cover image A Tiler's Afternoon

A Tiler's Afternoon

Lars Gustafsson. New Pub. Corp., $8.95 (117pp) ISBN 978-0-8112-1240-3

In this amusing and mysterious existential novel, a tile layer named Torsten Bergman labors without supervision to finish renovating a house in Sweden that has been left undone by previous tilers. Like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, Torsten must undo the work that has already been done and begin again. As he works, Torsten wonders whether the task is worth the effort. He also imagines that voices are calling him from upstairs, but he never sees anybody. Soon, the tiler is questioning the meaning of his entire life. Eventually the voices he hears appear to assume a godlike quality, and he curses them: ``What sort of people could it be who'd just sit on their backsides and not answer when they're spoken to?'' The novel is full of ironies, such as when Torsten shells out money for supplies while hoping in vain for reimbursement. This story by Swedish author Gustafsson ( The Death of a Bee keeper ) reads like a modern parable peppered with some xenophobia on the part of Torsten in response to a changing culture; he refers, for example, to ``bustling, noisy and quite unintelligible little foreigners.'' The book's major flaw is an overdramatization of allusions to the tiler's mortality. (June)