DOLLAR ROAD by Kjartan Flogstad


Email this review


The winner of this year's Pegasus Prize for literature is in the picaresque tradition--a series of loosely connected vignettes that jump, sometimes confusingly, from Norway to Colombia to New York City and back and forth in time. Each episode concerns one of the Hoysands, a peasant family, some of whom are drawn from the land into urban life. The Norwegian Hoys ands are capable, hard-working souls who learn their trades well and become peripherally involved in labor-union politics. They remain peasants at heart, however, skipping across the surface of urban life like stones across the surface of a lake. Their lives create a few splashes, some fast-disappearing ripples, and then sink, without trace, into the depths. The delightful opening passage here carries the reader across the mountains to the Hoysand farm in a remote valley. The journey by a barefoot ten-yearold boy becomes the focus of lyrical landscape descriptions. His family mission is so important that he resists the temptations of stopping at any of the places that are usually irresistible to small boys. The message he carries, and the unifying theme of the novel, is that jobs are available at the steelworks in the city. Another episode centers around the outlandish adventures of Rasmus Hoysand in the New World: he survives a violent hurricane and kidnapping by mercenaries before making his way back to quiet Norway. Another Hoysand, Arnold, who grows up in the city, learns to cope with the vicissitudes of life in factory housing, and, in the book's most moving scene, must come to grips with the death of an admired and loved older brother. Arnold's and his parents' stultifying grief and its effect on their lives will not be forgotten soon. Also mixed into the narrative are poems, political satires, and song lyrics. Despite the eclectic mix of styles and settings, the overall feel here is bleak. A Scandinavian darkness pervades the lives of Flogstad's characters, a darkness that cannot be lifted by beauty or love or escape to sunnier climes.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1989
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press