A brilliant comic novel, unlike anything else you’ve ever read.


The continuity of the life force takes charmingly eccentric form in this latest from Swedish author Lindgren (The Way of the Serpent, 1998, etc.).

Hash is a trunkful of interrelated stories set in 1947 in the tuberculosis-ridden village of Avabäck, and in the herculean memory of its unnamed 107-year-old narrator, a former newspaper writer and nursing home resident. Long since terminated by an editor exasperated by his fabrications (“There has never been a turkey farm ravaged by a bear in your district”), the narrator bides his time for decades, returning in his senescence to the unfinished story of Nazi war criminal Martin Bormann (disguised as itinerant clothier Robert Maser) and TB survivor schoolteacher Lars Hogström, who join forces upon discovering their shared love for music and Swedish hash (a formidable delicacy whose rendered constituents are best left unlisted). Lindgren imperturbably juxtaposes “Maser’s” survival tactics, Lars’s empowerment through health and amorous dalliance with his landlady Eva Marklund (whose husband Manfred languishes—quite happily, actually—in a sanitarium), the narrator’s earnest chats with his beguiling “care assistant” Linda, and the morose peregrinations of Avabäck’s bachelor handyman Bertil, a confirmed worrywart whose own “equilateral” physical form alienates him from irregularity and impulse in all things. The search for the perfect hash is a cockeyed quest for the absolute: a celebration of the unruly variety of living vs. the shaping arrangements of intellection. Every character encountered (including a “gloomy and negative” boy named Torgny Lindgren) has something memorable to contribute to this “hash” of experience. And the story climaxes memorably when Lars takes up with “scrofulous,” tubercular Ellen of Lillsjöliden, a knowledgeable crone whose deathlike frailty masks something very like the secret of life.

A brilliant comic novel, unlike anything else you’ve ever read.

Pub Date: March 8, 2004

ISBN: 1-58567-408-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2004

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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