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First published in 1984, and awarded the Grand Prize for the Novel by Sweden's Literature Foundation, this autobiographical novel tells of the author's immigration to America at the age of 11. In a retrospective narrative 45 years later, Myrdal focuses on the inner workings of the child's mind, particularly during the time between the crossing from Sweden to America and his first months of school in New York City. At a young age, Myrdal was conscious of being separated from other people by his family's money, his parents' reputations (both were world-famous scholars), and his own intelligence. He cultivates that separation by living within his own imagination, favoring science-fiction magazines, history books, and newspapers covering the beginning of WW II over friendships. His relationship with his parents, central to the story, may have had something to do with this. They did not enjoy spending time with him, treated him like a scientific subject for an experiment on conditioning, and often disregarded his feelings (they sent him to distant Syracuse to visit an American family they hardly knew and then forgot to meet his return train). Another way in which Myrdal isolates himself from the outside world is through language. He struggles to perfect his English and fit in with Americans; at the same time, he uses wordplay and linguistic intricacies to sever the lines of communication to the world around him. Finally, a school psychologist assesses that he needs more parental contact to develop normal social skills. A postscript reveals that relations between Myrdal and his parents did not improve: They viewed his depiction of an unhappy childhood in this book and others as libel; he recognized it as the one way in which he could exert power over them. For some, an insightful and detailed investigation of a child's perceptions; for others, a self-indulgent and meandering stroll down a stranger's memory lane.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 198pp
Publisher: Ravenswood -- dist. by Independent Publishers Group