cover image Lang


Kjell Westo, , trans. from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg. . Carroll & Graf, $13.95 (181pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1724-8

Nordic alienation and reflection meet a critique of American cultural dominance in this suspenseful literary hybrid. Finnish Westö's first novel to be translated into English follows the dramatic midlife turns of Christian Lang, a sometime Helsinki writer whose pseudointellectual talk show boosted him to local fame. Lang's problem is not so much a failed marriage and looming cancellation as that he's fallen out of step with his culture, which is entering capitalist hyperspace and expressing itself through reality TV and Game Boys. Lang delivers a defense of empathy (as opposed to me-firstism) in his final show, but an obsessive love affair with a beautiful, independent and secretive young mother reveals itself as an entanglement with dark and strange passions, all of which lead to unanswerable questions of innocence and intent. Westö's most remarkable talent is for describing the existential vertigo that leads his bookish characters to alarming acts. (Feb. 1)