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Torgny Lindgren. Harvill Press, $24 (236pp) ISBN 978-0-00-271171-5

This provocative and amusing fable by the author of Bathsheba begins when a pregnant rabbit brings the Great Sickness to the village of Kadis in northern Sweden. All that remains after the plague are three men and three women, empty houses, a few cows and goats, Blasius the pig, who grows as big as a horse, and a multitude of rabbits. Three babies are born and the six adults find themselves enmeshed in lust, greed, incest, kidnappings and attempted murder. They realize that they no longer know how things are supposed to be. What is lawful? What is right and wrong? There is no one left who embodies law and justice. Then a stranger, claiming to be an emissary of the King comes to Kadis to render justice and punishment to the six. He orders them to execute themselves and and leaves. A second stranger, also claiming to be the King's emissary, arrives and denounces the first as a thief and embezzler. Who is to be believed? The six proceed with the executions. They hang Blasius. As the pig battles for his life, they realize that he represents something far greater than livestock, or even themselves. The six begin to understand that they alone can restore the laws and justice for their world. ``Can you imagine anything more stupid? Hanging a pig!'' one of the women asks. Written with earthy humor and riveting drama, this parable of humanity's struggle toward civilization is not to be missed. (June)