cover image Downfall of Gerdt Bladh

Downfall of Gerdt Bladh

Christer Kihlman. Peter Owen Publishers, $34.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-7206-0747-5

This provocative novel by Kihlman, one of Finland's best-known writers ( All My Sons ), is an unremittingly bleak but compelling look at the disintegration of a distinguished businessman, the eponymous Gerdt Bladh. Head of one of Finland's largest department stores and, seemingly, an upright family man, he finds his life built on layers of deception, gradually and painfully revealed. When Bladh discovers that his cherished wife has been having an affair, he finds he has no friends in whom to confide, and that his three grown children (who know about their mother's lover) feel that Gerdt's rigid morality and judgmental attitudes are to blame. His store, a longtime family concern, is about to be taken over by hostile board members who feel Gerdt is outdated. But the final, crushing blow comes from incriminating pictures, taken by a scandal-seeking tabloid, that show Gerdt in an explicitly unsavory light. A straightforward yet powerful narrative captures the enormous emotional toll exacted upon the Bladh family, while Gerdt's rambling interior monologues conjure up another story: an apocalyptic vision of a world about to be destroyed by moral decay. (Jan.)