Its first publisher vowed to sell its 1,600 print run over five years, but Fredrik Sjöberg’s The Fly Trap has sold more than 30,000 copies in the original Swedish, and thousands more in translation.It has just appeared in English.
The book has proved a hit in Germany, France, Russia and Norway. It has just appeared in English, published by Particular Books, through Penguin, ten years on from its original release.
The book will be published in Italy and Spain this winter, and in the US next year. Described as a blend of biography, autobiography and poetry, travel, natural history, popular science. it's proving to be an unlikely publishing success.
The Fly Trap recalls Sjöberg's extraordinary decision to start collecting flies on the island of Runmarö, 15 square miles an hour east of Stockholm. Sjöberg became entranced with Runmarö when he visited it to research orchids in 1984.
Two years later, he and his wife moved there and lived in near poverty for 10. They had three young children and the house had no running water.
“I realised if I'm going to write this book I have to write it for readers who are not interested in flies, “ the author recently told The Guardian. “Then you have to tell stories about people. Quite a lot of people say they are interested in nature but all people are interested in people."
The author and fly-fanatic has found 202 species of hoverfly in seven years, 180 of these in his garden. Sjöberg reckons he is one of only 25 hoverfly enthusiasts in Sweden.
He caught beetles and butterflies as a lad. "Then I stopped because of the difficulties of making a good impression on girls with dead insects. I usually call this the entomologist's reproductive phase."
At 25, Sjöberg left his biology course, much to the chagrin of his parents. He told them he wanted to be a writer and spent five studying environmental journalism and writing love letters. "The best way to learn to write is to write love letters to girls who don't want you," he says. "I did a lot of that."
He has logged 58 species of butterflies, but nowadays he collects art. And copious royalties, presumably.