepreneur and environmental researcher. Why was it so important to you to express your ideas in a novel aimed at a wide, popular readership?
Anna: I had this calling, this huge need to write the novel, body and spirit and an interest in ecology pushed me to write ‘Integrity’ – some of it is based on personal experience too. The novel was a way to make environmental issues more accessible to people.
Safia: Throughout the novel, you more or less alternate between Vera’s and Peter’s perspective, giving them around the same space. Why were you so keen to do that, given that the starting standpoint for both you and the reader is likely to be much closer to Vera’s?
Anna: They say for a good love story you have to give both people equal space and share their perspectives, thoughts and characters with the reader, otherwise one person becomes simply an object.
Safia: Did you find it difficult to put yourself in Peter’s shoes at the beginning, given his inveterate and unthinking womanizing?
Anna: I wanted the reader to get to know Peter better, at first he is difficult to like as you say, then you see him growing and that the problem her faces come from his difficult upbringing. He is a womanizer at the beginning and then he grows up and shows real strength, strength that Vera lacks, so they complement each other.
Safia: How much of you is there in Vera?
Anna: I guess there’s a lot of Vera in me – she is a strong woman, a feminist and has real integrity.
Safia: Throughout the novel, you return to Vera’s experience with the Kogi indigenous people of the Colombian rainforest. Why is that so important to the message of the book and how does it relate to our predicament in the early 21st century?
Anna: The Kogi indigenous people fascinate me. I found videos of The Kogi Shaman called Mamas. We really need to find solutions and new economic systems that properly value the natural resource base of our earth and protect our environment. This is the message the Kogi people are sending to us – they can see signs of devastation even in their pristine hilltops in Colombia. They are calling to us to wake up and act responsibly.
Safia: You also have a background in film, I sense this in the dramatic opening of the book. The story that would translate well to a TV miniseries or a movie – have you had any interest from film-makers either in Sweden or abroad?
Anna: Yes, I think it will be very soon made into a film or mini-series – I’ll be hearing about it very soon. I’m passionate about films and excited about this next project.
Safia: Tell me how do you address sustainability in your own business Polarbröd? You are fifth generation bread makers – how incredible!
Anna: We have built our own wind turbines and meet much of our energy demands with renewable energy – we are also using more organic ingredients. We are one of the largest bread businesses in Sweden, so we need to lead by example and get the debate going about sustainable ways of producing food.
“A compelling novel – compassionate and empowering.” Vandana Shiva