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I'm looking for a Swedish literary novel, published 2013, set in the Pårtetjåkko observatory in the Sarek mountains in Sweden. In the book, the (fictional) main character is alone in the remote mountain summit observatory, and contemplating his (real) predecessor Axel Hamberg.

In the same year, the documentary book Axel Hamberg och Sarek was published. This is NOT the book I am looking for; I'm looking for a work of fiction.

Due to various transliterations between Sami and Swedish, the mountain may be called pårtetjåkka, pårtetjåkko, pårte, bårddetjåhkkå, boarek, or similar variations. The observatory is called pårteobservatoriet in Swedish.

Photo of the observatory
Setting of (much of) the novel. Source: SibFreak, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

I don't remember the author or the title of the book, and I didn't manage to find it with a web search. Would anyone know what book this may be or have suggestions how I can search for it in a more targeted way (such as limiting to all works of fiction published in Sweden in 2013)? I know I read it in 2013 and I know it was new at the time.

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This sounds like Observatoriet by Mats Söderlund, published in 2013 by Albert Bonniers Förlag. The Nordin literary agency blurbed the books as follows:

The Observatory is a merciless novel that gets under the skin and lingers on the mind for a long time.

Erik is alone in the mountains on a scientific mission to observe and record the wind, the air pressure and temperature levels. While a snowstorm turns into a hurricane Erik is shivering inside the cabin’s shaking walls, haunted by his memories. He no longer wants to be alone and he longs for Kristine, a fellow student that he fell in love with but is afraid to open up to. Afraid that she will see trough his intellectual surface and discover the coward who never fought back and defended himself from his boundless and abusive mother. Erik is vulnerable and fragile and feels trapped inside the isolated cabin which feeds his anxiety and childhood memories. The reader is given a harrowing portrayal of a small northern village, where the bullied Erik lives among insensitive adults and their constant breaches of privacy, at home and in the village school.

Mats Söderlund tells the story from the boy’s perspective and it’s cleverly done with psychological insight, speaking directly to the reader. And although this is a love story or a tale of tentative love and self-destructive behaviour, it is above all a poignant coming-of-age story.

The Observatory is Mats Söderlund’s first novel, a story with the same linguistic responsiveness and power that characterizes his poetry.

See Google Books for the first few pages:

Det är ingen som saknar mig, ingen som undrar vart jag tagit vägen. Jag kan lika gärna ruttna här uppe. Ettusenåttahundratrettiofyra meter över havet. Det är natt. Kylan kommer i korta pustar. Jag kan inte ligga längre. Öppnar blixtlåset. Kall luft rusar in.

No one misses me, no one wonders where I have gone. I might as well rot up here. One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four meters above sea level. It’s night. The cold comes in short breaths. I can’t lie down anymore. Open the zipper. Cold air rushes in.

Search confirms that “pårteobservatoriet” and “Axel Hamberg” appear in the text.

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  • Impressively fast find!
    – gerrit
    Apr 28 at 14:57

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