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Fredrik Sjöberg: 'I realised I had to write my book for people not interested in flies'

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Fredrik Sjöberg spent seven years hunting hoverflies on a small Swedish island and then wrote a genre-defying memoir about it

'It's somewhere between a flute and an opium pipe," explains Fredrik Sjöberg, unfolding a small tubular contraption in his wild flower-filled garden. More alarming than this "pooter" is a jar decorated with a skull-and-crossbones. "Cyanide," nods the Swedish writer, clearing his throat as we stand by his bleached wooden jetty leading into a dark, limpid lake. "I have a dealer. I'm not totally sure if this is legal ..."

Pfffft. In a flash, Sjöberg bends over a flower, sucks on the pooter and catches a microscopic bronze fly. If the general public regard butterfly collectors as "breathless twits", reasons Sjöberg, then a hoverfly hunter is "absurd". Perhaps the only thing crazier than a hoverfly obsessive would be to write a genre-defying memoir about it and expect to find a publisher and readers. This, of course, is exactly what the writer, translator and biologist has done with The Fly Trap, and a small book about an obscure branch of entomology has become unexpectedly big.

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