Pär Lagerkvist

LAUREATE: Pär Lagerkvist was born in Växjö, Sweden. His upbringing was very religious, but unlike most of us who reject a religious upbringing, he did not react violently against it. He wrote a collection of anguished poems, appropriately titled Anguish, during the first world war. He wrote a number of novels and plays and was elected to the Swedish Academy in 1940 (this is where the Nobel committee’s biography stops, suspiciously enough). He died in 1974 in Stockholm.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS GUY?: Jack shit. I first heard of him when I read through the list of Nobel winners earlier in July.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?: The Dwarf, which I found in a used bookstore for a dollar. Score!

REVIEW: Meh. The Dwarf is a pretty standard modernist allegory of the horrors of war.  The eponymous dwarf is an evil little creature, who lives in a semi-medieval semi-Italian city-state in the midst of a civil war. He sees the dwarf in every person (dwarf meaning evil). He is present at the horrible war with another city, he passes around the poison when they make a false peace treaty and he is thrown into prison when the Prince comes to his senses and realizes that his city is too brutalized by war and famine to do anything but recover. The dwarf is good for something, though. He sees through the lies people tell about each other. I dunno. I will say that it’s surprising how anti-war the people who lived through both world wars really were (spoilers: completely)

DO YOU RECOMMEND IT?: Eh. It’s okay, I guess. There are better modernist allegories, I guess, but there are worse ones, too.

WHAT’S NEXT: Probably Seamus Heaney. Actually, definitely Seamus Heaney, since that’s what I pulled out of my backpack before I got on the subway this afternoon.

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