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The Lying Swede Portrait of a Misanthrope

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The Lying Swede or The Portrait of a Misanthrope

The lying Swede told me that he had won satori over the philosophical hurdle of Care and looked upon life with complete, unencumbered Indifference. Indifference, as far as I know, is the western equivalent of Enlightenment. He then began explaining to me the ways in which he was Indifferent. I asked him why he was bothering with explanations if he were really so indifferent. He understood and flashed me a smile and I laughed a little. Society, friends, talk, and a late night hostel room full of Middle Eastern girls, a big Norwegian, and Hungarian wine always brings a man back to the feral world of men.

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Budapest, Hungary- July 27, 2008

“I was Indifferent before I got to this hostel,” he corrected himself in a half-ass manner.

The Lying Swede was a misanthrope.

I travel the world in search of people like this 22 year old Swedish poet who studied philosophy in a button-up white shirt, a sweater vest, and an indrawn twinkle in his eyes. The Lying Swede lived more within than without, and, as with most men who have cultivated their inner selves, his interactions with other people were not smooth.

The night grew long and myself, the Lying Swede, a big Norwegian, and three Egyptian/ Lebanese/ Canadian girls were getting drunk off wine while playing Erik the Pilot’s card game, up the river, down the river. We soon found that our words touched upon philosophy as soon as our tongues were lubed with booze. A powerful set of minds were assembled around me at this table – the Middle Eastern girls were law students, the hulking Norwegian an engineer, and the Swede was well versed in Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Khayyam, and other men who wrote words to dispel The Word. We went at each other with squeals, smiles, laughs, and sneers. We were going deep, and the Lying Swede was taking the talk seriously- this was his forum. The world met around this table, as it should (but rarely does) in a backpacker’s hostel.

But it all exploded when the Swede looked directly across the table at the Lebanese girl who brilliantly squashed one of his arguments, and told her that he would like to put her in a concentration camp. I have heard many people say many things to people before, but I had never heard anyone say that.

I laughed at the philosophical jest, and everyone else joined in. The Swede sat calmly.

Earlier in the day, I found the Lying Swede walking the streets of Budapest and joined him.

“I tell lies,” he told me.

“I know,” I told him “but I like lies.”

“I don’t.”

He then smiled a little and we talked of the Road and writing and publishing writing as we passed city block after city block. The Lying Swede spoke in the serious, dead-on way of his country men. I have always admired how a Swede could calm a man with the simple tone of his voice. He talked steady, slowly, quietly, though very direct, and made me respond in kind. I found his way of talking curious, as he seemed to believe in his words to the point that he could melt away an entire planet and only leave himself standing. His sincerity trapped me into listening to his every word intently. He believed in what he said and in himself, as if his world consisted of only one man.

I am of the impression that it did.

I also took notice that girls were really drawn to him, but he looked upon them with the same absense of regard that he seemed to pay to the rest of superficial human interaction. I mentioned this to him and he just shrugged his shoulders. He had no interest in women.

A couple days before, the Swede and I met at the kitchen table of the Loft Hostel. He greeted me with a simple “Hey” and I chided him for offering such an American sounding salutation. He laughed a little and told me that he was studying the Gypsy people of the Balkans and was writing an essay on them. I opened up the conversation a little more and questioned him about his experiences, as I myself, at one time, put a good deal of study into the ethnographic record surrounding the Romani. The Lying Swede spoke with slow and solid sincerity but his words on this topic lacked much significance.

He then told me of how his mother was Iranian and that his family was Muslim. The Lying Swede was blonde with blue eyes, and looked in all and every regard Swedish. I enjoyed his story though, and realized that he romanticized etnicities that were not his own and seemed to wish minority status for himself- perhaps in an attempt to further draw himself out of the ebb and flow of society, perhaps to make himself as unique as he believed himself to be.

“I feel bad for the Gypsy people,” he said, and later admitted that he wished to be Romani.

I could sympathize, for I also once held far away visions of having a cultural backing that was not my own. I once thought that I was traveling to find my people. Maybe I still am.

I liked the Lying Swede. He was proud, thought himself brilliant, and had eyes full of Romance. He dreamed far away dreams.

He also wrote words.

And told lies.

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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Hungary, Other Travelers

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3136 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Zhushan Village, Kinmen, TaiwanMap