cover image Gregorius


Bengt Ohlsson, , trans. from the Swedish by Silvester Mazzarella. . Norton, $26.95 (426pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06652-4

Swede Ohlsson draws a secondary character from Hjalmar Söderberg’s classic Doctor Glas out to center stage, where his tragic inner life is displayed with an extraordinary depth of feeling. Pastor Gregorius is overweight, slovenly and desperate. As a priest living in turn-of-the-20th-century Stockholm, he has come to see God’s gift as “the capacity for love,” a love he feels he has been denied. As he goes from one small parish tragedy to the next, his ministrations feel like “a bit of convincing acting” and his overwhelming anxiety makes him feel like a fraud. But his sharpest pains come from his strained relationship with his much younger second wife and his continued failure to sire a child. Prescribed a long stay at a sanitarium to treat a heart that feels like “a mink inside [his] breast,” he continues his search for authentic connections to other people, however fleeting. His gracefully rendered tides of self-loathing and hope, combined with settings at once alien and picturesque, add up to a truly intimate novel, one that deepens greatly with familiarity with Doctor Glas . Written with a deft and sensitive hand, this is a remarkable dissection of angst and spiritual unrest. (May)