THE TENNIS PLAYERS by Lars Gustafsson


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A short, relaxed, artfully feckless novella--in which the narrator, a Swedish professor named Lars Gustafsson, puts in some time as a visiting teacher at the U. of Texas (Austin. . . and manages to muse upon a number of engaging academic topics and events. Beloved by all his students, Gustafsson is perfectly adaptable to whatever strangeness he encounters around the campus: a Zen approach to tennis; an investigation of whether Strindberg was being slowly gassed to death by an international anarchist ring in the 1890s; a college production of Das Rheingold directed by an off-the-wall Italian Marxist; an unstable, recovering mental patient who somehow has gotten work as a computer overseer at the Strategic Air Defense headquarters. Gustafsson also has plenty of opportunity to observe the peculiar personality of Texans. (""Their emotional brittleness, their perfect tennis serves. . . their strange conviction that the world outside of Texas is meant for war and tourism."") He even, at the finale, gets caught up in the attempted firing of the University's president. And, though none of these episodes fit together in any way whatsoever, there's an intentional, agreeably successful collage effect here: charming, random bits--apparently aimed at a European audience, but steadily amusing fare (from the Swedish author of Death of a Beekeeper) for academia-savvy Americans.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: New Directions