491 by Lars Gorling


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The Dead End Kids of the Thirties are nothing but a passel of Little Lord Fauntelroys compared to the brawling, savagely cool delinquents hustling through the pages of 491, a brutal, super-realistic novel of Swedish low-life. Stingingly translated, mincing not one dirty word, the book is a series of graphic, disjunctive episodes, melodramatic in spots, yet always markedly believable; distressing, hilarious, and shocking by turns. The film of 491, a cause celebre overseas, was impounded by Customs officials here. As literature, Gorling's brusque, colloquial prose owes a great deal to the knock-about American school, and consequently seems slightly dated. The characterizations and the mixture of way-out eroticism with crime-for-kicks, however, is strictly contemporary. The narrative, centered in a hostel, where the boys are quartered as indifferent participants in a psychological testing project, runs through a number of more or less random adventures, touching on thievery, homosexuality, pimping, sadism, voyeurism, a gang bang, etc. Disaster ensues when an innocent, retarded delinquent plunges to his death, hoping to save the young, Christ-like Assistant Supervisor, whom the boys have been bugging. The latter figure is sentimentally conceived; his presence, plus pseudo- moralistic motifs, mar the otherwise engrossing vitality and verisimilitude.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1966
Publisher: Grove