Voices at the Late Hour

Bo Gustaf Bertelss Carpelan, Author University of Georgia Press $20 (183p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1008-4
Poet, novelist and playwright Carpelan is a member of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. This dense and ponderous novel, his first to be translated into English, is set in a nameless Scandinavian country in the days following a nuclear blast and weaves together the thoughts, memories and dreams of eight unharmed members of a family as they await their fate. Among them are Tomas, whose innate fear has led him to withdraw from others throughout his life; Max, who, hardened by his battle with poverty and detached from and impervious to the world, likens himself to a rock; Bert, who lives for simple, earthy pleasures, and his wife, Helena, who searches for absolutes. The novel is not directly about nuclear holocaust, and there are few descriptions of the destruction and none of the events that triggered it. Rather, it is an exploration of protagonists who the reader anticipates will somehow illuminate the crises at hand. But both the development of the characters and of philosophical issues is thwarted by tedious, overwrought prose (``all this someone, some unknown someone, someone totally unknown to him can annihilate, destroy, burn up, dissolve, erase''). (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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